Water Management

When the hot summer months hit, maintaining a thriving organic garden can be a challenge. However, just because conditions are arid doesn’t mean your green space has to suffer. One key to success is choosing plants that are able to withstand drought conditions. To help out, we’ve rounded up a list of 5 drought-tolerant plant varieties that are perfect for organic gardens.

Benefits of Using Drought-Tolerant Plants

Using drought-tolerant plants in organic gardens can provide numerous benefits. These plants require less water, which means less time and effort spent watering them. In addition, drought-tolerant plants can be more resilient during times of drought, making them an ideal choice for regions with limited access to water. Using these plants can also promote sustainability and conservation efforts, as they reduce the amount of water needed to maintain a garden. Drought-tolerant plants can also provide unique and interesting landscaping options, as many come in a variety of colors, textures, and shapes. Overall, choosing drought-tolerant plants is a smart choice for any gardener looking to conserve water and promote sustainability.

1. Aloe Vera

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Aloe vera, a succulent plant, is one of the most drought-resistant plants that you can add to your garden. This plant can survive with very little water, making it a perfect option for dry climates. It’s also low-maintenance, requiring infrequent watering and no fertilizers.

Not only is aloe vera a useful plant for medicinal purposes, such as treating burns and wounds, but it’s also an attractive addition to any garden.

Be sure to keep it in an area that receives full sun to keep it healthy and thriving.

2. Artemisia

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Artemisia is a popular choice for today’s drought-tolerant gardens. This low-maintenance plant demands little water and thrives in full sun but needs soil with excellent drainage.

The leaves of the plant come in silvery gray or silvery green and are finely segmented, creating a textured and calming look in the garden. Artemisias range in size from the 6- to 12-inches-tall sea foam to the 6-foot-tall arborescens.

Silvery leaves make Artemisia a popular choice for moon gardens, and the plant’s leaves have been used for protection against moths, smudging ceremonies, and treatments for health ailments. The plant has many uses and is perfect for low-water landscapes.

3. Aster

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With many species being native to North America, asters can be naturalized in a meadow or planted in a mixed border to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators. This late-season bloomer produces daisy-like flowers in hues of purple, blue, white or pink.

While asters prefer rich, well-draining soil, these tough flowering plants can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions.

With climate change causing longer and more severe dry spells, making the switch to drought-resistant plants like asters is a viable and attractive alternative to thirsty green lawns.

4. Black-Eyed Susan

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If you’re looking for a drought-tolerant plant that will bring sunshine to your garden, Black-Eyed Susan is an excellent option. Contrary to popular belief, this North American native has a range of colors and appearances, from maroon blossoms to full, frilly flowers.

‘Autumn Forest’ is one of the best varieties, with large, yellow, red, and mahogany petals that can stretch up to five inches across. Black-Eyed Susan is an attractive addition to waterwise borders, cottage-style gardens or meadow settings. These tough plants have an upright habit, grow up to four feet tall and bloom from summer to early fall.

5. Grass

Grasses make for an excellent groundcover option in areas of the garden that receive less moisture. There are various types of drought-tolerant grasses that are perfect for filling in beds and replacing large portions of soil or grass. They also add a distinct natural appearance to your landscape. One such grass is the Maiden Grass, also known as Miscanthus Sinensis, which is a beautiful, versatile, and low-maintenance option for a groundcover.

Other varieties include Bouteloua gracilis, which can endure long periods of drought and even tolerate low fertility; and Blue Fescue, which has lovely blue-green hues and thrives in dry soils. Choose a drought-tolerant grass that suits your garden and your style!

As a gardener, one of the most important tasks in maintaining a healthy and thriving organic garden is proper watering. But with so many watering techniques out there, it can sometimes be hard to know what’s best for your plants. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of 5 proper watering techniques for organic gardens that are guaranteed to keep your plants happy and healthy all season long.

1. Watering Deeply and Infrequently

When it comes to watering your organic garden, watering deeply and infrequently is key. This means giving your plants enough water so that the soil is soaked beyond the surface level and not watering again until the soil is completely dry. This encourages your plants to develop deep roots, which draw moisture and nutrients from the soil more effectively. In fact, most plant roots are not sitting close to the soil surface, so watering deeply ensures that the water gets to where it is needed most. Deep watering also develops strong root systems, protects plants during drought, uses less water, and saves time and money. Remember to check your soil’s moisture level and water with a steady and light stream, waiting for water to percolate down before rechecking the soil.

