In the news there has been talk about water shortages – especially in California. I also wrote about concerns about water and food shortages in a previous post. Conserving water just makes sense but in some cases it is mandatory. Here are few suggestions to help you grow your own food in spite of water restrictions.
Add compost to your soil to hold moisture. Compost also provides nutrients and soil organisms. Soil micro organism have been shown to plants obtain water and nutrients from outside their root zone plus provide disease protection.
Plant in blocks instead of rows. Bare soil between plants dries out more quickly and gives space for weeds to grow.
Mulch your soil. This keeps down weeds and holds moisture in to the soil. Keep mulch about 2 – 3” away from the trunk or stem of plants. Mulch with compost or bark which will add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. My preference is compost alone or compost with bark on top. Using rock creates heat so avoid using rocks or gravel for mulch. Plants such as succulents or other drought tolerant plants may rot if kept too moist so use less mulch or at least keep the mulch farther from those plants.
Find out what is already edible in your yard – native plants, weeds, established plants. There may be plants in your yard that you did not know were edible. Check out my book on edible and medicinal plants to know what is already in your yard.
Grow plants that can survive with less water. Many Mediterranean herbs including lavender, sage, oregano, rosemary, fennel, and thyme survive on less water. Artichokes, Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes), Squashes, Goji berry and Okra are all edibles that can get by with less water. Asparagus and Rhubarb once established are low water users. Plants which produce smaller fruit such as smaller fruited peppers and eggplant require less water than larger varieties.
Plants which have fuzzy and/or gray and/or succulent leaves are at least somewhat drought tolerant. Lavender, purslane, prickly pear are some plants which fit this.
Plant as soon as possible to get what you plant established while the temperatures are cooler. Most perennials can be planted in early spring. Cool season annuals such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, peas, root vegetables, potatoes should be planted now.
Place plants in areas according to their needs. Plants which prefer part shade in part shade and plants that prefer sun in sunnier areas. Plants requiring some shade will require more water if planted in sun and may just die or not produce well.
Water deeply and infrequently instead of watering for short periods frequently. This will encourage deeper and healthier root growth.
Water in the morning. Watering in the heat of the day is a shock to plants and much of the water may evaporate instead or reaching the soil. Watering in the evening contributes to disease since the plants may stay damp all night.
Use water on what you can eat instead of what you can’t. Either remove sections of lawn and plant edibles, cut back on lawn watering, or don’t water your lawn at all. If your lawn is Kentucky Bluegrass (common in cooler climates) cutting back on watering is not likely to kill your lawn even if it turns brown. Check my information on lawn care for more info on having a healthy lawn.
I recently read another blog with some more tips. You can see them here.