Gardening in a drought.
If this month's weather change is any indicator, we continue to be screwed out of a deep and significant spring rain. Rain Gods if you are listening - bring on some good storms!
Meanwhile, below are some simple tips you can do to optimize and keep the health of your garden a priority for 2021 and beyond. California's drought and water allocation issues don't seem to be improving - compounded by wildfires and a less than compassionate government and corporate understanding of basic respect for the environment. For this Summer, here are a handful of researched and repeatable tips for using water wisely within your garden, on a micro and macro level. There are a million different views on this subject, and these are what I find to be the best in my 23 years of gardening on the Coastside:
- Keep Watering. Yep, you read this right - keep watering your garden. This does not mean to be thoughtless or wasteful, this means to water the investment you made, while optimizing your whole home and property's needs. To turn off your irrigation is to allow most of your plants and trees to die or at the least, be severely stressed. More often than not, people do not want to live with a dead garden - so after turning off their irrigation for a year or so, they re-landscape or replant. I have many people who call us with the issue of neglecting their gardens and turning off the irrigation, in an effort to "save water" and then months or years down the road, come to us to install a new garden. As well meaning as the sentiment is, you actually use much more water and resources by not keeping with your initial investment and plants. To allow your plants to die from "saving water" often results in about 10x more water use within 3 years or sooner.
- Optimize what you have, and let go of the rest. This means that if water is low, funds are tight and time is limited - then edit out what you don't like and keep the rest healthy. If you only have a small handful of healthy, beautiful plants on your whole property, it's better than having a mass of neglected, unhealthy plants. Less but better is the best rule.
- Hire an expert. No explanation needed - you get what you pay for.
- Train your plants. You can "train" your plants to use less water by watering strategically and deeper. This means watering when it's foggy, not windy and not during the middle of the day with the full sun out. Water early morning or evenings, for longer periods of time. If you water for 5-10 minutes each day, you are training your plants' roots to remain shallowly rooted. If you water once a week for a longer period of time (being sure you are not creating run-off or wasting the water), the roots travel deeper for the water - thus training them to look for deeper ground water and rely on surface water less. *The absolute best time to water is during a light shower, believe it or not. I don't have time to go into the science of weather pressure and the chemical signals that plants respond to (google - lightning, storms and fertilizer for plants.... super interesting stuff) , so just trust me. If we have a drizzly or lightly rainy day use your hose or turn your irrigation on for a deeper watering.
- Use less water in the home. Data shows that using less water in the home often surpasses the water waste outside. Be sure your water fixtures are tight and maintained so there are no leaks, install low-water toilets or shower heads, use towels and clothes repeatedly if possible to wash and dry them less. Wash in short bursts by hand, as opposed to running the laundry or dishwasher every single day. My ultimate hippy trick is to take a bath, then use the water to water my indoor and some outdoor plants. I count the water bucketing and transfer as cardio. :)
I could list many more tips, but my main point is to keep caring for your garden, which includes watering during a drought. My clients that spend time once a week in their garden ensuring zero water waste, weeding and noticing the rhythm of their plants are the ones with successful gardens. It's a way to ensure the money and time you have invested pays off - and it helps the environment.