This year, we are heading into a bigger drought than it was last year. I’ve been battling grasshoppers and dry conditions for two years now and I’m over it. Luckily, I’ve been picking up some great tips along the way to help save water, even if there’s no drought. Because conserving our water is one of the smartest things we can all do.
I’ve been using rain barrels since I owned a home. They’re so damn handy and I’ve no idea why people wouldn’t use them! When my yard was smaller, I could easily go through the summer with just the rain barrel water and the rain, ignoring my garden hose. Now, with a bigger property, it’s a little harder. Even with three rain barrels. At least during a drought. One year, we had so much perfectly timed rain that I rarely watered my garden and used the rain barrel water to wash my clothes!
That means no watering in the middle of the day. I choose to water first thing in the morning (like 6am), or in the evening when the sun isn’t blazing and it has cooled off a bit. When it gets really hot, waiting until 7am is sometimes too late, so I have to do it in the evening. Which means mosquitos, but also means the water won’t evaporate in seconds.
That means not a little mist here and there. Your plants will barely get any water and you’ll just end up needing to water every day, wasting more water! Water the soil to get it nice and happy, saving you from wasting water and watering every single day.
Plant Native Plants
Native plants will already be used to droughts if your region experiences them, even if it’s only every so often. Last year, we started planting native plants in our yard, and I’m not looking back. They require zero effort once established and look beautiful. My goal is to have one chunk of land taken over with native plants just happily doing their thing.
Skip the Tilling
Tilling just rips apart the soil and exposes it, drying it out. We used to till every year as that’s what everyone has done, but after looking into soil health and watching some documentaries, I’ve changed to a zero/minimal tillage system. This year, we are going without tilling, and even though it looks dry out there, the soil isn’t as dry as it usually is! Let’s hope it helps.
This year, I’m going with green manure. In between my veggies I’m planting clover. It will help retain moisture and give back to the soil. Plus, it will help suppress weeds, a problem we’ve had since we moved here. Last year, I placed newspaper or cardboard around my plants to help keep things wet. My strawberries are surrounded by straw and my lilacs and fruit trees are (or will be at the end of the summer, at least) completely mulched around. I’ve noticed my lilacs retaining more water and doing a little better than my non-mulched plants out there. It’s been a hard couple of years, so a little better is amazing.
Mulching also helps keep the ground cooler, which will help keep your plants from completely cooking out there.
For those plants that don’t like being dry AT ALL (see: lettuce and cucumbers), try planting them in pots. I did this last year and it was amazing. I could give them more shade than they would get from my garden, moving them if we went away for the weekend, and they required less water than a big garden plot set in the blazing sun. They grew beautifully while the ones out in the garden perished.