Drought proofing your garden
The dry spell in early May reminded me that weather is unpredictable, and it’s best to prepare for extremes. Seven days with no rain was tough on all the newly planted lettuce, spinach and radish seedlings. We never know whether we’ll have a wet or dry year or somewhere in between, but all the watering I’m doing in May has me thinking about how to make life easier. Here are some drought-proofing ideas for the home garden to make a dry summer easier in the garden.
1. Install irrigation equipment. Drip lines or soaker hoses bring water to the roots of the plant where they need it. Using a hose, sprinkler, or watering can is inefficient because much of the water on the surface evaporates. Not to mention watering is time consuming and watering the leaves of plants can encourage disease. Add a water timer and you’ve taken all the work out of watering. Stop by GreenTree and check out the irrigation equipment we have in stock.
2. Install rain barrels. Some companies make rain barrels that simply hook up to your gutters, or if you’re a DIY person try one of the many plans on the internet. I like this one from the City of Portland Oregon (pdf).
3. Mulch! Whether you use bark mulch, paper, plastic, or straw, covering the surface of the soil holds water in and prevents the soil from drying out. Mulch also keeps weeds down, which can compete with your plants for water.
4. Add organic matter. Compost (any type) will increase the water holding capacity of your soil. You’ll still have to water but less often. You can try Cayuga Compost or Tender Loving Compost made from dairy manure -- both locally made.
5. Water infrequently (once a week) and deeply. Watering just the top of the soil briefly encourages roots to grow toward the surface of the soil to get a drink. These roots at the surface are more vulnerable to drought. When you water deeply about once a week plant roots will grow deeper and in turn make the plant more drought resistant. Make sure the water is reaching down to the root zone at least 4-6 inches deep.
6. Containers typically need a lot of water. For containers and raised beds there are a number of products that can be used to hold more water. First, using a coco-based soil as opposed to a peat-based product can decrease the amount of water needed in containers. GreenTree Coco Pro and GreenTree Earth Blend make great container mixes, and you can incorporate products like aqua pebbles, water absorbing gels, potassium based crystals or a reservoir device made for containers, all of which hold and release water when needed.
A dry summer is better than a wet summer. In this area, we can add water, but we can’t take it out of the soil.