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Gardening Without Water

Across the various social media sites , gardeners have been talking about the drought, what it means for their gardens and plants they will grow in the future. Many are wondering whether there is room for a vegetable garden in a drier future. Some are looking at ways to conserve water, and others are looking at vegetable varieties that have adapted to growing in hot and dry conditions.

Most gardeners have a few tricks already up their sleeves for coping with hot summer weather. The first steps for the drought gardener should involve collecting and conserving as much water as possible.

Collecting rainwater should be the number one priority in drought gardening (especially if we have wetter winter conditions). Most houses with pitched roofs should be easy to set up to do so and you might be surprised with how much water you could save.

Below are some suggestions for vegetable gardening in times of drought.

1. It Starts with the Soil

Well-amended soil is the foundation of a vegetable garden that will tolerate drought. Prepare your garden’s soil by adding lots of rich, organic compost that will help trap moisture and encourage deep root formation in plants.

2. Plant Smarter to Beat the Heat

Rows of plants look nice, but they’re not water efficient.

Plant your vegetable garden in block style layout rather than in rows to create microclimates, shade and reduce water evaporation.

Layout your vegetable garden so that plants with similar water requirements are grouped together. For example, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash all have similar water needs. Focus on vegetables that produce abundant crops like tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants.

3. When Plants Need Water

If your vegetables are planted before the hot and dry days of summer arrive, they’ll have time to establish a root system that will allow them to survive the hotter days. Deep watering will train roots to grow deep into the ground. A drip irrigation system will deploy water where it is needed and potentially reduce your water consumption by as much as 50%. Soil amended as described above should be able to go between two and seven days between irrigation.

Summary of Steps When Planting During Drought

  • Plan ahead.
  • Choose plants appropriate for climate and position.
  • Make compost and prepare soil as needed with gypsum, sand and compost.
  • Moisten planting site/hole with recycled or shower run-off water or leave to await some rain.
  • Cover with organic mulch until conditions are opportune.
  • Time planting for cooler weather and the most likely period for rainfall.
  • Harden your plants for at least three weeks in the sun (open position).
  • Pre-soak holes previous day and immerse plant in seaweed solution before planting.
  • Dig over site and add fertiliser and water-holding crystals.
  • Plant your tree/shrub and water in with seaweed solution.
  • Place tree guard or shelter as needed. Add small rocks or broken bricks over root zone and add mulch.
  • Depending on weather, follow up watering as climate dictates but wait until the surface is dry to encourage deep rooting.
  • Do only small numbers to match the water available for you to collect.

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