In this wonderful Austin heat you could spend hours every week watering your garden. I find it soothing and relaxing, but it is time consuming. Not to mention wasteful, and a hassle when you leave town.
I mean what I say about a wonderful heat. It's remarkable. Even as Austin increasingly becomes the polar opposite of Winnipeg, I'd still prefer a 9 month summer to a 9 month winter. Hands down. Living up North, you prep for battle against the elements every morning before going outside. Gloves, scarves, hats, socks and more socks, layers of clothing, glacier-climbing boots, etc. In Austin you don't dig through yards of snow to get to your car. As much as people complain, it's only hot and dry. Just get on your bike, and soon you will arrive at your destination to find yourself ensconced in the chilly womb of air conditioning. And you will be very sweaty.
This Spring, before I realized it would never rain again, I installed an irrigation system for our backyard vegetable garden.
Dear Leader Rick Perry prayed for the health of my fruits and vegetables, God bless his heart, but it seems they were far too sinfully liberal to deserve any heaven-sent precipitation. So they've made due all year with my secular watering.
The system is just a "rain" barrel connected to the "rain" gutter on one side of the house. There's an on/off valve at the base of the barrel, and from there a hose connects to drip irrigation lines for the garden. Throughout this drought I've set a spigot timer on a hose (from the house) which fills the barrel halfway twice a day- at dawn and dusk. Gravity takes care of the rest since the barrel is about a meter off the ground.
It's easy to make and expand along with your gardening aspirations. My local brewery supply store that sells empty food-grade barrels for $10. I'm sure there are other sources, but I take comfort in knowing for sure what was in that barrel before I douse my garden with its contents.
The rest of the kit is a few washers, silicone caulk, a hose clamp, and the valve. Then you'll just need some garden hose, and the drip irrigation lines for however large your garden is. We've used the tape type and it's worked just fine. Just a short trip to the orange big box candy store. Drill a hole in the bottom of the barrel, place locking washers on each side of the valve, caulk the gaps, make a good seal, and you're done. I also put screens on top of the barrel to keep animals and debris out of the irrigation lines.
But the sad truth is we've stopped watering now. Except for the mushroom logs and the peppers. (bell, jalapeno, & serrano) They'll make it with a simple hosing every couple of days. Everything else is a lost cause. And when I'm out in the garden hanging with chickens, the sneaky tomatoes that bravely survived the heat and squirrels immediately find their way into my mouth. Too bad for them.
Special thanks to K. Crosier for engineering assistance.