Conserving moisture

By: Penny Woodward | December 10, 2015

Creating removable shade
Photo: Penny Woodward

How do we garden in times of climate change with uncertain weather conditions and so much that is different and unexpected in the garden. We have to learn to adapt. Much of what I know and enjoy about gardening is been based on assumptions and learning over many years. But things are different now. We need to figure out how to garden with new weather conditions.

This is the driest spring I've experienced in my garden. I've already reacted by adding much more organic matter to the soil, so when I water (or after rare rainfall) the water stays in the soil for longer. This has been aided by more careful and earlier mulching. For instance when I plant corn I initially cover with wire frames to stop birds digging out the seeds as they search for worms. Usually I wait until plants are big enough and then remove the wire frame, water well and mulch thickly. This time I couldn’t wait until they were big enough to mulch as we were going away for a few days, so I removed the frames, placed a pot with the bottom cut out around each tiny corn plant, and then thickly mulched the rest of the bed. The pots act to stop any small plants being swamped by mulch, which means I can mulch earlier and preserve more moisture. When seedlings are big enough, then the pots are removed and stacked until the next time they are needed.

I am also employing tactics that alter the amount of sunshine that actually reaches some of my plants, especially in the very hot afternoon. Thus reducing the evaporation. This is crucial for small vegetable seedlings.  This technique is also useful for anyone going away for a few days and worrying about plants surviving hot weather. Its not exactly hight tech. All you need are some frames, old sheets and some pegs and you can create removeable shade. I use bits and pieces of reinforcing mesh, offcuts obtained from a builder friend. These create a frame over which I throw old sheets that are pegged into place (see the picture). If you don't have access to this sort of resource, then use an old clothes horse, two chairs or an old umbrella frame. The pegs will stop the sheets from being blown away when the wind gets up. Use the sheets only on the hottest days or when you know you will be away because most vegetables still need lots of sunshine to thrive. The rest of the time leave the sheets folded but somewhere nearby, ready for the next extreme temperature day.

We need to not just mourn the more benign and mostly predictable seasons of the past, but come up with small, simple solutions to help make gardening still possible. I'd love to hear what you are doing in your garden.

Related topics

Gardening Basics, All Gardens, shade, organic matter, Mulch, vegies, protect, holidays, Weather/seasons
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