Win a copy of For the Love of Paw Paws this week in the Fruit Trees forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

Changing your mindset around watering

 
gardener
Posts: 1772
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
717
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator



Watering the garden is just one of those things that seems normal for most gardeners. If you read any pack of seed or information tag for vegetables they will talk about watering on a regular basis. But is this really needed?

This week’s blog post is all about changing your mindset around watering. Part of reducing how much you water is using water saving techniques which I talked a lot about in my post “19 Ways to Deal with Drought on the Homestead.”

But another part is changing your mindset around watering. This blog post covers the following mindset changes.

1. Relying on passive irrigation instead of active irrigation.
2. Not trying to grow a prize-winning vegetable or fruit.
3. Accept that plants showing signs of water stress (wilting) don’t always need watering.

Let’s dive into what I mean by passive irrigation instead of active irrigation but make sure to check out the blog post for information on the other 2.

What is Passive Irrigation



I’m not sure if the term passive irrigation is used but I use the term passive irrigation to refer to the watering that nature does on its own (though you can enhance these natural processes). This is the water that is stored in the soil, that collects as dew, and that comes from the life on your homestead.

Often you won’t even see this water since it will show up at night or stays in the soil. But it is there and will provide water to your plants.

Active irrigation is basically all the traditional irrigation methods such as drip hoses, sprinklers, flood irrigation, etc.

I think one reason people don’t tend to rely on passive irrigation is that you can’t see it. When the drought comes and the weather gets hot you can go out and setup the hose and sprinkler and know your plants are getting water. You want to take care of your plants and the passive irrigation just can’t be seen.

But even in the central valley of California they are able to grow tomatoes with no irrigation. While every location is different I think this is a big indicator that all of us can water less. But it does take a mindset change.

Changing Your Mindset for Watering



Changing your mindset towards watering won’t eliminate all your watering but it will reduce it. When you stop trying to grow massive vegetables, when you rely on passive irrigation, and when you learn that dealing with water stress in plants does not always require more water, you will reduce how much watering you do.

You will also have stronger plants with deeper roots that will produce smaller but better tasting produce for you and your family. Plus you will save time, energy, and money while also benefiting the environment by using less water.

Make sure you check out the blog post before you go to learn more about changing your mindset towards watering.

Also, please leave a comment with your thoughts on this week’s post. I would love to hear from you!

And make sure to swing by the blog post and leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
 
master pollinator
Posts: 11375
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
743
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My problem has always been not watering enough....This year I'm allowing myself to water the Kitchen Garden as much as it needs.  
 
pollinator
Posts: 197
Location: Gulf Islands, Canada
54
hugelkultur cat books medical herbs homestead ungarbage
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm in a similar climate and very interested in the idea of how I can reduce my water usage especially in the summer, but I feel like this article might be overstating what can be done without irrigation? You linked to another article about dry farmers in California and say "If they can do it, then you can too". But that link says that dry farming is difficult, requires a particular climate, and results in lower yields than farming with irrigation. It's not so much foregoing the prize-winning tomato as it is foregoing a large chunk of your yield (the article says 1/5 as many plants). It also says that not all kinds of crops can be grown this way. The end of the article says that the reason more farmers don't dry-farm is that the yields are so low that most farmers would go broke, and the reason people doing dry-farming get into it is that irrigation is not available and they have no choice.

I've already made peace with not having prize-winning vegetables after seeing what it takes to grow one prize-winning carrot but that's pretty different from giving up 80% of the yield on some crops and 100% on others. I have to wonder how that would affect the back-of-the-napkin math for the number of acres needed to be self-sufficient for food. Do you have any ballpark numbers for how large your food garden is and what percentage of your food needs are being met by it?
 
garden master
Posts: 976
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
291
forest garden fish fungi trees foraging earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
  • Likes 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have an extreme tough love with my garden. I never water any of my garden plants.

I plant it all direct seeded, without transplanting any of the plants, which I think really helps with not needing to water it in the future. The roots grow down deep right away, as they are never watered, so they have to develop strong healthy roots to have good access to moisture as they grow.

Never watering is really important from my experience. If it is watered even 1 or 2 times especially when young, it will develop a dependence on it, and won't be able to weather extended periods of drought. Sometimes the plants look like they need water, but will actually bounce right back to normal once they get relief from direct sunlight.

I also don't disturb the soil at all after planting. I minimize weeding, and instead of pulling the weeds out, I usually cut them down and add them to the mulch.

Some plants won't make it, but that's ok with me, I'm selecting for those that are more vigorous and can handle periods of drought.

This may not work for all climates, but I think it could work in almost all of them using permaculture techniques and design, and planting in the best areas for each plant's specific needs and unique preferences.

By maintaining a good mulch layer, direct seeding, not disturbing the soil, never watering, accepting a few plants may not make it, and selecting for tougher plants, I've not had to water my garden at all, and I think it will work for others too!

