gardening in a dry year


It’s been a dry year here in California. One of the driest winters on record. To us, even though we had a very wet fall, it seemed like after the holidays the faucet was shut off. There was really almost no rain whatsoever after the holidays. Such a strange winter. And this spring we are certainly seeing the signs. Sure, if you squint your eyes and turn your head a little to the left, things look pretty good. Flowers are blooming, trees are leafing out. But if you look closely you’ll notice that the lawn is almost dead already, spring flowers are getting torched by this early heat (supposed to be in the 90’s tomorrow!), and we are relying heavily on irrigation…already. This is going to be a long summer.

A few years ago I wrote a post on drought friendly vegetable gardening, (wow, I used to write such different posts back then!) which is worth a read if you are struggling with water issues too. In regards to that post, we outfitted two more beds with in-line drip irrigation. We ordered 15 yards of mulch to heavily cover the irrigation and our tender crops. We are also focusing heavily on three beds this growing year instead of last years four beds. And I’m heavily mulching the flower gardens to help retain every last ounce of water in the soil. We need, however to get these beds on a timer, so that they can be watered in the evening or early morning hours. That is an easy step, we just need to put it higher on our priority list.

Luckily we have the option of putting our laundry on grey water. We’ve had this since we moved in, but it only drains out to one spot. Though I shouldn’t complain, the snowball hydrangea looks quite happy about the situation. However, my hope for the near future is that I can hook it up to a pipe that has multiple perforations in it, so that it can water a larger area along our foundation plantings.

How is the rain/water situation where you garden? Do you have any drought gardening tricks?


Filed under Mulch, Soil, State of the Garden, Water, what we've learned

10 responses to “gardening in a dry year

  1. Carol

    That was the Southeast a couple of years ago. This year is totally different. Besides being the 2nd coldest Spring on record, we are getting copious amounts of rain is the Upstate of SC. Whether too much or too little, it is not good for gardening. The colder temperatures are keeping our seeds from sprouting well and surviving. I have had to replant several times when it looked like warm weather was coming, but another week of cold weather is stunting those seeds.

    One thing I know to do during the drought periods is mulch, mulch, mulch, which, of course, helps keep the soil from drying out too quickly. I’m sure I’ll learn what to do and not do with all this rain besides saving it for the dry days.

    Good luck!

  2. Jo

    I’m on the east coast and this is the first time in years that we’ve seen spring…April showers and all; we usually go from Winter to Summer within a week or two.

    We collect rain water in large tanks…a total of 1300 gallons. So we’re ready when it gets really dry usually in July. One of our water tanks is on a scaffold several feet off the ground that feeds into a drip irrigation system…gravity does the work. We can collect several hundred gallons with 1 good rain. Of course, some areas do not allow rain water collection, so you have to check with local authorities.

    • Beth

      OMG Your view is amazing! I live in Phoenix so hot and DRY. I am a New England transplant so I am still learning what to plant when

  3. willemina

    Hi The pink rose Is it a david Austin Rose?
    What is its name I think it is beautiful.

    • asonomagarden

      I’m pretty sure it is a david austin, but I’m unsure of the exact name. I inherited these roses and they don’t have tags, so it’s been a guessing game! They are beautiful, aren’t they?

  4. Suzi from So. OR

    Great post. Oregon is having the same drought. We did have heavy rains in March, but then – not a drop and everything is dry. Your gray water dream is an easy one to do in a few hours. We did this at the top of a slope we planted in ground cover to help stop erosion into the creek. Buy some 1″ PVC the length of the area you want to water and drill holes into it about every 6 inches. Hook up drain pipe to the center of it and it’ll go both ways. If you just hook it up to the end – well the first 1/2 gets watered, but not the far half, so hook up your kitchen sink to that if possible. I know……hard to find the right washing products, but you make your own I’ll bet. Anyway….. it’s a fun and rewarding project. We grew some ground cover to cover the ugly pipe and you might have to ream out the holy pipe once a year so keep the end available to open and run stick a strong hose on one end or a long smaller piece of pvc. Good luck and enjoy!
    Suzi from So. Oregon

  5. Suzanne in Sonoma

    I’m just north of you, up on the ridgetop north of town. It’s even hotter and dryer here, and we’ve been really struggling. 90 degrees or more *in the shade* for the last few weeks (soil temps of 110!), and then those crazy north winds! We normally water 2 hours before sunset each evening, but had to add morning water, and then in the last week – have had to add a mid-afternoon watering as well! I lost a Clary Sage plant, my tomato plants got burnt, but seem to be recovering. If the winds die down, shade cloth will have to be the answer (not so pretty to look at….) That and strategically-placed tall plants to the south (borders of sunflowers, sunchokes, trellises of pole beans, etc) to hopefully shade things and drop the temps a few degrees. Good luck, Kendra!

  6. Stefaneener

    I’m already worried about this year. Time for more mulch, time for a timer; I’m already reusing bath water and need to get laundry hooked up. Sigh.

  7. Yes. This is going to be a doozy. I work in the water field and we are scrambling to get enough supply. For your garden timing, I recommend early morning only so you can avoid any fungus problems.

  8. April

    Mulch mulch and more mulch!

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