How to have a successful vegetable garden with little or no rain.
This past summer in my area was very dry with almost no rain during most of the growing season. This made it necessary to water my vegetable garden every night since the dry weather was accompanied by some of the hottest temperatures in local history. Most gardens in the area were non-productive or did not survive at all due to the weather.
This year I am arranging my vegetable garden differently to allow for more effective and easier watering just in case we encounter the same conditions again. I lived for some years in Arizona and observed how they set up their gardens there where they get very little rain so I am using some of their methods.
Here is a way to have a productive dry weather vegetable garden;
- Rather than planting in rows and hills as we normally do, this year I have dug little moats about 6 or 8 inches deep around each place I put a vegetable plant. This will hold the water until it soaks into the soil and becomes available to the roots.
- I am mulching heavily around the base of the plants to hold the moisture and help keep it from evaporating. This also helps protect the roots from the heat of the sun.
- I have placed soda bottles with bottom or top removed over plants to act as a mini greenhouse until plant gets too big or weather gets too hot. This has 3 benefits; it cuts down on evaporation, retains warmth at night, and protects the seedlings from insect and wind damage. Be sure to provide ventilation if using bottoms and remove caps from tops.
- I have planted rows of field corn with climbing beans oriented north to south to provide shade for my plants except when the sun is directly overhead. These rows are spaced about 12 to 15 feet apart to allow room for my vegetable plants.
- Water after the sun is low on the evening horizon to give the water all night to soak in and allow the plant maximum time to recover from the heat of the day.
There are other methods that are effective in dry areas such as drip irrigation involving running tubes throughout your vegetable garden with drip fittings at each plant but this method involves the purchase of the tubes and fittings and most folks put it on a timer and can add up to quite an expense.
Another method used is flooding the area of the vegetable garden once or twice a week but this requires a lot of water of which approximately one third is lost to evaporation.
The method outlined above has the advantage of being cost free and effective for small non-commercial vegetable gardens. You can use this method to improve the survivability and production of your vegetable garden in even the driest of years.
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