Really enjoyed the thread and blog post Daron, I look forward to reading them each week.
 
garden master
Posts: 2128
Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
685
forest garden foraging books food preservation cooking fiber arts bee medical herbs
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Steve Thorn wrote:By maintaining a good mulch layer, direct seeding, not disturbing the soil, never watering, accepting a few plants may not make it, and selecting for tougher plants, I've not had to water my garden at all, and I think it will work for you too!



How much rain do you usually get during the summer? I usually have 2 months with minimal rain. The seasonal drought. This year it started early. No rain for 3 weeks. But with the winter so very wet, I haven't felt the need to water, yet.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1772
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
717
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Tyler Ludens wrote:My problem has always been not watering enough....This year I'm allowing myself to water the Kitchen Garden as much as it needs.  



I get that and each person's garden will have its own needs. Do you save your own seeds? I'm really interested in developing my own vegetable varieties by saving seeds so hopefully they would become adapted to my low water gardening.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1772
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
717
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Meg Mitchell wrote:I'm in a similar climate and very interested in the idea of how I can reduce my water usage especially in the summer, but I feel like this article might be overstating what can be done without irrigation? You linked to another article about dry farmers in California and say "If they can do it, then you can too". But that link says that dry farming is difficult, requires a particular climate, and results in lower yields than farming with irrigation. It's not so much foregoing the prize-winning tomato as it is foregoing a large chunk of your yield (the article says 1/5 as many plants). It also says that not all kinds of crops can be grown this way. The end of the article says that the reason more farmers don't dry-farm is that the yields are so low that most farmers would go broke, and the reason people doing dry-farming get into it is that irrigation is not available and they have no choice.

I've already made peace with not having prize-winning vegetables after seeing what it takes to grow one prize-winning carrot but that's pretty different from giving up 80% of the yield on some crops and 100% on others. I have to wonder how that would affect the back-of-the-napkin math for the number of acres needed to be self-sufficient for food. Do you have any ballpark numbers for how large your food garden is and what percentage of your food needs are being met by it?



I do think it is fully possible to grow food with little to no watering at least in temperate climates which my blog is focused on. My blog is also focused on helping homesteaders that are growing food for their own families not for commercial operations. My view is that if commercial operations can grow tomatoes in the central valley of California without watering then a homesteader growing food for their family should be able to match that assuming their land is not sitting on a big slab of rock or otherwise very poor. Some land is of course just very poor for growing food (Most of my land turns into concrete during the summer--except the parts I have been improving).

Those dryland farmers are not using hugelkultur beds, they are not placing logs on the surface of the beds to create micro-climates that are more moist and sheltered, they are likely not developing landraces, and they are not growing perennial vegetables, planting food forests, using swales, etc. They may not even be using wind blocks given how big the fields tend to be these days.

The farmers are growing crops for the grocery store or restaurants which requires a much different type of crop then what a homesteader growing their own food needs.

But despite that they can still grow good crops with no watering. I think many homesteaders can achieve the same results but to even start going down that route they may need to shift their mindset first.

And yes my garden is small at the moment. I have only been on my land for a bit over 2 years and I'm still developing my food systems and I'm still improving my soils. But I'm already growing many of the greens I need through a mix of native and non-native perennials plus annual greens in the garden. My berries are doing great with no watering and my fruit trees are also all growing with no watering. In 10 years I expect to be growing at least 50% of my own food if not more. It really depends on if I'm still working a full-time day job or not.

But eventually between food forests, hugelkultur beds, the pond systems that I'm developing, future terraces, hedgerows, etc. I will be growing a substantial amount of food. I already have more areas planted than I can even reach with a hose and each year the land gets more and more lush and abundant due to the management changes I'm making.

I don't plan to do any watering once my food systems are up and running except potentially to get seedlings established. I think that is fully possible because I have already been doing it both on my property and on my large restoration sites.

But despite no rain in the summer my area does not get as hot in the summer as some other areas. Those areas may need some supplemental watering during the dry season. But the mindset changes I suggested will still help reduce the amount of watering. If someone is trying to grow massive tomatoes or other vegetables they are going to be using more water. If they rely on active irrigation and do nothing to improve passive irrigation then that too will result in more watering. And if they always water on the first signs of water stress even when it is not needed that too uses more water.

Making these shifts will help but then the next step is to use the techniques I go over in the posts that I link to in order to take the next step and improve the passive irrigation.

My post is meant to counter all the advice in the gardening magazines and gardening sites that encourage people to water all the time and give almost no advice on how to reduce how much you water. There are many permaculture techniques that can reduce how much watering you need to do and I have several blog posts that focus on some of those techniques. But before someone can really utilize those techniques they need to shift their mindset away from what is promoted in the gardening magazines. That is what this post is about--it is not about commercial producers. I just used them as an example of what is possible because they have a lot more barriers then a homesteader only growing food for their own family does.
 
