October 4th, 2012
It’s been a bizarre year in terms of moisture. We had scant snow this past winter, and several periods of drought once the growing season commenced. We remain almost ten inches under where rainfall should be year-to-date and thus the subsoil is dry, despite occasional downpours. Let’s hope the rains continue into the foreseeable future and that we are granted a decent amount of snow in the coming months. (but not too soon!) And let’s make a deal with ourselves to implement wise watering practices both now and next season. Here’s a few tips, most of which can be put into play this autumn.
Build or add to a compost pile. The resulting organic richness applied to your soil at any time of the year will hold moisture like there’s no tomorrow. Autumn, with its abundance of fallen leaves and spent garden material is prime time to start composting.
Vow to mulch the garden in 2013. Last March, given the warm temperatures, I ordered my mulch early, and was glad to have it on hand to hold moisture, insulate the soil, and beautify the beds. I like Agrimix, Sweet Peet or Black Magic, all horse-bedding based mixtures which feed the garden as they decompose.
Promise yourself you’ll practice xeriscaping with new plant purchases. Forgo those thirsty, prima donnas that consume your time and expand your water bill! Think sedum, penstemon, agastache, coneflower, lamb’s ears, coreopsis, yarrow, grasses, and bulbs.
Purchase sturdy hoses and keep them at the ready. (Try not to slice them with the garden clippers as I did while pruning my rhododendrons)
Don’t walk on the garden. Stick to the paths. You do have garden paths, right? If not, construct them from pavers, flat fieldstones, boards, or old carpet. The point is to not tread on your garden; such activity compacts the soil and compacted soil resists rainfall. You want available water to sink into the soil, not sluice over it.
Obtain and use attractive watering cans. I have two, one for the front yard and one for the back. Both are from Gardener’s Supply in Burlington, VT www.gardeners.com . I refill them at the conclusion of a day’s work, keeping them primed for the next time.
Take advantage of free water. Invest in a rain barrel; place watering cans under a downspout, and stick one under the outlet for the air conditioner water. More adventuresome gardeners may consider a gray water or cistern system.
Consider soaker hoses. These devices, if properly installed, deliver a steady trickle of water directly to roots.
If you choose to employ a sprinkler, grab a brawny one, and watch where it flings water. You don’t want to waste precious droplets on pavement or the kids’ playground.
Thing about what really needs watering. For instance, it is the nature of lawns to go dormant in times of drought. They’ll come back. A newly-planted tree or perennial, however, needs its thirst slaked regularly. And of course, the vegetable garden needs ample water to produce the best crop.
Autumn is the season when we often make gardening promises concerning next year. Be sure one of your resolutions is to treat water as the precious resource it is.