Monday, 27 June 2016

Drought Measures in the Garden

Here it is, almost July, and the garden is looking good! We have a certain amount of anxiety going on though, because it has been so HOT and so DRY.

We went into spring with a bit of a water deficit, due to the lack of snow over the winter. April and May managed to get enough rain to be okay, but we have not had any rain since the last time I posted, on June 6th when we got a small rainfall to alleviate what was then already a dry situation.

We get very fluctuating summers here. Hot, dry summers are not uncommon, although we have had summers where it has rained regularly and not gotten above 20°C too. They seem to go in cycles, and we were about due for a hot stinker and here we are.

Peas are looking good, up above (better than they actually are in fact). This isn't going to be a bumper year for peas. We will get a reasonable quantity, but expect the season to be short and the quality not top notch.

Our carrots are behind the times, which is a problem. Garden row cover helps keep them moist while we get them fully germinated and from tiny seedlings to, well, less tiny seedlings. As we often do, we had to do a second seeding because the first seeding had such a terrible germination rate. My expensive and hard gotten French seeds, too.

In this weather (well in any weather) they must be kept very moist at this stage. That means that it is not unusual for us to water them twice a day. As they get larger we can let up on this level of attention. It's much better if we can get them going earlier in the season before it is both dry and hot.

The carrots going to seed in the bean bed are a mixed success. One particular carrot variety overwintered very well, and there are enough carrots that they are really interfering with the beans. We think we can make this work better in the future though, by harvesting the carrots with the intention of leaving the ones to go to seed in the 2 open spaces created by the 3 rows of beans rather than higglety-pigglety.

Our Strike peas are finished and out; the Knight peas should be out within 3 days. Now we are just in the process of cleaning out the weeds before we replant with beans. On schedule for before July 1st, which is our goal. 

Mr. Ferdzy has completed digging and gravelling the long central path in our four-square garden plan. This is a milepost! Having the gravel paths make it so much easier to manoeuvre, and it also makes weeding and other maintenance much faster. Plus it's just so nice not to be under construction!

Oops, did I say it's nice not to be under construction? Mr. Ferdzy has moved on and started the final interior path (and little leg out from it) of our main bed complex. However, we have not been managing to keep that path mowed and clear, so even under construction it is more passable than it was.

Ultimately we would like to have the gravel path surround the outside of the main bed complex too, but that won't be this year. This section may not even be done this year due to an upcoming hernia operation, but right now he is enthused and whipping along. That will just leave the 2 beds next to this path which have gotten completely overgrown and need to be rehabilitated. I hope to make some more progress on them once I have the main garden weeding under control... *hollow laugh*

This is fun! It's the perennial wheat I got from Annapolis Seeds and planted last year. It was sold as Eezer, but I have since discovered the correct name is Ezeer, and it was bred by Tim Peters

In its first season it was just basically clumps of grass. This year it has formed very wheaty-looking seed heads and yeah, those seed heads are pretty much at eye-level. I didn't realize it would be quite so tall, but it's so light and airy it's fine. This could definitely be grown as an ornamental, although we're a little curious about how much it will self-seed if not harvested. Not that we really intend to find out.

Okay, I haven't actually said much about drought measures in the garden, have I? Here's one of them. We are acquiring 2 litre pop bottles, by fair means and foul (by drinking club soda and performing garbage night blue-bin raids). The bottoms are cut off, and the capless bottles are then planted head-down near to a plant or several, so water can be directed right to their roots, avoiding wholesale scattering of water and excess evaporation. Works quite well, but only on the larger plants. Onions, carrots, peas and beans, etc, are too small and close together. They are better watered with soaker hose laid down shortly after they come up (i.e. before they get too big to get it in without damaging them).

Once the bottles are set up we then aim to mulch the beds with wood chips. We get them for free by calling tree cutting companies, who are often happy to drop their wood chips on your driveway if they are working in your neighbourhood. It saves them  having to haul them elsewhere and dispose of them. Wood chips have their problems as a mulch - mostly they last several years, and small things struggle to come up amongst them, and also they make weeding difficult - but they really keep in moisture and cut down the number of weeds by a lot. Over time they decay and add to the fertility of the soil. We need to rake them off of beds which are to be planted with onions or carrots but that is still a lot of work saved overall.

Lawn clippings are another good source of mulch, but we learned the hard way that we should only use them until things growing in the lawn start going to seed... then we should stop, stat. We put a lot of weed seeds into some beds that way before we smartened up.

If you are my age or older and used to read garden books back in the '70s, you will know they all used to recommend that you raise your beds or at least plant things mounded up for best results. That's because all the garden books sold in Canada seemed to be actually British. We don't have their cool rainy summers for the most part so we should really be doing the opposite. When I plant anything expected to take up a square foot or more, I scoop a little valley a few inches deep and plant it in that. That will help hold the water when you water them. Those little valleys tend to fill in and need to be replaced by the pop bottles, but they really help things get established while you are working on that. 

If watering is difficult to impossible, it's best to leave more space between vegetables if you think it will be a dry season. On the other  hand, we  have found with the present and seed crops doubled up in some beds that while they dry out quicker, our watering is concentrated so this may be a reasonable strategy if watering is possible.

ADDED: After I wrote this yesterday afternoon, we got some rain! Fourteen milimetres, yee-haw - well that should take us to Thursday anyway. Better than a kick in the head with a frozen boot. 


MMeadows said...

You're so right about not needing raised beds here... well learned the hard way and the garden is doing much better this year. Added bonus: all the nutrients are not washed away now.

Ferdzy said...

Yes, live and learn... glad your garden is on track.