Dry Weather Gardening

Discussion in 'Gardening and Agriculture' started by Davarm, Mar 19, 2013.

  1. Davarm

    Davarm Texan

    Since there has been talk of water issues and gardening, I thought it would be good to have a place to share thoughts and ideas on how to grow with less water.

    I have used a number of ways to conserve in the past years but this year, my goal is to come as close as I can to doubling my gardens output while using only half the water. I'm going to have to pull all my tricks together and even come up with a few new ones to make it happen. To start off with, I will pass on a trick my dad suggested to me today.

    When planting your tomatoes, bury a 1 gallon plastic jug with holes in it next to each plant, leaving the jug opening above ground. Just fill it with water each day and it will self water the plants. One gallon of water released slowly at the tomatoes roots will usually be sufficient for each plant, their will be less evaporation and less water will be needed to reach the plants roots this way.

    I have about 25 empty gallon jugs that I was planning to use to store drinking water but they are now going to go to the garden now. For the rest of my tomatoes, I am going to run a soaker hose down the rows and replace them with the jugs as they become available.

    Another way to slow water plants is to use a 5 gallon bucket with holes drilled into the bottom, sit it close to the plants needing water and fill it up. I have used this on my smaller plots where seeds are sown instead of being planted in rows and it works pretty good.

  2. AuroraHawk

    AuroraHawk Okie from Michigan via Alaska!

    Mulch your tomatoes with paper grocery bags to keep down weeds and hold in moisture.

    Heck...mulch everything possible with paper grocery bags and/or old newspapers.

  3. sgtrunningfool

    sgtrunningfool Well-Known Member

    I am thinking when I get to Texas of trying the woody beds/hugkel. To help hold water.

    You could also add some vermiculite.
  4. hiwall

    hiwall Just walking at the edge of my grave

    Many folks out here put up sun shades for their gardens. Helps cool the plants and retard evaporation.
  5. Locutus

    Locutus Well-Known Member

    When I was studying up on Square Foot Gardening (SFG) and deep beds last year in preparation for my first garden, I read about a method used (in India, I think) where they have monsoon rains followed by months of drought.

    The beds are dug and and soil loosened to a depth of more than 2 feet, with plenty of compost and other amendments that can hold lots of moisture without getting saturated. By saturated I mean not waterlogged in the sense of all voids being filled with water. There remains air in the soil.

    The beds soak up enough water from the monsoons such that no further crop watering is needed through the dry season until harvest.
  6. Davarm

    Davarm Texan

    I left the PVC frameworks up over some of my winter plots just for that purpose. When the sun starts cooking the soil, I will fashion an open sided tent over them.

    I also planted Black Eye Peas in my cucumber rows to shade the immediate area. The peas will take the sun no problem and the cucumber vines usually bake and die out when the sun gets strong. I am also going to do that with my tomatoes. A better choice would be to mulch but it's hard to come by enough(and very expensive to buy) for 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre.
  7. PackerBacker

    PackerBacker ExCommunicated

    Big bales of straw are cheap and readily available.
  8. Davarm

    Davarm Texan

    I've considered the straw and hay route but the problem is that much of the straw and almost all the hay(except maybe Alfalfa and thats too expensive) has been sprayed with herbicide. The herbicide persists and it is leeched into the soil and will kill your plants, some of it will remain after 2 or more years.

    The herbicide issue is the reason I haven't gathered manure from local ranches for my garden, my dad tried it a few years ago and lost everything he spread it on.

    Sooo.... I dont take any chances with possible contamination since almost all in the agricultural business here use it liberally.
  9. PackerBacker

    PackerBacker ExCommunicated

    You won't carry enough herbicide through straw to harm anything.
  10. cnsper

    cnsper Well-Known Member

    Your dad probably got the soil too hot. The time to fertilize is after the harvest and then till into the soil. I would say it is or was not due to herbacides since most require foliage contact.
  11. cowboyhermit

    cowboyhermit Supporting Member

    We don't really water anything anymore but have done it a bit in the past. The deep root watering mentioned is the way to go for most plants for sure, at least if you have to water you can encourage the roots to grow down. We used the spike waterers that screw onto 2liter pop bottles and they worked well.
    There are a lot of good ideas on here the only thing that comes to mind that I didn't see is a plastic "mulch". To be honest we don't use it too much these days but it did work very well. If done right it can basically eliminate evaporation from the soil (and weeds). There are different colours available depending on whether you want the soil to be warmer etc. red was proven to help tomatoes.
  12. Davarm

    Davarm Texan

    The way to determine if straw, hay, manure or any other "Amendment" used in your garden is safe is to do a "Grow-Test".

    You soak the material in water for a day or two then water a a garden plant with the "Tea". If the plant dies you may not want to put the material on your garden. I did this with some local hay and a batch chipped/mulched limbs the county gives away each spring. Two of three "Hay Teas" and the Tea made from the County Mulch killed tomato and squash plants.

    I did quite a bit of research(and experiments) into Herbicide contamination and Herbicide Drift after my property, garden, fruit trees and grape vines were almost destroyed(pear trees were all killed) 2 years in a row. The second episode was investigated by the state of Texas and I got a lot of my info from the investigator that handled the case. The manufacturer of the herbicider(2-4,D and Dicamba mix) was very helpful and provided me with info on its effects and their mitigation. Both components of the herbicide will be absorbed into and kill broadleaf plants by contact with any plant part, leaves and roots, it can also remain in the soil for a year or more.

    I will not put anything on my garden that has a possibility of containing herbicide, that usually means that if I didn't grow it it doesn't go on the garden.