Daron Williams
gardener
Posts: 1772
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
717
hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Steve Thorn wrote:I have an extreme tough love with my garden. I never water any of my garden plants.

I plant it all direct seeded, without transplanting any of the plants, which I think really helps with not needing to water it in the future. The roots grow down deep right away, as they are never watered, so they have to develop strong healthy roots to have good access to moisture as they grow.

Never watering is really important from my experience. If it is watered even 1 or 2 times especially when young, it will develop a dependence on it, and won't be able to weather extended periods of drought. Sometimes the plants look like they need water, but will actually bounce right back to normal once they get relief from direct sunlight.

I also don't disturb the soil at all after planting. I minimize weeding, and instead of pulling the weeds out, I usually cut them down and add them to the mulch.

Some plants won't make it, but that's ok with me, I'm selecting for those that are more vigorous and can handle periods of drought.

This may not work for all climates, but I think it could work in almost all of them using permaculture techniques and design, and planting in the best areas for each plant's specific needs and unique preferences.

By maintaining a good mulch layer, direct seeding, not disturbing the soil, never watering, accepting a few plants may not make it, and selecting for tougher plants, I've not had to water my garden at all, and I think it will work for you too!

Really enjoyed the thread and blog post Daron, I look forward to reading them each week.



Thanks Steve! And great job with your setup! I actually did water my garden a bit this year to get things setup. It is a brand new garden and I was still finishing it as I was getting seeds planted. Currently, it has poor soils and for a while no mulch. lol, basically I was not following my own instructions/advice!

But now I have everything mulched and I did a final very long and deep watering to get the whole garden charged up. Since then I have stopped watering and the plants are all doing great. The garden beds are 3 feet deep hugelkultur beds so they should have good water holding capacity but of course being brand new they will work better in the future than they will this year.

What you are doing is all great and I'm excited that it is working for you! I expect my garden to do better each year as the soils improve and the logs rot a bit more. Also, this will be the first year that I will be able to save seeds from my garden. It will be great to be developing my own strains that don't mind the poor soils and low water. I'm already marking which plants are doing the best.

I'm also going to be letting some of the plants self-seed and I have several perennial vegetables planted. Overtime I want to use more perennial vegetables in the garden which should also help.

Thanks again and really great to hear how your garden is going. Thanks for sharing!
 
Steve Thorn
garden master
Posts: 976
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
291
forest garden fish fungi trees foraging earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Joylynn Hardesty wrote:

Steve Thorn wrote:By maintaining a good mulch layer, direct seeding, not disturbing the soil, never watering, accepting a few plants may not make it, and selecting for tougher plants, I've not had to water my garden at all, and I think it will work for others too!



How much rain do you usually get during the summer? I usually have 2 months with minimal rain. The seasonal drought. This year it started early. No rain for 3 weeks. But with the winter so very wet, I haven't felt the need to water, yet.



We had the same thing with the rain the last three weeks, and the temperature was in the 90's for 2 out of those 3 weeks, which was really early like you mentioned, and I was getting a little nervous , but the plants weathered it fine.

The weather data says that we average a couple inches of rainfall during the summer, but most of it is scattered thunder showers, and they have unfortunately passed around us a lot these last few years, and I think we went about two months also last year without almost any rain.

In my food forest I watered two blueberry transplants once during this recent heatwave and drought with a deep watering, since they were transplants and not direct seeded, and I planted them in a pretty dry area, contrary to their preferences. With the direct seeded garden, and my food forest plants that have been established for at least a year, I don't water at all. I also have some other blueberry transplants planted in a more moist area like they prefer, and they were doing awesome, and I didn't have to water them.
 
pollinator
Posts: 376
Location: France, Burgundy, parc naturel Morvan
120
forest garden fish fungi trees food preservation cooking solar wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been to an established half acre permaculture garden in mid summer heat wave, the guy had acces to a few buckets a week, you wouldn't say it was very dry at all. Plants were fine i thought, abundance all around, it looked like a watered garden. His old neighbor didn't believe he wasn't watering and kept telling him to get rid of all that straw. But even this permaculturist would like to water a bit more, to get some stronger growth.
My place isn't established as much, i have more like a lot of plants everywhere shading the soil and i have roof water close by the veggie patches in a pond, i only water plants that need it, tiny ones, newly replanted ones, pots and wintercuttings. 5 minute job, check for snails and unwanted plants popping up while i'm at it.
My other garden is just starting out, plants would just die. I need produce, people are watching....
I see Steve, you're playing the long game, selecting for only those plants that will make it. Next year, i'll have enough seeds to play that long game.
The problem is, if you don't have these genetics already, because most sellers of bio seeds don't play that game, you'll lose a lot on these seeds, again... 15 seeds for 5 bucks and then keep 1 plant after tough love. Bad economics.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1564
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
535
forest garden rabbit tiny house books solar woodworking
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Steve, you're very lucky to be able to produce food without watering. In my location, that won't work. Nor could I adopt your methods and expect to have enough food to eat. But that's ok. We each do what we need to do that works for us.

