I haven’t talked about this in connection with the calendar yet, but I’m physically disabled with several chronic conditions. Prior to becoming ill, I’ve always worked intensely physical jobs—farmhand, dog trainer, line cook, bicycle taxi, preschool teacher—and starting Wolf Hill Press has been part of my adjustment out of that lifestyle. Being in pain all the time isn’t fun at all but the symptom that bothers me the most is an intense photophobia—pain and discomfort in sunlight. I’m lucky to live in one of the cloudiest parts of the country, but even so my time outdoors is limited and I have to plan my time outdoors really well.

Planting annuals and dividing perennials are activities I can usually save for a cloudy day—we have enough of them, especially in the spring and fall, that one will usually line up with an advantageous planting day.

Most days I wake up early, before sunup, so I try to get an hour or two of weeding in before the sun gets over the hills.

A lot of my garden infrastructure (fences, amendments, digging holes, hauling sawdust or mulch or manure or rocks) I get done on the early spring and late fall 40-degrees-and-misty-rain days we’re lucky to have so many of here most years.

However the chore I’ve consistently struggled with finding a time to do is watering. By necessity it’s most needed during the hottest, brightest parts of the year, and requires standing next to my beds (i.e., in full sun) for extended periods. By the time the sun goes down, I’m often asleep already.

Instead of struggling to find a time to water, or suffering through doing it in the sun, I decided to take it off my todo list.

In my back garden, a combination of two Y-connectors (one with shutoffs, one without), two sprinklers, and a 100′ length of sprinkler hose cover the three large beds that fill most of our 1/6 acre garden. In the front garden, a rain barrel, another Y-connector, two lengths of soaker hose (75′ and 25′ respectively), and a third sprinkler cover our three smaller beds. Quick connectors mean that we can hook the front soaker hoses up to a regular hose if the rain barrel runs dry.

With this set up, I’m able to water each morning when my weeding is done and while I eat my breakfast on the deck under the lush leaves of my kiwi vine, just by standing in the shade and flipping a few levers.

A passive system like this can be good not only to save time and work, but to conserve water. Previously I lived and gardened in New Mexico (before the sun allergy!) and I relied heavily on soaker hoses buried under several inches of woodchip or straw mulch to keep my plants watered without losing moisture to evaporation.

Below I’ve included a map of my back garden and watering systems. Green lines are standard hoses, blue lines are soaker hoses, blue stars are sprinklers, and black Ys are Y-connectors. Blue dotted lines show the outer boundary of each watering area. The slight cloudiness in the photo comes from the transparent paper I use for garden planning. Click the image to view it full size.