California is having a dry year, and many of us don’t know how to keep a successful garden while still reducing our water use. Many of us love the idea of being able to grab fresh vegetables from the backyard garden, but struggle with the morality of using the extra water. Fortunately, there are many ways that allow us to have the best of both worlds. There are still plenty of ways to maintain a garden during drought years; it just takes a few easy steps.
- Water plants in the evening (and water by hand)! During hotter parts of the day, water can evaporate before it is able to be absorbed by the plant. Most plants do not need to be watered every day. Allow soil to dry out a bit before watering again. Hand watering is the most water-efficient method, as you have full control!
- Compost helps to retain moisture and increases organic content and microbial activity for increased root mass, allowing roots to dig deeper and find water sources deeper down.
- Mulch moderates soil temperature, conserves moisture, and reduces weeds. Use a 3 inch minimum layer for optimal results.
- Use shade to protect heat-sensitive plants from the scorching sun. Plant heat-sensitive plants in areas where they will get shade from larger plants, or use a shade cover.
Consider the following observations on which crops need the most water and when:
- Some beans and sweet corn need considerable water to produce a good crop. Beans need water most when they are blooming and setting fruit.
- Corn needs water most during tasseling, silking and ear development. Yield is directly related to quantities of water, nitrogen and spacing.
- Peas need water most during pod filling.
- Other vegetables, such as cucumbers and squash, and fruits, such as melons, need water most during flowering and fruiting.
- Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant need water most during flowering and fruiting. (Note that after tomatoes set, they can do very well with reduced water).
For a list of crop-resistant plants visit:
Other Ideas for Water Reduction
- Remove your lawn! It sounds extreme but did you know that a three-person family in a single detached home uses about 150,000 gallons of water annually: 51% in the yard and mostly for lawn?! Removing your lawn or drastically reducing its size can help reduce water use by a significant amount. Rebates are often available for lawn removal. Visit http://ucanr.edu/sites/scmg/Lawn_Replacement/Water-Wise_Lawn_Alternatives/ for more information
- Replace your lawn with a vegetable garden! Many people have begun to turn their front lawns into a vegetable garden instead, which can save water while providing food. Check with local laws and Home Owners Associations first though, because many may have restrictions against this.
- Collect Water-Collecting rainwater is an easy and resourceful way to reduce your water usage. But not only rain water-what happens to the water that’s used while you’re waiting for the water to get hot? Stick a container under the faucet and use the water that collects to water your garden!
- Turn off water when it’s not necessary such as when brushing your teeth, or shampooing your hair in the shower. If you reduce the length of your shower to 5 minutes, you can save up to 1000 gallons a month.
- Update your appliances-many modern appliances were built with water-saving and energy savings in mind!
A Sneak Peek Into Our Backyards
Many of us here at Firma Design Group love gardening (big surprise there!) We can sometimes be found sharing photos of our gardens or discussing the tastiness of a fresh homegrown tomato included in the day’s meal. I thought you might be interested in seeing our gardens to give you some ideas for your own backyard haven.