2. Directing Water at Roots

When watering, make sure to direct the water at the roots instead of wasting it on the leaves, as leaves have thousands of microscopic openings that release water vapor. Additionally, it’s important to use the right amount of water depending on the soil type and to water at the right time, such as in the evening when it’s cooler to reduce evaporation. Lastly, it’s crucial to avoid overwatering as it can lead to root rot and to adjust your watering schedule based on factors such as the type, size, and number of plants growing in a given area. By following these tips, you can efficiently water your organic garden while saving water and preserving the environment.

3. Optimal Timing for Watering Organic Gardens

A general rule of thumb is that plants need one inch of water per week. However, this does not mean watering once a week. When the soil surface looks dry, probe down a few inches to check if the soil is dry several inches down. If it is, it’s time to water. Watering in the morning is the best time for your plants as it allows the leaves to dry out during the day, and it is less likely to encourage fungal disease. Evening is the second-best option if you cannot water in the morning.

4. Watering Seedlings vs. Established Plants

When it comes to watering your vegetable garden, it’s important to understand that watering seedlings is different from watering established plants. Seedlings need a steady supply of moisture to develop their roots and should be watered lightly every morning and evening. Overwatering seedlings can also promote diseases such as damping off, which can kill young plants. Established plants, on the other hand, should be watered deeply two to three times a week, considering any rainfall that occurred. Frequent shallow watering may cause shallow root growth, which can lead to plants drying out quickly. Remember to feel your soil and water early in the day or after a light rain shower. By following these techniques, you can ensure that your vegetable garden gets the right amount of water for a healthy harvest.

5. Using a Rain Gauge and Monitoring Soil Moisture

Gardeners must know the importance of monitoring soil moisture levels in their organic gardens. In order to maintain healthy plants, it is crucial to understand the amount of water that is captured and stored within the soil. Soil moisture content can vary based on precipitation, temperature, humidity, and soil type. Different plants, soil types, and climates require different levels of moisture content to thrive. By paying close attention to soil moisture levels, you can adjust your watering cycles and drip irrigation appropriately. The key is to water plants only when they need it, not on a set schedule. Use tools like rain gauges and wooden dowels to monitor the moisture level and only water when necessary. This will not only lead to healthier plants but also helps conserve water and reduce your water bill.

Water is essential for the growth and health of any garden, but it’s also a precious and finite resource that we must use carefully. Organic gardeners are especially aware of this fact, as their philosophy emphasizes using natural, sustainable methods to grow plants without harming the environment. Here, we’ll explore five organic options that can help you conserve water while producing a thriving garden.

Importance of Water Conservation in Gardening

Water conservation in gardening is becoming increasingly important, especially in the Western regions where water restrictions will continue to play a growing role in gardening. Gardeners do not have to give up their beloved plants or vegetables – they just need to become more water-wise. Water conservation saves money and energy, and it benefits both the gardener and the environment.

1. Adding Organic Matter to Soil to Reduce Water Need

Research has shown that organic farming practices that improve soil organic matter also increase the diversity and abundance of beneficial microbes in the soil. This in turn leads to healthier plants and a more resilient soil ecosystem. Organic matter provides food and shelter for microbes while reducing soil compaction and improving soil structure. Adding compost and manure to the soil, using cover crops, and reducing tillage are all ways to promote microbial activity and improve soil health. By focusing on soil health and promoting beneficial soil microbes, organic gardeners can reduce their water usage and produce healthier plants.

2. Using Mulch to Reduce Evaporation and Retain Moisture

Using mulch in organic gardening can reduce evaporation and retain moisture in the soil. Organic mulches like wood chips, bark, and straw provide a cozy blanket over the garden, protecting the soil from drying winds, blistering sun, and weeds. Mulching can be overwhelming with so many organic options to choose from like seed hulls, colored wood straw, and even compost. To pick the best organic mulch for your garden, choose one that suppresses weed growth, conserves moisture, provides nutrients, and improves soil structure. A thick layer of mulch can reduce water needs by up to 50%, making it an efficient and cost-effective way to conserve water in the garden. So, next time you’re thinking of gardening, remember to add a cozy blanket of organic mulch to your plants.