There are only a few crops that I can successfully direct seed -- beans, peas, corn, cowpeas (as long as I sow extra to accommodate losses). All others I need to pre-start because pests and diseases would kill them otherwise. Believe me, I've tried direct seeding! It's a lot less work, for sure. But repeated efforts proved that I don't get enough seedling survival to warrant the effort and expense when I direct seed.

Mulching......I'm a BIG proponent of keeping the soil covered. And mulching helps a lot with retaining soil moisture where I am. I have tropical sun and trade winds that can suck the moisture out of a garden bed in 24 hours if it's not mulched or otherwise protected. During drought years I am considering going with drip irrigation lines under the mulch, but to date it hasn't been necessary. But if I experience another drought (under 20" annual rainfall), I might need to put out the effort. During a drought year we usually see two or three big rains, then just piddling moist days here and there with less than a tenth of an inch of rain.

I till my soil between crops. I till in old mulch, compost, manure, and other soil amendments. I started with infertile 1"-2" deep dirt and now have 6"-12" deep fertile garden soil. But if I stop tilling in organic material (example : taro and turmeric crops which take 9-12 months to harvest time), the soil becomes dense and hard, requiring a mattock to harvest the taro and turmeric. That's dense and hard even under a 2"-3" deep mulch layer. The warm soil temperature and mild climate very quickly breaks down organic soil content here, thus the soil becomes dense and hydrophobic if it dries out. The one crop that tolerates this dense soil is pineapples. But to get big sweet pineapples, they need to be mulched (with compost) and kept moist, a task I do by using manure & compost teas.

Since I rely upon my crops to provide our food and income, I simply cannot risk throwing caution to the wind and say I'll just accept what few plants survive and the little food they would produce via no irrigation/no till. I envy the ease of no till/no irrigation that you can do, but this homestead farm simply can't be food independent using that method without increasing my garden space tenfold (and even then, it probably wouldn't work).

But ya know, if I had another 20+ years of life ahead of me, I could try saving seed from my most drought resistance plants and develop my own landrace. Perhaps then I'd be less reliant upon water. But alas, I probably only have another 5-10 years of farming left in me. Not enough time to create significantly drought resistant types for my specific location.

My food forest and orchards are different. Based upon hugelkultur style pits, they require no irrigation. At least not yet. But some plants in the food forest will indeed die out during a drought if not watered occasionally.......sweet potatoes, cholesterol spinach, pipinola. I've seen them survive two months of no rain, but after that they start to die.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
Posts: 11375
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
743
cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Daron Williams wrote:Do you save your own seeds? I'm really interested in developing my own vegetable varieties by saving seeds so hopefully they would become adapted to my low water gardening.



I have another garden which I call my Low Water Garden in which I'm growing dry-adapted corn, squash and beans.  These are existing on rainfall and infrequent doses of compost tea.  The corn appears to be producing ears!  I plan to save seed from these and grow them the same way again next year.

I've tried for many years to grow regular garden vegetables in Texas with low water and it has been a sad experience.  I'm tired of having a sad, dying garden which doesn't produce food, so I'm happy to irrigate the Kitchen Garden when needed (once a week if it doesn't rain).
 
Posts: 57
Location: Cape Town
16
forest garden tiny house solar
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Watering is a place where I actually feel like permaculture principles should be really carefully contextualized. If you don't have access to any water, then definitely applying principles that mean you don't have to water are great. Mulch, in our Mediterranean climate is a game-changer, as is shading the soil, and encouraging self-seeding.

My perspective is to do what gets you a yield that you and your family will eat, and for beginners like me, improving the soil can be a full time job. I have, in our 4 years of farming, been able to develop a strain of Cape Gooseberry that needs no water whatsoever (ok, not so much develop it as plant a bunch and leave them and see what survived and then use the seed from those guys), and I'm extraordinarily proud of my achievement. I have also been able to time potato planting so that if I plant around now, I can not water at all and harvest in Nov (though I get a better yield if I water in Oct/Nov). So I think about water, particularly for the areas of our farm where we don't really want to put in expensive irrigation systems, or strain the capacity of our wellpoint by using it to pump water to the very end of our property.

At the same time:

I started farming in a period of extreme drought (EXTREME) in super sandy soil and I thought I could make plants and trees stronger and survive by doing the deep (well, sortof deep- I was being really careful with watering) 1/week watering thing, and it was a really bad misinterpretation of permaculture. I lost a lot of trees, encouraged Cape dune mole rats to eat my trees (watering deeply once a week collapsed their tunnels which made them come up and enjoy a tasty snack of my tree or bush)

I think for me permaculture is partly about trying to make things have more than one use (including supplying as many of your needs as possible), to make your landscape increasingly resilient in a way that is gentle and supportive of the land you have stewardship of, and to make the best possible use of that land.

