Combating drought in the garden

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Weiser
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-04

Mark
I have been perusing the posts from this year and just came across your post. I was wondering how your moisture situation is now that cooler weather patterns have set in?

I deal with our extremely dry conditions by using a timer controlled, drip irrigation system almost exclusively for my beds. But it is expensive to put in place all at once. I also have to pindown and bury all the main hoses and feeder hoses or it looks tacky.
I try to plant various sections of my garden with plants that require similar water regiments. I can then fine tune the systems, six zones to deliver the moisture needed for each. Lastly, I only water at night to help midigate excess evaporation. We are always on a twice a week watering schedual. Some of the zones get two watering while others only get one.
Other than that I plant a lot of native drought tolerant plants.

From the High Desert Steppe
of the Great Basin and the Eastern
Escarpment of the Sierra Nevada Range
Located in Reno/Sparks,NV  zone 6-7
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sierrarainshadow/
John P Weiser

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

The record breaking drought finally ended (for real) in October.  We've had lots of solid rains since then, but that said, we've also had magnificent mild fall weather to this day, and lots of sun, fortunately with enough deep rainfalls that things are back to normal.

The hard part of such an extended drought here in New England, it is highly unusual to not have measurable rain for 2-1/2 months.  I only remember once before in these "more than 50 years" ever seeing such a summer drought.  If I lived in Colorado, Utah, or Nevada, I would have a completely different mindset about how to approach gardening and plant's moisture needs.  We often have summers of the opposite extreme, where it feels like we're living in the Philippines, humid with near daily thunderstorms and monsoon rains.  What's really interesting about 2010, in spring we started with record-breaking flooding in spring, with major rivers at peak flood stage not just once, but twice within the span of 3 weeks.  Then the weather gods turned off the spigot for the entire summer. 

Almost every summer in the past 23 years I've been in my current location, there is a summer watering ban, but the restrictions are modest, no watering outdoors every other day.  These measures go into place automatically, even if we're having flood conditions!  But this year was different, they enforced a 100% outdoor watering ban for the entire summer up until early autumn.  It's hard to suddenly cope with such restrictions and a seemingly endless drought.  It is also hard to justify going overboard employing xeric-gardening techniques, when I might be dealing with too much rain and flooding the following year... where's the balance?

Your techniques all make sense, such as watering by night (I have to admit to doing some watering by night, but for other reasons :o).

So, as I move forward, I will attempt to strike a balance between both possibilities.  I shall be trying to weed out water-needy plants, they're just not worth the effort even in a mild or short-lived drought.  I will become realistic with certain plant choices, erring on the side of drought tolerance... it is easier to provide drainage for a drought-resistant plant that will survive both drought and excess moisture alike, than to attempt growing moisture-loving plants when there is no moisture and local regulations mandate no outdoor watering.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Fermi
Fermi's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-03-03

McDonough wrote:

The record breaking drought finally ended (for real) in October.... But this year was different, they enforced a 100% outdoor watering ban for the entire summer up until early autumn.  It's hard to suddenly cope with such restrictions and a seemingly endless drought.  It is also hard to justify going overboard employing xeric-gardening techniques, when I might be dealing with too much rain and flooding the following year... where's the balance?

... I shall be trying to weed out water-needy plants, they're just not worth the effort even in a mild or short-lived drought.  I will become realistic with certain plant choices, erring on the side of drought tolerance... it is easier to provide drainage for a drought-resistant plant that will survive both drought and excess moisture alike, than to attempt growing moisture-loving plants when there is no moisture and local regulations mandate no outdoor watering.

Mark,
our 10 year drought (in Eastern Australia) also broke in 2010 and of course we now have severe flooding throughout the Eastern States! Our personal loss of a few trees and shrubs through water-logging is trivial compared to what is currently happening in Queensland where whole towns have been underwater and people have lost homes, lives and livelihoods. We'll inevitably have more droughts (and floods) and we should be used to this cycle of "boom or bust".
However the idea of never growing moisture loving plants again seems a bit drastic. Even if it means saving the rinsing water from the washing-machine or having a bucket in the shower we would make the effort for something we really want to keep alive.
As all our water comes from our rain-tanks or from the bore we don't have a water company imposing hose-pipe bans but we're not extravagant either! Before we got the new bore we had to be extremely frugal with water and any tap in the house had a bucket or container for catching clean or "grey-water" for use on our precious plants!
cheers
fermi

Fermi de Sousa,
Central Victoria, Australia
Min: -7C, Max: +40C

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Fermi wrote:

However the idea of never growing moisture loving plants again seems a bit drastic. Even if it means saving the rinsing water from the washing-machine or having a bucket in the shower we would make the effort for something we really want to keep alive.
As all our water comes from our rain-tanks or from the bore we don't have a water company imposing hose-pipe bans but we're not extravagant either! Before we got the new bore we had to be extremely frugal with water and any tap in the house had a bucket or container for catching clean or "grey-water" for use on our precious plants!
cheers
fermi

Fermi, I've seen photos of the floods in Australia, such terrible devastation.  I hope the nation fully recovers from this natural catastrophe.

I'm not going to totally ban moisture-loving plants from my garden, but shall be making choices that err of the side of drought-resistance moving forward.  Some existing situations present some difficulties however, for example I have a steep mostly shaded hillside that borders a deciduous woodland, where Cimicifuga simplex atropurpurea have seeded in with wild abandon, the colony expanding via seed over the last 9-10 years. The soil varies, much of it pure humus from dumping garden litter there for the previous decade... loose open deep free-draining thirsty soil.

In average to moist years (such as 2009, lots of summer rain) these beauties can exceed 8' tall (2-2/3 meters) with spectacular wands of fragrant white flowers in autumn.  In dry summers, they can literally collapse from drought very quickly, as they did this year.  No amount of hand watering seemed to satiate their thirst, most plants dieing back above ground, but probably okay below ground as they grow from thick carrot-like perennial rhizomes.  Those plants growing in a native clay soil, did not suffer as badly (clay soil holds more moisture), and with the eventual return of rain in October, miraculously resurrected some flower stems to produce at least a modest display of flowers.

Same with my Epimedium collection, and my own hybrids, certain species are intolerant of much drought, while others seemed immune to the drought, so I will be working with those that are most drought-resistant, and species that impart drought-resistance, as I move forward with a formal Epimedium hybridization program.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

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