Friday, June 29, 2012

What to do during a drought

Oh my, it’s dry outside. I’m in the part of the U.S. that has been experiencing a drought this month. Now the temperatures have soared to an unusual 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
What’s a gardener to do during this time? Planning ahead, as with so many things in life, is the most effective strategy. But if you didn’t get to carry out all of your plans as you had hoped, don’t despair. Here are a few strategies to try.

1) Next year plan to mulch more heavily. Mulching around a plant not only keeps down the weeds, it helps the soil retain water. I really wanted to try “lasagna” gardening this year, which would have helped enormously, but I didn’t collect enough cardboard to build the layers. I see what I must do this fall!
2) If you do get some good rainfall, go ahead and mulch now. For years I’ve used layers of newspaper. I prefer to put composting grass on top of them but lacking that I use dirt. Be forewarned, though, if you don’t put enough dirt and it gets dry and windy, the papers will blow away. I also use cardboard, which still needs to be weighted down.
3) Use a soaker hose (also called a drip line irrigation system) to water with. These run along the ground and are somewhat more effective than sprinklers. You can target the water precisely where you need for it to go.
4) Collect water from your indoor usage to use in the garden. I put a large bowl in the sink to catch the water when I rinse vegetables, wash my hands and rinse dishes. I keep my watering can and pitcher handy to dump the bowl water into when it gets full. A friend told me she puts a bucket in the shower with her to catch excess water.
5) Plan to use a rain barrel next year, if you don’t have one now, and be sure you set it up as early in the year as possible. Our rain barrel collects some water but it lacking all the parts to make it totally effective so it’s already empty.
6) If you have perennials that are newly planted this year, be sure to give them extra attention when watering. They will not be as well as established as your old garden buddies so keep welcoming them to the family.
7) If you have potted plants outside, put them in the shade for a portion of the day and they’ll need less water.
8) Prune plants so the water they do get can give you well-developed tomatoes and peaches, for example. We pruned some of our peaches in the spring but will do more this weekend.
9) Continue weeding. Some pesky weeds live longer than the vegetables, fruits and flowers that you truly want. Get rid of them so they don’t soak up the water your plants need!
10)  Enjoy your harvest as soon as you can pick it.I was thankful to go to the garden this morning to see the cabbage, kale, collards and rhubarb had actually grown and given me more to eat. I’ll be especially thankfully as I eat them this evening.

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