That has meant, in our annual garden, growing some water-intense things like strawberries because I want to be able to eat them and they are well-suited to our climate in some ways... actually watering a lot of stuff in our annual garden almost daily because I'm still a beginner and I can't gauge plant stress terribly well. As the soil improves, my need to water declines. I figure I am always using less water than commercial farmers, and my primary goal is to get a yield without any commercial products. But I would not tell a beginner gardener to try dry-land farming, or to really think about trying to water less in our climate and soil. I would rather suggest starting by thinking in terms of deep mulch, planting on either side of hugels and berms, and just learning gradually what your trees and plants need. It is too discouraging to be a crappy farmer with tiny wilted plants, tasty as they may be, if you (I) have never grown the good stuff. Now, in year 4, that I've grown at least some good stuff, and the soil is a lot better at holding water, I can experiment with water -- my goal is to irrigate for 2 weeks less than the previous year, but it's not a hard and fast rule and depends a lot on when the winter rain starts and ends. So stopped irrigating the last week of April this year, and hopefully will only start up again the last week of September...

 
pollinator
Posts: 702
Location: Southern Oregon
120
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm definitely struggling with the watering issue with my new property. I'm trying to transition everything that the previous owners did to something more my style. One of the previous owners watered his fruit trees (and everything else) every other day in the summer. I find that to be ridiculous, but I'm concerned that trying to transition them to less water too quickly will kill them. And in the raised bed annual garden, the soil doesn't hold water well at all, so I'm working on that as well. The previous owners complained that everything was burning up in the raised beds, and while they seemed to think it was because of the reflection of light from the house. I think it was largely because the soil in the beds (not ground soil) doesn't hold water.

In the long term, I plan on utilizing hugels, and swales, but currently, I'm just trying to triage, so I don't lose everything.

I agree that some plants just wilt, like zucchini in afternoon sun, but that doesn't always mean that they need more water.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 1564
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
535
forest garden rabbit tiny house books solar woodworking
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Stacy Witscher wrote:. I agree that some plants just wilt, like zucchini in afternoon sun, but that doesn't always mean that they need more water.



That's right. Afternoon wilting on a sunny day doesn't necessarily mean dry soil. Squashes, pumpkins, Chinese cabbage and other greens are susceptible to this. I've seen beets, spinach, and radishes also wilt like this, but come evening they are up and perky again.

There is a term for this, but I can't recall it at the moment.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 8753
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
718
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't know the word either. But the transpiration rate is outpacing root uptake, even when there's plenty of moisture in the soil. I think that sometimes wilting might be a self-defense mechanism, because the leaf presents less area to the sun, when in a wilted condition. As evening approaches, the roots catch up.

I can see that water-conserving practices are necessary in some cases. Places that have excessive water seasonally, can generally be improved so that more of that water is stored. I don't know how many people I've seen get a bunch of trees growing or other things, before they invest in water storage. Then things die and they plant more.

We often hear about people obtaining livestock too soon. Some really inhumane situations result. A similar cart before the horse thing happens if people get a bunch of things growing before determining how they are going to keep them alive.

Most things that I intend to grow at my new location in the tropics, can benefit from additional water. So the first order of business, will be to determine how much water I can economically store in surface ponds and elsewhere. I'm sure there will be a limit on the amount of ground I can cover with the most thirsty crops. The remainder of the land will be put into trees that are well adapted to seasonal drought.

I expect to spend about 50% of the land cost, developing water control and storage. This isn't something that can be an afterthought, when there is little chance of success for so many crops if they are not watered.

I will definitely not get any livestock until I am confident that I can consistently provide them with food, water and shade. The most shameful thing I've witnessed on small farms, is a tendency to obtain dependent creatures, before there's much hope of being able to consistently provide safe and humane conditions, which includes plenty of food, water and shade.
 
Posts: 29
Location: South East Missouri
5
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I fear that I am watering too much.  Is that possible?  I have a hugelkultur mound that is 2 years old (second growing season) and about 3 foot in depth.  The gray water from my home continuously floods the hugelkultur mound from beneath.  I also water with Rainwater or well water twice a day for 10 minutes from a sprinkler mounted overhead.  My berries, melons and tomatoes are planted in the ground, and are also sprinkled with Rain or well water twice each day for 10 minutes each time.  The black/blue berries get water from a soaker hose while the melons / tomatoes get a sprinkler.  Is it possible that I am watering the plants too much?  Please advise.  I collect and store about 3000 gallons of rain water, and have a deep well.  Only blackwater is sent to the septic system.  All the gray water goes to the planting beds.  I have plenty of water, so I am not concerned about conserving water that much, but want to do what is best for the plants.
 
