I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of rain bouncing off the roof. Its deep rhythmic nature sent me peacefully back to sleep knowing I wouldn’t need to worry about the garden for a couple of days.
But as the daylight emerged, so did a hearty wind that lasted all day and did a great job of driving off the heat of the last few days, but it also did a fine job of drying out the top layer of moisture that was generously laid about the place last night. Deep down in the soil it will be ok, but on the surface, there is no sign of any rain at this end of the day.
The rain will have brought a temporary relief from the relentless task of keeping the garden hydrated in increasingly difficult times. It will take more than a good shower in the night to restore water levels across this parched land. And it really doesn’t make any sense. My last descent burst of thirst quenching deep rain was just under two months ago. I remember it well because it was my birthday and it was the magical last frost date and I wanted to plant the garden out. It was cold, miserable and just another inundation from above that I was doing my best not to complain about.
And yet – here we are on the edge of a drought – no one has declared one yet, but we are close. The good folk at Watercare have asked me to remind everyone to go easy on the water. I don’t think there is a single place left in the country that isn’t affected now. With some areas on the verge of running out and others only just asking people to curb their hose use.
This is particularly important as you go about into rural communities to go camping and holidaying this summer as the amount of water in these areas is often collected drop by drop from above and is precious. It is easy to take for granted the water running out of the tap when it flows so freely. But is soon adds up. Earlier this month Auckland used 500 million litres of water in a single day! And in Wellington: if every household turned on a garden hose for 1 hour a day, 70 million extra litres of water would be used – almost double Wellington’s daily winter use.
It is important to check with your council and find out what the restrictions in your area are, you wouldn’t want find yourself in hot water for not following the rules.
It makes it even harder when we are growing food to feed our families and save a little in the back pocket as well. But there are things to be done.
- Gardens don’t really need to be watered everyday anyway. It is much better to water every other day so the water soaks in deep and the roots follow it down deep and aren’t affected as much by the dry surface conditions.
- Watering early in the morning or late at night gives the water a chance to soak deeply into the ground without being evaporated by the heat of the sun before the roots can get a look in.
- If you haven’t already – a good mulch can reduce evaporation by 70% which will also leave your plants less dependent on you to be out there everyday with a drink for them.
- Keep the weeds down in the garden – they need moisture to survive too and you will notice they seem to be better at growing bigger and faster than the crops and that would be thirsty work.
- If you are still allowed to use your hose, use one with a trigger so you can start and stop it where you need it, instead of running water all over the place unnecessarily.
- Before watering, have a bit of a rummage about in the soil. If the ground is moist at a depth of 10cm then you could take a break from the watering for now.
- Aim the water at the root zone of the plant where it is actually needed and water slowly so the soil has a chance to absorb it without it running off everywhere.
- Sometimes a sun baked soil can develop a hydrophobic crust that water can’t soak into. Give the ground a gentle hoe first to break it up so the water can reach the root zone.
- If things get desperate and you need to reuse water from other uses, make sure they are suitable for the vegie patch. Many of the chemicals and detergents we use around the house can be harmful to plants and the organisms in the soil.
- Put all of your pots together in a convenient spot so they can be watered together and pop a drip tray underneath so they don’t dry out as fast.
The traditional summer holidays are almost upon us and from what I can remember from almost every camping trip in recent memory, it has rained. It is pretty much a given. There has been one tropical storm or another and there was an article in the paper today about not expecting these glorious blue sky days for Christmas. So while it will put a dampener on the festivities, is will be welcome in the garden – not so much above the tent though.
This is the first summer in a while that we have all really had to worry about our water, but it is what it is and we have to work together to make it last. All going well this dry spell will be gone as quickly as it arrived – so long as it leaves us with enough warm sunny days to feel satisfied that it was a good summer and the harvest was plentiful.
Come again soon – Christmas is almost here, hooray.
Sarah the Gardener : o)
Councils have great resources to help get through this dry spell. Here are a few with some great tips and advice: