How to Beat the Drought in Your Landscape

The hot, dry months are just about here, and the garden will need water. But in many localities, the summer demand for water taxes the supply, and water for the garden must be curtailed. What can you do? There are two solutions to the problem. First, you can tap an additional supply of water; or you can make what little rain or additional water you have go farther.

One way to tap additional water is to dig a well. In some places this is easy; in other places, expensive and out of the question. One of the most convenient and inexpensive ways of getting more garden water is to tap a nearby stream. Even though the water may not be suitable for household use, it may be perfectly good for the garden. Here is how one person fortunate enough to have a stream near his garden tapped into it:

“It was during one of those dry summers when our garden was withering for want of moisture that we decided to try and utilize the plentiful supply of water in a small stream running by our place.

lawns drough and your landscape

“I purchased an old shallow well pump for $10 on eBay and rigged it up to pump water to my garden. The pump is run by a one-half horsepower electric motor. I figure it costs pennies to operate the pump for five hours-and every hour my garden gets 830 gallons of water. No pressure tank, floats, automatic switch or other controlling devices are necessary.

“Needless to say, my garden certainly looks better in the summer.”

What if you can’t dig a well and don’t have a stream nearby? Then you have to make your water go farther. Mulching has been the answer for many a landscape and garden. I have had to depend on a straw mulch to see me through the hot summer when regulations prevented the use of a garden hose.

However, almost anything can be used as a mulch… straw, partly decomposed compost, buckwheat hulls, corncobs, sawdust, peatmoss (surface must be kept loose, though), leaves (except those that mat together), even stones. A mulch is a substantial layer of any one of these materials several inches thick which is placed on the soil. This prevents water from evaporating and also prevents the growth of weeds, which steal their share of water, too. More on reuseables here.

The best mulch is one which covers the ground yet allows rain or other water free entry into the soil. Also, it should be a material that will not decompose too fast and lose its value as a mulch too quickly. As an example, compare dry straw and grass clippings. Both are excellent mulches, but the grass clippings soon start to decay and the supply must be replenished constantly. Straw, on the other hand, does not break down and once applied will stay in good condition for the remainder of the season.

Within the soil itself it is possible to make a little water go farther. This is done by incorporating a wetting agent.

What is a wetting agent? As we all know, water forms round drops. There is a tension on the surface of these drops which holds the water molecules together. This tension also exists in water which is in the soil. It tends to hold the water in certain areas and can actually stop water from moving. No doubt you have noticed that sometimes water will just roll off dried soil.

A wetting agent breaks or reduces this surface tension of water so that it runs easier and is less likely to form drops. This allows the water to run into the soil easier, and less will be wasted by running off. Also, within the soil a wetting agent will let the water spread out, making it easier for the plant to obtain it. Actually, a wetting agent makes the water “wetter.”

Beating the drought is not easy… but it isn’t impossible, either.

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