“Behold, my friends, the spring has come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”- Sitting Bull
It rained! Saturday brought cool temperatures and showers to the foothills. They were brief, but dropped a needed .28 inches of rain. By Sunday, “the itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout again;” clear skies and warmer weather settled in. By Tuesday the mercury climbed into the 90s! Reluctantly, with the current water rationing regulations in mind, Abby and I ventured out to the yard. We watered, trimmed and soaked in the sunshine. A few birds were chased and lizards watched by the faithful retriever. Abby also got her fill of cool hose water and she didn’t waste a drop as excess fell on thirsty plants.
Is it possible to grow a vegetable garden when water resources are scarce and restrictions are imposed? My usual melons and pumpkins are big drinkers, so they need to wait for a rainy day. By planting water-efficient vegetable and fruit varieties and using creative irrigation a garden is possible. The following is a compilation of ideas to reduce water use in a backyard garden.
1. Planting time. Now! Establish plants before the onset of mid-summer heat.
2. Mulch. A four-inch layer of mulch reduces water evaporation. Watering needs may be cut by 50%.
3. Contained spaces. Planting close together provides shade and keeps soil cooler. Directed watering into smaller spaces helps water-waste.
4. Watering methods and times. Rule out overhead watering. One exception is patented by Mother Nature: rain. Drip irrigation systems are extremely efficient, easy to install and can cut water use by half. Peak water times are during blooming and fruit setting. After, less water improves the flavor.
5. Weed control. Weeds are relentless. They not only choke out the neighbors, but also steal valuable nutrients, sunshine and water. Control them, by pulling or other natural means.
6. Garden size. Determine your needs. Family size and food preference are key. Don’t plant more than you need.
7. What to plant. There are many varieties of fruit and vegetables well adapted to hot and dry climates. Most local garden centers stock these. Heirloom-types originating in Mediterranean regions are noted for being drought-tolerant. My choices for this year are snap beans, Roma tomatoes, strawberries, zucchini and peppers.
Warm and dry conditions are with us through the week. Forward into next week, low pressure brings sea breezes into the Crescenta Valley. Time for the first days of May with cooler temperatures and the classic night and morning low cloud pattern developing. Ideal gardening weather!
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.