3. Drip Irrigation Systems for Efficient Watering

Drip irrigation systems are an effective and efficient way to water plants while reducing water waste. By delivering water directly to a plant’s roots, drip irrigation systems reduce evaporation that often occurs with spray watering systems. Studies have found that drip irrigation can save up to 80% more water than conventional irrigation while even contributing to increased crop yields. Many farmers, including those at Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, use drip irrigation to save water and improve their crop production. By using irrigation systems that minimize water waste, gardeners can help conserve our precious water resources.

4. Adjusting Watering Schedule According to Plant’s Needs

Adjusting the watering schedule according to a plant’s needs can do wonders in reducing water usage while maintaining a thriving garden. Plants have varying water requirements depending on their stage of growth, with young plants and those in the fruiting stage needing more water. A critical watering period chart can be helpful in determining the right watering schedule for each plant. With proper watering techniques, plant roots absorb the moisture needed for growth, reducing water usage, and conserving this essential resource.

5. Dry Farming and Its Benefits

Dry farming is a water-saving technique that is becoming increasingly popular among sustainable farmers. Dry farmers do not use artificial irrigation systems, but instead rely on soil moisture to nourish their crops during the dry season. Dry farming involves special tilling practices and careful attention to microclimates. Although dry farming typically yields lower crop yields than irrigated crops, the flavor of dry-farmed crops is often enhanced. Dry farming can also help reduce water usage in agriculture, which is critical since modern agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global water resource use.

If you’re looking to build an organic garden, one of the best things you can do is to create a greywater system. This sustainable system can help reduce your water use, save you money on water bills, and nourish your garden with nutrient-rich wastewater. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of building a greywater system for organic gardening.

Understanding Greywater and its Benefits

Greywater is water that has been used for washing purposes, such as laundry, handwashing, showering, and bathing, and has not come into contact with feces. The average American uses 88 gallons of water per day, with nearly one-third of residential water use going to landscape irrigation. Inefficient irrigation systems waste as much as 50% of water used for irrigation, which means billions of gallons of clean, fresh water are wasted every day. A DIY greywater system redirects greywater from going into the sewer system to being used for irrigation. Greywater can contain traces of dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain household cleaning products, but when used properly, it is safe and even beneficial for plants.

1. The Components Needed for a DIY Greywater System

DIY greywater system requires specific components to function properly. The first component needed is a source of greywater, which is usually collected from showers, sinks, and baths. The second component is a biofilter, which is essential for pretreatment. A biofilter is made from organic materials such as mulch or straw and helps to absorb oils and grease from the greywater before it goes through a filtration process. Next, a filter is used to remove any remaining contaminants, and then the greywater can be stored in a tank or directly irrigated into the garden. Finally, an irrigation system is needed to distribute the greywater to the plants. Choosing eco-friendly products for your household cleaning needs is also essential to ensure the safety of your plants when using greywater for irrigation.

2. How Greywater Systems Work: Pretreatment and Filtration

Pretreatment is an important step to prevent the filter from clogging due to grease and oils. To achieve pretreatment, a biofilter made from organic material such as straw or mulch can be used. Once greywater enters the filter, the organic material will absorb the grease and oils, allowing the water to drain into the filter. The filtration stage removes impurities such as lint and hair from the greywater before being stored and sent to the outlet/irrigation. It’s crucial to filter the greywater to avoid harming plants and soil. However, filtered greywater is not potable and shouldn’t be consumed by animals.

3. Using Greywater Safely for Plants and Vegetables

When building a greywater system for organic gardening, choosing plant-friendly products is essential. Greywater comes from sinks, showers, tubs, and washing machines and may contain dirt, food, grease, hair, and certain cleaning products. While greywater may look dirty, it’s a safe and beneficial source of irrigation water in a yard. It is important to only use plant-friendly products in your home if you plan on using greywater for your garden. When choosing cleaning products and personal care items, look for products that are biodegradable and free from harmful chemicals. Additionally, avoid using bleach, anti-bacterial soaps, and products that contain boron. Salt and boron build-ups in the soil can damage plants. An easy way to use greywater is piping it directly outside and using it to water ornamental plants or fruit trees. Reusing greywater for irrigation not only saves water and money but also keeps it out of the sewer system and reduces the chance of polluting water bodies. By taking these precautions and using greywater-safe products, you can safely and effectively use greywater to nourish your plants and vegetables.