Posts: 65
Location: Central Virginia
13
bike medical herbs wood heat
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Passive irrigation can be enhanced by certain actions... mostly involving an increase of water retention by the soil of the growing bed. Measures can be taken to increase the % of irrigation water being received by the plants, and to reduce the loss of water from beds.

1. incorporate a lot of compost, organic matter, into the soil
2. mulch!
3. place plants so that their leaves entirely covers the area, with no place for sun to reach the soil (or mulch) surface
4. if watering, use drip irrigation which delivers water deeper into the soil with minimal loss to evaporation or runoff
5. in high wind and dry areas, have windbreaks to minimize the wind over the growing bed, to reduce evaporation loss
6. collect rainwater for the drip system, or channel it to the garden, taking care not to flood the beds in humid areas
7. grow more drought-tolerant varieties, which exist for most vegetables
8. water selectively, since some vegetables (e.g., tomatoes) require much less regular watering than others (e.g., lettuce)
9. increase reliance on perennials, which generally put down deeper roots and can do without irrigation in many cases

These techniques are all well known, nothing revolutionary here, but this list is perhaps useful as an outline for proceeding with water-saving efforts.
 
Posts: 171
Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
29
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Steve Thorn wrote:I plant it all direct seeded, without transplanting any of the plants, which I think really helps with not needing to water it in the future. The roots grow down deep right away, as they are never watered, so they have to develop strong healthy roots to have good access to moisture as they grow....

Never watering is really important from my experience. If it is watered even 1 or 2 times especially when young, it will develop a dependence on it, and won't be able to weather extended periods of drought. Sometimes the plants look like they need water, but will actually bounce right back to normal once they get relief from direct sunlight....

I also don't disturb the soil at all after planting. I minimize weeding, and instead of pulling the weeds out, I usually cut them down and add them to the mulch.

Some plants won't make it, but that's ok with me, I'm selecting for those that are more vigorous and can handle periods of drought.



I SO needed to read this thread this morning and the wealth of information to ease my mind (thanks, Daron!!!). I'm in Athens, GA, where we are experiencing a heat wave and bad drought. They keep saying it's going to rain but it doesn't. (Fingers crossed for tomorrow, as Barry sends some help our way, hopefully.)

I've drip-watered some, but we really cannot afford to water much at all, and my partner is always nagging me about it. So I've been watching parts of my garden die...but also noticing the parts that seem to be doing better. In the newly started plum guild, which is covered with Austrian winter peas and tons of bees, the young plum tree is thriving. (The pear I planted by itself in the front yard is trying to die on me despite the mulch and water.) I planted arugula, which quickly went to seed, but I've just left it to drop seed with the hope that next year it will come back. I've got a bunch of 7-top turnips planted just to cover the ground where I've cleared out the English ivy and poison ivy. The clay ground everywhere is cracking from lack of water, but in the areas I've covered with "sacrificial" plants it's doing better. I won't get much from the garden this year, but I keep telling myself that the very best produce I can grow is healthy soil.

Now I just need to find someone local who can advise me on the best way to shape things so the water we do get that now runs downhill and floods the walkway and patio is captured.



 
gardener
Posts: 2697
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
497
cattle chicken bee sheep
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Timing for water could play a role and i wonder if the California commercial tomato growers that do not irrigate do this.

At a certain temperature tomatos will not set fruit. Maybe it's 100 degrees?  So you end up with 2 growing seasons each year. The season before the hot regional drought and the season after the hot regional drought.

That describes our tomato growing season. There is little benefit to keeping the tomato plants alive for those 2-3 months. We replant in the fall.  A worthy endeavor compared to 3 months of irrigation. Doing this can minimize, maybe eliminate, irrigation here in Central Texas. Eliminating would probably require other things you have covered in your blog. Mulching, etc.

Planting for the season seems like a no brainer but worth mentioning.
 
Posts: 11
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is really hard for me! I love watering my plants, it's like a relaxation for me.

We moved to eastern WA a few years ago, the home we bought had no soil and no landscaping except 2 large maples.  The vegetable garden was placed in the open space which is a layer of river rock and dust.

My son got loads of well aged horse manure and some garden soil to make our garden rows with.
In the paths we put arborist chips and we've used the maple leaf in the fall to mulch the garden beds.

We don't normally have a lot of rain but this spring we are so I am trying to water less. It doesn't need as much as the mulch is doing it's job.

In our front yard the flowerbeds are meant to not need water, it's like a dust bowl and I've not mulched as the plants are supposed to not need it. There are 2 different types of beds, one is planted straight into the dust with rock mulch (lots of river rocks here). The other beds are mulched and have some plants that need a bit more care, at least that's what I felt. The whole goal of the front was to not water and yet I find myself watering.  
It is an unlearning to not water.
 
