Gardening in a Time of Drought

Courtesy photo    A 600-gallon water tank, shown here with bracing, can store water for when it becomes scarce and keep gardens alive during a drought.

The impending return of the drought presents challenges for Alameda gardeners. Fortunately, there are some ways to mitigate the impact, protect the soil and save water. Soil is key here. Healthy soil is alive with billions of organisms per cubic inch and it is vital that it remain that way so that it can support plant life in future, rainier years. This means keeping it moist through the summer whether it is used to grow plants or left fallow. 

There should be some more rains coming, so plan on implementing a few of the following tactics to save water and protect soil:

  • Remove weeds. Weeds compete directly with desired plants for soil moisture and can weaken them. 
  • Mulch. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around trees and perennial plantings to conserve soil moisture. Use a thinner layer around vegetable plantings. Chipped tree trimmings, leaves, straw, mulching paper (for vegetable beds) and untreated fir bark all work well. Be sure not to use an impermeable barrier under the mulch as the goal is to get the moisture into the soil and retain it there.
  • Divert water from downspouts. Use buckets to collect water for future use. Cover them to keep out mosquito larvae. Use simple downspout extenders to direct the water to the garden and prevent the water from running off on hard surfaces. 
  • Install water storage tanks. One inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof will generate 600 gallons of water, so with an average of 20 inches of rain a year, most houses in Alameda will generate at least 12,000 gallons of water in a winter. Water tanks connected to downspouts can hold some of this water for summer watering. New slimline models will fit unobtrusively under the eaves of many buildings and hold hundreds of gallons of water.
  • Create berms and swales. Swales are low depressions in the ground designed to capture and hold water until it can sink in and berms are the raised areas around them that direct the water into the swales. Swales should be mulched heavily and never walked in.
  • Use drip irrigation systems. Put the water where plants need it and not into the air. Run soaker hoses, drip tubing or drip tape along the base of perennials or down vegetable beds. 

Implementing these solutions will keep gardens healthy and looking great while saving our precious water. Want more tips and information? Visit the U.C. California Garden Web at http://cagarden web.ucanr.edu/Drought_/Drought_Gardening_Tips_. 

To sign up email info@alameda backyardgrowers.org or leave a message at 239-PICK (239-7485).

 

 

 

Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG) is a network of gardeners in Alameda that grow food and donate fresh produce to neighbors who face food insecurity. Find the schedule for
ABG’s monthly education meetings at www.alamedabackyardgrowers.com. ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick and deliver fruit to the Alameda Food Bank.