Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Gardening without rain.
It's not raining here, again. While my own garden is limping along I am surprised it's alive at all. In an ordinary year, the things we do here allow us to conserve water in a big way. I suppose that's what's keeping the crops alive. Water conservation works really well when there is water to conserve. Here's our favorite low water growing tricks. 1. Hugelkultur. Yes, I've talked about it until you are bored to tears, but it really does work and I'm grateful we built those beds before the drought hit. 2. Plastic mulch. I know. It's plastic. We've tried every plant based mulch and they just don't work for us. We have fine sandy loam soil and an abundance of Bermuda grass. Keeping that devil under control and conserving water at the same time is enough to make us willing to use plastic. Tip - treat it gently, cover it in straw to avoid UV breakdown and you can use plastic mulch for two or three years. Not bad. 3. Use food producing plants with vining habits as ground cover under upright plants. By interplanting tomatoes with cantaloupe the mulch stays shaded and we get twice as many plants in a single bed. 4. Rain barrels. They're awesome. But they only work when there's rain. Ours have been empty for weeks but they sit ready, willing, and able to store water if and when we get some rainfall. 5. Greywater. Greywater from baths and showers is best because it has much less soapy stuff in it. We need greywater that we can harvest temporarily and as low tech as possible. So we hooked up another drain hose to the clothes washer and hung it on an extra barrel by the back door. We collect both the wash and rinse water, letting the rinse water dilute the bad stuff that's in the wash water. It's not a perfect solution. Don't use this kind of greywater more than once a week or you'll build up salts and other nasties in the soil. I only use it on fruit trees and bushes and I make sure to water twice with the hose for every time I use the greywater. Things we have not done yet that would also help... - Drip irrigation. Oh yes, I'd love to run some drip line underneath the plastic mulch. So far the budget has not stretched that far but maybe, just maybe. - Dig a well. I'd looooove to have a well. Using chlorinated municipal water is bad for every plant in the ground. The veggies don't produce well and the forage plants put on new growth at a snail's pace. I put in application for a drought relief well but the conservation guys haven't come out and won't return my calls. Guess all that aid went to the big guys, too. - Pray harder.