You are here

Irrigation Techniques for Transplants & Direct Seed – Fresh Dirt from the Farmer Mentor

Beginning Farmer: Our field managers want to overhead water our direct sown/transplanted CSA blocks (carrots, beets, salad mix, broccoli, etc.) as we've had poor germination & loss of transplants (most to slugs). — but here are my concerns: we aren't set up for mechanical weed cultivation, I'm primarily concerned about pump costs, and have seen many farms successfully utilize drip irrigation. I'm thinking most if not all the challenge with the poor germination is due to our high salt content in the water . . . and the slugs.

But our field manager is convinced from her experience that crops do better when overhead irrigated-in. I want to empower them to make the right decisions but have my concerns & thought you might have some suggestions, advice, & wisdom!

Farmer Mentor: It always comes down to water availability when deciding to go with drip vs. sprinkler. If water is in short supply there is absolutely nothing wrong with "dripping up" direct seeded crops or "dripping in" transplants. It is a plus for water savings and certainly for weed management. Kind of depends on soil type as well. Out here water is super expensive so I drip up everything. Works really great especially since our soil is not prone to crusting and holds the moisture well. For quick germinating crops drip is an amazing and cost effective way to germinate up seeds. Puts the water right where you want it. If weeds are a huge issue it is super easy to do a pre-irrigation with drip and then flame then plant. I think the bottom line is that if water is plentiful and inexpensive and you have a really good weed management system then by all means sprinkle up your direct sown crops and sprinkle in your transplants. If water is expensive and/or in short supply then drip is the way to go. Hope this helps with the water debate.

If you’re interested to learn more about drip and transplants, explore the Western SARE Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook’s entry on transplanting, or the EFA Water Stewardship Project’s precision irrigation and dry farming resources.

Jim Leap is one of the Central Coast’s trusted Beginning Farmer Mentors. Jim offers online technical assistance in correspondences such as this Q&A, through face-to-face farm visits, and at the annual EcoFarm Conference. This blog series is made possible in part by the USDA Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program.