July 15th, 2011

Conserve Water in the Garden

dougWater is the lifeblood of gardens. When summer heats up and natural rainfall becomes scarce, gardens can falter—unless the gardener steps in with a watering can. Water is a precious—and in some communities, expensive—resource that is not to be squandered. Here are some ideas to keep your summer garden thriving without wasting water:

• Soil preparation. Soil that is rich in organic matter, porous, and fertile encourages healthy, deep root systems. And far-reaching root systems are better able to provide plants with the moisture they need in times of drought. Midsummer isn’t the best season for amending the soil; save this task for fall. In the meantime …

• Mulch. Mulched soil loses less moisture to evaporation. It also stays cooler, which keeps roots and beneficial soil microbes happier. Straw, leaf mold, or dried grass clippings are good mulches for vegetable beds. Shredded wood, pine straw, or bark are good under shrubs and in flowerbeds. Bonus: Mulch prevents many weeds from germinating.

• Drip irrigation. When you water, use a technique that applies the water exactly where it’s needed. Soaker hoses and drip tubing deliver the water directly to the soil (as opposed to a sprinkler that flings water into the air and allows much of it to evaporate). Hand watering, with a hose or watering can, also ensures that the water lands where it is of greatest benefit to your plants.  —Doug Hall

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