Prepared and Published by the Queens Botanical Garden
Gardening During Drought
One can still enjoy a rewarding gardening season in spite of watering restrictions In fact, regardless of drought restrictions, gardeners should always treat water as a precious resource and practice proper watering techniques at all times.
Watering falls under the heading of cultural practices. Cultural, practices are those functions that describe how we plant and maintain our gardens, This includes consideration of location and design of garden beds, preparation of soil, watering, and fertilizing. Proper cultural practices are essential for any garden to remain healthy and viable. In fact, it is usually poor cultural practices that create stress on plants leaving them susceptible to disease and insect attack.
Water should be applied (when feasible) directly to -the soil. This avoids evaporation losses and helps prevent the spread of fungal diseases. This may be accomplished with soaker hoses or drip irrigation. For a low-tech way to water the soil directly, cut off the bottom of gallon-size jugs and remove the cap. Stick the top or neck of the jug into the soil and fill with water. The water will soak- into the soil slowly. Where overhead watering is the only available method then water should be applied early in the morning and targeted to go directly to the garden beds. Ideal time for overhead watering is between 4 am & 9 am----which is within the time limits of stage-one drought restrictions. Nighttime watering is discouraged since its practice tends to create fungal disease problems
Strategies for gardening during drought
- First and foremost! Add compost to soil. Compost increases the water holding capacity.
- Choose drought & heat-tolerant plants.
- Avoid container plantings--these dry out very quickly and require more water then bedding plants.
- Besides compost, use water holding crystals in potting and garden soil. These crystals swell and hold a tremendous amount of water which is then released as the soil begins to dry.
- Apply a thick layer of organic mulch to all beds. Mulch is any sort of material (wood chips, newspaper), etc.) that provides a protective layer over the soil. A layer of mulch maintains consistent soil moisture as well as temperature and as an added bonus it prevents weeds from sprouting.
- Lawn areas do not need watering. Cool season grasses do not require supplemental watering until air temperatures go up and stay in the '80s, Lawns that are top dressed with compost and treated organically have a better chance of staying green during summer months if restrictions prevent any watering.
- Choose tall fescue and perennial rye grass seeds if re-seeding is necessary. These are very drought tolerant and stand up to a lot of foot traffic as well.
- Replace lawn areas with drought-tolerant groundcovers where feasible.