Posts: 179
17
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Take a look at this site -- https://www.measuredirrigation.com/

The idea is you charge the soil to holding capacity. Then measure at water based on weather and consumption rather than timed intervals.
 
john mcginnis
Posts: 179
17
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

One other thing that I have done over time is switched to hydro culture. High water demand annuals like tomatoes, cukes, melons I now grow either by the Kratky method or in wicking barrels. The purist will say I am cheating and I guess I am. But in so doing I am saving water immensely a critical thing during a Texas summer heat wave.  The plants have less stress and produce well. The water saved goes to my fruit trees.
 
Posts: 108
Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
40
forest garden foraging trees books wofati food preservation fiber arts medical herbs solar rocket stoves greening the desert
  • Likes 8
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is a really interesting conversation and great food for thought. Thank you, Daron!

We live in the desert, and as people say around here, it actually has great soil (if extremely alkaline and often too saline) that can grow a lot of things -- as long as you apply sufficient water. Well, that's a really interesting proviso considering that, since colonists began arriving here and digging wells and draining the aquifers to water in new trees (both domestic and, lately, enormous nut orchards) as well as vast fields of crops, those aquifers have been almost completely drained. Now what used to be year-round creeks are seasonal or completely dry. Lakes have dried up. I believe that rainfall has decreased (I've read that some indigenous farmers who've been growing crops in this area for hundreds of years believe that irrigating crops -- ETA: with pumped groundwater -- keeps the rains away, and I've read some academic studies that seem to confirm that, although I have absolutely no understanding of what mechanisms might be involved if that's true). Pumping from deeper and deeper wells has only increased at a more exponential pace in the last 10 years or so as more orchards go in and croplands are expanded (tearing out all the mesquite and acacia and other desert-adapted trees and plants in order to do so), and now many residential wells have gone dry. Our nearest neighbors had to abandon their home after their well went dry, and the native trees they established there by irrigating with their well water -- these housed at least two beautiful owls at one point -- are dying or dead. Most of even our off-grid, permaculture-type homesteading neighbors in the region have wells and use them to irrigate as well as for other domestic uses. Meanwhile, even with reduced rainfall here in this desert we still get enough rain during most monsoons and occasional winter rains that a small metal roof, a good basic filtration system, and relatively small potable water storage capacity can collect enough for modest needs. What do I mean by "modest needs"? In part at least, I mean irrigating very little or not at all. In other words, we're in a situation -- choosing not to dig a well that might just go dry quickly anyway, and being limited by finances to expanding our collection systems slowly -- where we're more or less forced to reduce or eliminate irrigation.

I'm making absolutely no claim to knowing all the answers or solutions here. In fact, very much the opposite: every day I learn more about my own ignorance.

Some things that have worked so far in our very limited experience include:
  • sunken rather than raised beds (more like ditches or channels);
  • deep mulch of compost, "chop and drop," and chips and chunks from our native trees;
  • earthworks to redirect flooding rainwater to those sunken beds/rows/spirals;
  • judicious use of shade both from pre-existing trees we treat as "nurse trees" or plants we encourage to grow tall (like pole beans) and human-made or -imported structures like yucca stalk posts and what we call our "palickee" (I think this was originally a portmanteau of "palapa" and "chickee"); and
  • most difficult for us: limiting what we grow to those food, medicine, and fiber plants that can survive our conditions.


  • We do have one garden area irrigated by mulched graywater dripline, which requires a not-insubstantial amount of maintenance but helps us grow a few more things and also helps things grow tall enough to shade other things. We also occasionally use some unfiltered overflow from our raincatch system to do things like flush the graywater line, try to keep transplants alive, and fill the clay olla we recently began trying for irrigation.

    Some things that have not worked very well (occasional limited success, but very unpredictable) so far include transplanting non-natives and planting much of anything before the monsoons start in late June/early July. The latter means that things I think should do well here, like chiles, don't end up with a long enough growing season to produce before frost. (Last year we managed to nurse a few chile transplants through a pre-monsoon planting and get a handful of peppers, but so far we're having less success this year.)

    We forage quite a bit and we also transplant things we like closer to home -- especially prickly pear. That's been extremely important so far, and we'd like to continue to do more of the latter in part to reduce the amount of time taken up in the former (as enjoyable as it can be, at least when it's not over 100 degrees and intensely sunny out). But even natives can be challenging to transplant given our limited water availability, which brings me to a question:

    Besides mulch and utilizing nurse trees and protecting from rodents with things like wire cages, what have folks found helps transplants like trees, shrubs, and cacti survive the transition? Our cactus (prickly pear and cholla, both of which are Opuntia) cuttings have the highest rate of success, but other things -- native Arizona grapes and Emory oak -- have died. Meanwhile, we have several transplants we're trying to nurse through this tough time of year, and others we'd like to try with higher success rates: chiltepin (in the ground), mulberries (plan to transplant when monsoon starts), hackberries, elderberries, wolf berries, grapes and Emory oak again, etc. Do folks have any tried and true methods and/or new resources (books, etc.) we could try, both for rooting cuttings as well as transplanting? It seems like ants kill quite a few of our transplants, despite our attempts to eradicate their colonies anywhere near our gardens. Do you have any advice for that issue?

