Tips for gardening in times of drought
Summer is here, with high temperatures and no rain, and there are more hot and dry months to come. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn your flower beds into gravel.
We know that the lush, verdant gardens of the East Coast are unsuitable for our dry Mediterranean climate, which has a regular dry season, usually from June to October. A drought, like the one we are in, is more extreme, with insufficient rainfall for the whole year. With that in mind, we can choose plants and practices that work with our dry heat.
Here are some ideas, as well as tips for saving and getting the most out of the water you use in the garden.
Do not overwater
Above all, do not overwater. Typically, plants need about an inch of water per week. Here, where summer temperatures can get very hot, you can make a generous centimeter, but too much water wastes water. Soggy soil is also prone to rot and mildew. And overwatering can reduce oxygen in the soil, which plant roots need to thrive.
To get the most out of every drop, think “slowly.” Do not flood an area or water the ground quickly. You want the water to seep through the soil rather than draining off the surface to other areas.
By nature, plants have their nourishing roots in the richest soil, which is usually the topsoil near the surface. Deeper roots seek moisture. Watering the soil quickly encourages weak root systems to cluster near the surface, but does not force the plant to dig deep for water.
In addition, the best time to water is in the morning. This gives the plants time to dry out before nightfall returns. Watering during the heat of the day means that the heat and sun can evaporate much of the water before it reaches the roots of the plants.
If you are using sprinklers or drip irrigation, reduce the flow but increase the length of time the water flows. This way you can water less often but use less water more efficiently. It sounds counterintuitive, but it isn’t.
If you have an irrigation system that sprays water on lawns or gardens, place empty tuna cans or small dishes around the area to be covered and see how long it takes your system to cover. irrigation or your sprinklers to fill those boxes half an inch deep. Irrigate twice a week for this length of time each session and you will give your plants an inch per week. Be stingy. Don’t overwater.
Or consider replacing your irrigation system with a soil moisture control system. We now have technology that automatically measures the amount of moisture in the soil and adapts the irrigation schedule to use the minimum amount of water as efficiently as possible. These systems typically cost $ 200 to $ 300, but they can pay off quickly if your water bills are high.
There are also inexpensive soil moisture meters that can tell you the soil moisture level in the garden. You just push them into the ground first and they give you a moisture reading. They cost around $ 10 each, but can warn you to avoid overwatering.
If you haven’t checked your irrigation system for a while, inspect the areas where it provides water. You may have noticed instances where people irrigate sidewalks and streets or water drains from lawns and down into a gutter. Adjust your irrigation equipment so that water only gets to the lawn or garden soil.
Use micro-irrigation whenever possible. These slim tubes, connected to your main irrigation lines, deliver water to selected trees and shrubs and keep them happy without wasting a drop.
There are many irrigation specialists in our area, and you can find them online. What they charge to do the irrigation properly can save you money in the long run.
A year of drought is not the time to plant a new garden or redesign a landscape. But if you’re determined to plant or renovate areas of the garden this spring, consider irrigation areas.
Plants with similar water requirements should be planted together. Each zone represents a specific sunshine or shade condition that defines the type of plants in the zone and the appropriate watering or irrigation strategy for that zone.
Focus on the plants that matter most to you. Now is the time to be ruthless. If you have plants that are voracious and lukewarm, you may need to let them go. Direct your precious water resources to the things that matter most to you or that would be the most difficult to replace. Maybe your vegetable garden wins because of the food it provides.
The Environmental Protection Agency has published an excellent booklet on how to conserve water in your landscape. You can download a free copy at bit.ly/3noMNRz. Just type EPA Find It Flag It Fix It in your browser, and you will find the link as the top entry.