Gardening has been a challenge this year. Rain is scarce. Temperatures are soaring. You don't want to waste water. On the other hand, you were counting on those garden vegetables to decrease your food bill. What's the good news? You don't have to choose between increasing your water bill and increasing your food bill. You can reduce the amount of water your vegetables need by protecting them from the elements. There are also some good watering techniques that conserve H20.
Lettuce wilting in the summer heat?
Normally lettuce can be planted in full sun. In high temperature drought years, doing so requires more watering. It's best to plant fragile lettuce and other cool weather veggies where they don't get the full force of the sun when temperatures soar. Too late? That's OK. Use a pop-up shade or shade cloth to protect your sun sensitive crops during the hottest part of the day.
No pop up shade?
Tie a square of shade cloth to four stakes. You can easily pull the stakes up when veggies need more sun.
Wind can dry out crops too.
How is your vegetable garden situated? Surrounding it with natural wind breaks can help retain water. No sheltering vegetation? Try putting up some temporary fence or positioning tall, wind tolerant plants to shelter shorter ones. Be careful with placement, though. Your vegetables still need that six hours of sunlight per day to grow.
Not sure how far away to place wind barriers?
Consider your tallest vegetables maximum height. Distance barriers that many feet away.
Do you mulch your vegetables?
While this isn't common practice for gardeners in moist climates, it might be worth looking into in high temp drought years. Western gardeners in semi arid climates often employ this technique in their vegetables gardens. It retains moisture and uses less water, a commodity in hot dry conditions.
No money for mulch?
Use newspaper or cardboard instead.
Have you tried watering your plants individually?
There's no need to stop watering your plants altogether out of environmental concern. Simply stop using whole garden watering. Instead of spraying the entire area, use the hose to water each individual vegetable plant. Water at soil level. This way, you conserve water that would have otherwise evaporated without reaching the roots of the plants.
Water individual vegetables only when they need it, rather than watering the whole garden at the same time. This is one big advantage of container gardening.
Use the soak and dry method.
While it may seem like a waste of water, it's actually more conservative than conventional watering methods. Simply use a full bore hose to soak the entire ground surface of the garden. Then, water only every other day or when the soil dries completely. This method is also good for growing strong vegetable roots.
The slightly dry period forces them to branch out and seek water.
This article was previously published by this author on a now closed Yahoo property.