Careful Crops: Vegetable Gardening & Water Conservation
How do you grow healthy vegetables in the middle of a drought? Vegetable gardening is possible if you apply these simple tips to keep your veggies plentiful and your water use low.
Mulching & Drip Irrigation – The Dynamic Duo
If you want to save up to 50% of your gardening water use, you need to mulch your garden and install a drip irrigation system. You’ll save water, money and time!
Mulch is a vital ingredient to any successful garden, especially now during the drought. One of the most important benefits of mulching is water retention in the soil. A covering of mulch blocks evaporation, keeps the soil (and itself) damp for much longer between watering and helps prevent run-off, which is a huge source of water waste.
Here are more reasons mulch is vital to a healthy garden:
- It cuts down on weed growth.
- It hides imperfections.
- It insulates the soil – and plants – from the effects of cooler weather.
- It gives homes to many small predators, which eat the nasty ones that feed on your plants. Example: Ants & ground spiders nest in mulch and enjoy a healthy diet of underground pest eggs and larvae.
Pair mulch with drip irrigation and you’ve got a team that can’t be stopped! Drip irrigation systems use plastic tubing with small emitters. These emitters drip water at whatever rate you choose. One of the benefits of drip irrigation is that it targets only the plants you want, not the empty spaces; watering the source! You get less runoff and fewer weeds that way. You can even set the system on a timer and forget about it! Ask the friendly professionals at Hydro-Scape about installing a system today.
Before we move on to soil amendments, let’s do some myth busting! You have to water your garden a lot to get more and healthier fruits and veggies. Guess what? That is not true! In fact, over-watering makes veggies taste bland and also can erode your soil and invite fungal infections!
Short story: over-watering saturates the soil, which displaces the necessary oxygen and literally drowns your plants. The simple answer to the question of “how much” is, simply, “enough”. New plants need extra water, of course, but once they’re well established that amount can be reduced. There are some easy ways to determine when nature needs a helping hand. On average, you need to give your plants one inch of water per week if there’s no rain. If it is raining, but not a lot, you should add enough water to make up an inch. But, there are many drought tolerant plants native to California, and once established require much less water. Learn more about California Natives.
Compost – The Circle of Life in Your Vegetable Garden
The best way to nourish your garden, especially in times of drought, is with proper composting. Good, organic “stuff” that you can work into the soil around your plants. One exception: do not use woody material like bark or wood chips! Not only do they take years to decompose, they may cause nitrogen depletion in your soil. You may choose to purchase a good organic compost, which is readily available at Hydro-Scape.
The idea is to let this organic matter rot under the surface of your garden. As it does, it becomes vital nutrient for your veggies. It also encourages the bacteria and other organisms in the soil, which can be beneficial, too. If you compost every year, you’ll start getting better quality fruits and veggies and a lot of them!
Composting also conserves water. If your soil is sandy, the compost holds more than ten times the water and nutrients than the sand does. If you have more clay, compost causes the smaller soil particles to bond creating larger clumps and giving you more pore space for better oxygenation.
Last But Not Least
Here’s a quick collection of steps that will also help you save water:
- Planting in blocks gives roots more shade and cuts down on evaporation.
- Keep on top of the weeding! Nobody likes to do it, but weeds will take the water your veggies need.
- Birds of a feather flock together or, in this case, plants with the same water needs do well if you plant them together. Example: Cukes, zukes and squash all have the same basic needs. Plant them together to optimize water usage.
When you’re ready to learn more or to pick up your supplies for your next project; head into your local Hydro-Scape for your amendments, pant nutrients, mulch & drip irrigation.