  13. Tank_Girl

    Tank_Girl Well-Known Member

    I live in a very hot climate and the rain I get is very seasonal.

    My garden has gone from strength to strength since I found this move.
    *Davarm I hope you have the bandwidth to watch this movie.*

    It extols the virtues of sheet mulching with wood chips to enhance soil fertility.

    I have my own adaptation of these techniques.
    I add coconut coir.
    Hydrate the dried compressed blocks of fiber in a wheelbarrow.
    Never underestimate this substance's ability to absorb and hold water.
    Dig this into the soil along with manures, fertilizers etc.

    Lay down a weeping water line.
    These release small amounts of water along it's entire length.
    Water at night/ late afternoon to reduce evaporation.
    Add layers of newspapers, junk mail, cardboard.
    Then, add the wood chips over the top.

    It is important that you wet down the layers well as you lay it down so that it will rot down and earth worms can move comfortably though, consume, and increase the fertility of your soil.

    You could try digging swales with a yeoman plough.

    The collect the rainfall that falls on your land and slows it down, holds it so it can absorb into your soil profile.
    This can be enhanced by putting mulch in the bottom of the swales.

    Do the old fashioned, old world plant guilds.
    Plant a 8 to 10 foot square of corn and in the middle plant several squash family plants.
    As the corn grows plant climbing beans/peas.
    They will add to the shade profile of the square and reduce the soils temps, evaporation etc.

    As much as it seems odd hydroponics is very water efficient.
    in soil gardening water is put at the root zone of the plants and any water that isn't absorbed by the soil or the roots of the plants sinks past the root zone and is wasted.
    Hydroponics recycles the water that isn't used by the plant roots so it can be reused.
    Something to keep in mind perhaps.

    Look at arid zone hot climate gardening.
    Pick plants that have a track record of surviving these hot temps.
    Here, Slim eggplants, sweet/ mild chili and Italian heirloom pepper like bullhorn, mild wax varieties, asian greens, sweet potato, scallions, cherry tomatoes seem to cope very well in the heat.
    Spices like tumeric, ginger and garlic chives like the heat.

    Most of all you have to know when you're beat.
    When it's too hot a lot of food plants shut down and won't set flowers and they'll be green, maybe a little withered but they are in a holding pattern until the temps drop.

    No amount of fertilizer or water poured on these plants, when it goes over their optimal temps, will produce a harvest.

    Save your water and effort and wait till it's cooler.
  14. Meerkat

    Meerkat Seeking The Truth

    Actually all they need is about 6 hours of direct sun,morning is important too from what I hear anyway.

    A light shade helps to protect the leaves from wilting.
  15. sgtrunningfool

    sgtrunningfool Well-Known Member

    Talk to a tree trimming place and see what they do with the trees they mulch up. I got a truck for free, while except my labor loading.
  16. Tank_Girl

    Tank_Girl Well-Known Member

  17. Dove150

    Dove150 Well-Known Member

    I have been using the Back to Eden method for two years now and I love it. I don't have to weed or water and the yields have been very good. I don't live in a dry climate but if I did I'd try this.

    This method holds water and releases it as the plants need it. There is no mud and no run off the chips hold the water deep down like an underground sponge.

    Last year we had weeks of high 90's and no rain but underneath the chips the soil was rich and moist.
  18. tsrwivey

    tsrwivey Supporting Member

    We did the newspaper & paper sack thing one year, we ended up with it blown all over the yard. Lol I spent lots of time cutting it to fit around the plants & setting rocks on it to hold it down. This Texas heat dried it out & that was the end of that. :cry:

    I read in http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_s...s,1721&rh=n:283155,k:gardening+when+it+counts that everything needs to be fully composted before you put it on your garden or the decomposition process will create too much of something &/or pull too much of something from the soil & kill/stunt growth of your plants. Maybe that's what happened Davarm? I could see the heat created in the decomposition process being a huge problem too, especially in Texas. You may be able to get away with it in cooler climates though or it even be beneficial. Extra heat is definitely not an advantage here.
  19. dirtgrrl

    dirtgrrl Well-Known Member

    Good stuff here.

    Herbicides absolutely will leach from mulch and will survive the composting process as well. Be very careful about your organic matter sources. In days past herbicide wasn't used as much and composting would take care of most of it. Now days so much is used that it persists long after it is "supposed" to be gone. Part of my homestead plan involves growing material just for composting and mulching, either as a direct cover crop, or as a by-product of some other process like tree trimming or wood harvesting.

    Certain enzyme reactions necessary for photosynthesis stop when internal leaf temperatures reach 95 degrees or more. Pollen grains die at high temps and low humidity. Some species or varieties are more sensitive than others, which is what makes them more or less cold and heat tolerant. Starting with species already adapted makes a lot of sense.

    Microbes use a lot of nitrogen in the composting process, but then release it again as they die off after materials are consumed. Plants growing in material not already finished are robbed of nitrogen and can become stunted. You can compensate for this by adding extra nitrogen (in the form of blood meal or an inorganic like ammonium nitrate) but it's tricky. This is one reason why mulches keep weeds down; not just the direct smothering (robbing sunlight) but also robbing nitrogen from shallow roots. Crops with deep roots can access extra stores of nitrogen and be fine.

    I love the gallon jug with holes idea and have a huge stash for that purpose. Just be sure to bury the jug completely, or cover with mulch. Sunlight will degrade the plastic in a few months and you'll be left with a nasty plastic mess in your garden. Plastic photodegrades - breaks up into little pieces. It does not biodegrade - break down into simpler elements. If you keep the sun off them the jugs can last for years.
  20. JayJay

    JayJay Well-Known Member

    I thought you lay the paper and then the soil/mulch.