How To Garden During A Drought

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The National Water Commission (NWC) recently reported that levels at the two main catchment facilities in the Corporate Area had dwindled to about one month’s supply. Due to the severity of the drought currently affecting the island, the NWC issued a prohibition notice that prevents persons from using water supplied by or obtained through its pipes for non-essential purposes such as irrigation of and watering of gardens, lawns, grounds and farms.

While we understand the limitations, we also know it is not easy for avid gardeners to just sit by and watch their prized plants wither away, especially if they have invested lots of time and money in the upkeep. This Tip Thursday, we share some how-tos to help you keep your gardens in shape as we weather the drought.

  1. Use recycled water. Instead of throwing out the water used to wash fruits and vegetables or that half a glass that you didn’t finish drinking, you can store it up to use in your garden. In fact, you can even reuse liquids like tea (sweetened or unsweetened) and what some Jamaicans call ‘pot water’ from boiling food, as long as you ensure they are sufficiently cooled. Don’t use the sweet stuff on house plants, however, as you don’t want an ant infestation.
  2. Water plants early in the morning. Less water will evaporate as the sun is not at its peak at this time. Most garden plants need about an inch of moisture per week, so you can water weekly or every other week. If you have an alternative source of water not connected to the NWC’s supply, you can use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose, grouping plants with similar water needs together on one drip irrigation line.
  3. Apply mulch. Place two to four inches of mulch around soaker hoses, amongst plants and in pots to keep the soil cooler, shield it from direct sun and reduce water runoff.
  4. Stop using fertiliser. Fertilisers encourage growth, which requires moisture. Also, fertiliser salts tend to build up in the soil when they are not naturally leaching out with rain or irrigation, and this can burn plant roots, causing further damage.
  5. Pull weeds. You don’t like them, and their roots steal valuable moisture from the soil. Also consider removing low priority plants, for the same reason.
  6. Prune – but not too much. Remove dead blooms from flowering plants before they start to set seed, which requires energy and uses up moisture. Pruning shrubs and trees is good as it reduces their water intake. However, be careful as plants need their foliage to protect them from sunburn. Pruning is essentially wounding a plant, so excessive cutting can kill a plant.
  7. Utilise shade netting. Plants that are in direct sunlight can be covered with UV-stabilized polyethylene garden fabric, which can cut sun exposure by up to 50 per cent, thus reducing evaporation. Visit your home and garden store to find out more.

Sources: Better Homes and Gardens, University of California – The California Garden Web, Organic Authority, Jung Seed Company, Care 2 and University of Pennsylvania Plant Clinic.