4. Reusing Greywater for Organic Gardening

Reusing greywater for organic gardening has numerous benefits. Greywater is a safe and beneficial source of irrigation water in yards as long as it doesn’t contain feces or harmful chemicals. By utilizing greywater, you can save water, reduce your water bill, and prevent pollution in local water bodies. Greywater can be used to water ornamental plants, fruit trees, and even non-edible parts of vegetable plants. However, it is important to only use plant-friendly products to avoid damage to the soil and plants.

When it comes to gardening, one of the biggest challenges that many people face is dealing with soil that just won’t retain enough water. Whether you live in an area with long dry spells or you just have sandy soil that doesn’t hold moisture well, this can be frustrating and leave your plants struggling to survive. Fortunately, there are some natural ways that you can improve soil water retention and give your garden the best chance for success. In this blog post, we’ll explore four methods that you can use to keep your soil moist and your plants healthy, without resorting to chemical treatments or expensive solutions.

What is Soil Water Retention?

Soil water retention is the capacity of soil to retain water to support plant growth. Water retention is essential for any growing space as vegetables require abundant amounts of water to grow. Soil structure plays a crucial role in water retention, and tilling of soil decreases soil structure, resulting in a highly dense base soil layer topped by loose soil with no structure. This makes water more likely to runoff during heavy rains, resulting in soil erosion, nutrient loss, and flooding.

1. Using Mushrooms for Soil Water Retention

Mushrooms have been found to be an effective natural way of improving soil water retention. This is due to their ability to produce a glue-like substance called glomalin, which helps bind soil particles together. Glomalin increases water-holding capacity and reduces soil erosion. Incorporating mushrooms into your garden can boost the nutrients and organic matter in the soil while retaining moisture. You can either use store-bought mushroom compost or inoculate your soil with mushroom spores or spawn. Mushroom compost is a great addition to your garden if you have heavy clay soil that dries out too easily, or sandy soil that doesn’t hold water well. By adding mushrooms, you can help your soil retain moisture and create a healthier, more resistant garden.

2. Increasing Organic Matter

Organic matter is an essential component of soil health that helps retain moisture and provide nutrients to plants. Adding compost, grass clippings, or animal manure to your soil can improve its water retention capabilities. Organic matter also helps the soil to structure properly and provides pore space to allow for stability. Microbes in the soil break down organic matter into humus, a stable form of organic matter. While it’s difficult to add too much organic matter to your soil, it’s possible to add the wrong ratio of brown and green organic matter that can cause temporary nitrogen depletion, which can harm plants.

3. Tilling Less Frequently

Tilling your garden soil can actually decrease its water retention capacity. This is because tilling facilitates lots of temporary porous space in the top layer of soil but also destroys any soil structure that was in place prior to tilling. The repeated compaction caused by tilling actually leads to the structural breakdown of soils resulting in a soil layer that is highly dense at the bottom and loose at the top, with no structure. When heavy rains occur, water is more likely to run off and result in erosion, nutrient loss, flooding, pollution, and, of course, less retained water for future potential drought conditions. Instead of tilling, try using no-till farming or low-till production methods to maintain soil structure and increase water retention capacity. On a small scale, you can eliminate tillage altogether by using innovative tools designed for small-scale gardening, like a broadfork or tilther. By decreasing your tillage, you can increase the water retention capacity of your soil, saving resources and time while also benefiting your plants.

4. Keeping Soil Covered

One of the most efficient techniques for promoting natural soil water retention in organic gardening involves maintaining soil cover. Soil cover can take various forms, which include the use of mulch, cover crops, or living plants. By covering the soil, gardeners can reduce the rate at which water evaporates, and this can minimize the need for frequent watering, as well as conserve important water resources. Mulching is a well-known soil cover technique in organic gardening. Using organic matter like straw, leaves, or grass clippings to retain moisture in the soil while also providing valuable nutrients as they decompose. Cover crops such as clover or buckwheat can also serve to cover the soil and encourage natural water retention. 

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