It was over a dinner meeting with a few of our community gardeners that the subject of last summers drought came up. It was then that I found out our watering restrictions would begin two weeks sooner than the normal June 1 start and would also extend two weeks longer than the cutoff of October 1. All I could think of was the hours and hours I spent watering the gardens just to have food from our garden. The food garden is number one on the list for me, the flowers come second. I am now rethinking my garden plan for 2016. I don’t want to lug around hoses again. So what can I do? As I look over the list of vegetables I want to grow, I will choose those that don’t need as much water. Above are the cucumbers I grew last year. With leaf cover like that the soil stayed moist and required less water. So going forward these large vigorous vines will be welcome in the garden. They don’t need as much water as we think.
We start out with bare soil and plant our seeds or transplants. That’s okay to begin with but once the plants have germinated and reach a few inches high, I will apply a mulch to the beds. Raised beds dry out faster than in ground garden beds. Mind you considering last years summer I would mulch in ground garden beds as well. Remember we had no rain for four months.
So what type of mulch can I use? I could use grass clippings or straw. Do you remember the garden I grew in this area in 2014? I used straw between the rows and only watered once every ten days. I couldn’t believe how well the mulch worked. So today I asked my daughter for some of her loose hay. I was met with a resounding ‘no way’. I had forgotten that last years hay crop was also impacted by drought. We barely have enough hay to get through winter and a first cut may not happen until May. Hay is in very short supply so it won’t be used as mulch.
I intend to plant close together in my raised garden beds so they stay quite moist. But until plants get to this fullness, a mulch will be needed. Adding mulch will also add organic matter to the soil. I am due to have my trees pruned so I am thinking of saving the wood chips and using it for mulch in the flower garden. On the vegetable beds I will be using the leaves we saved from the fall and placing them on the soil. They should be decomposed enough to use by spring. Yes, the garden may not look as tidy but its better to save on water than worry about aesthetics.
Crops we should probably not grow are plants such as lettuce, beans, broccoli and cauliflower. They are water hogs from what I have read. So what do we grow? Well, if you research this subject it’s not as much as we would like. It would also take some getting used to as our meals would have to change with the addition of these new crops. Check the list over at Treehugger’s post for a list of drought tolerant vegetables. I looked over the list and noticed none of my favourite vegetables were on the list. Carrots, beets, potatoes, onions and garlic are not on the list. There are some good options on saving water from their article like planting short season crops as opposed to long season ones.
This also has me looking at drip irrigation systems. Last year we could not use sprinklers or soaker hoses. It was hand watering only. If we are going to water it means doing it more efficiently and getting the water to the root zone of plants. One step I have decided on is to not plant containers this year. Sure they are pretty and it may be the only option for many. They dry out too fast in our hot summers. Last year I planted two containers with perennial plants. Their roots go deep and use less water. Hanging baskets are out for me and so are small containers of vegetables. With a half-acre garden I need to prioritize where my time will be spent. I was pretty happy to see that Farmer Jim had a seed catalogue open this morning and he was reading about irrigation systems. We are headed in the right direction. How are you going to save on water this year? Will last year’s lack of rain have you changing your garden?