    The biggest things I've been learning (definitely still learning) are accepting when things don't work and continuing to be patient while we try again and again either to make them work in different ways or to start over with completely new things instead. Some days are easier than others! The day of the first monsoon rain makes everything seem possible (winter rains and snow are pretty excellent, too).

    Thank you, everyone! I love reading about your gardens!
     
    Daron Williams
    gardener
    Posts: 1772
    Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
    717
    hugelkultur kids forest garden fungi trees books bike homestead
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Steve – Thanks for the extra information about your site.

    Hugo – Interesting, thanks for sharing! Yeah, sometimes you do need to water. I’m not arguing that you should never water. Just trying to encourage people to look into ways to water less. But sometimes some watering will be needed. I just got 2 500 gallon water tanks for free that I’m hoping to setup to collect rainwater so I can use them to water my seedlings if needed. Just an example of one way that you can use water and still have a low impact. Sounds like your pond is doing the same thing! 😊

    Thanks for sharing—looks like you got a good setup and it should just keep improving overtime!

    Su Ba – Yeah, your climate and soil conditions are very different than my area. I got to tour some gardens/farms in Fiji that were being grown with no irrigation. They were very limited in what they could grow and tended to rely on trees and shrubs and then supplement with fish from the surrounding waters. Very different way of getting enough food and there were not much in the way of surpluses.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Tyler – I hope the corn works out for you! Yeah, Texas climate is a lot hotter than I’m dealing with and from what I have read it seems like some areas have soils that drain very quickly. Is that the same in your area?

    Jo – Yeah, some watering is often necessary for some crops depending on climate and local conditions of your site. Permaculture is great at reducing how much water you need but can’t always eliminate it. But that is why I like the approach of passive irrigation.

    You are still watering your plants but you are relying on methods to trap and hold more of the water that does naturally move through your system. There are some great examples of people growing a ton of food in the dry southwest of the United States using these methods without any active watering except sometimes from water tanks that capture roof runoff.

    I think it is great to do what it takes to get a yield but only to a point. People can get reliant on fertilizers, water, etc. at the early stages which then makes it hard to transition away later. I would rather have poorer yields today but much better yields in a year or 2 by using methods that focus on building fertility in the long run as opposed to the short run.

    But ultimately for some crops in some climates you may need supplemental watering depending on your own site.

    Stacy – Yeah, transitioning plants that are used to watering is a challenge. I run restoration projects for my day job. One of my finished projects was restoring an old golf course. There are huge Douglas firs and other trees on the property but they were all used to getting irrigation runoff from the golf course. When the organization I work for bought the property they retired the water rights since the water was being drawn out of a creek with salmon.

    Since then we have noticed that some of the Douglas firs despite being very well established (100+ feet tall) have shown signs of water stress. We lost some in the first couple years but now the trees seem to be getting used to the lower water and I don’t see signs of water stress anymore.

    But if even big native trees can suffer during the transition I’m sure fruit trees could. On my own property I have been mulching and building hugelkultur beds near some trees that were here when my wife and I bought the property. They seem much happier now that the grass is gone and the soil mulched.

    Good luck transitioning your plants!

    Dale – Yeah, it is easy to get so excited with new land that people can jump in before the land is ready to support either the crops or the animals. I spent the first 2 years at my place focusing on improving the “baseline”. I just put in my first real garden this year and I plan to expand my food production a fair bit over the next couple. But my first priority was getting the site ready to support this level of production.

    But I was also lucky that I could afford to not focus on food production for the first couple years. I know some people need that food production to help support their families and can’t wait.

    I wish you luck with your new location!

    Phillip – To me it seems like your hugelkultur mound would be fine with just the gray water and does not need to be watered. But since your plants are used to more water you might want to try decreasing how much watering you do and see how the plants respond.

    But I’m also unfamiliar with your site conditions and your climate. My gut tells me you are giving the plants more water than needed but I can’t say that for sure. I would just try decreasing the watering a bit and see how they do.

    You could try only watering once a day and see how the plants respond.

    Victor – Thanks for the list! These are proven techniques but there are a lot of people who are still learning and may not know them so thank you for sharing!

    Diane – Thank you! 😊 Yeah, I have heard about the drought you all are dealing with. No fun! It has been fairly dry here too but not as bad and no where near as hot. But the regular summer drought should be here soon…

    Steve has a great outline in his post on what he does to avoid watering. I think trying out his methods would be a great way to move forward. Though it might take a couple years to get the garden to full production.

    I know in my garden I expect this year to be its worst year in terms of production (it is brand new). But each year I expect it to improve especially since I will be saving seeds from the plants that do well. Saving seeds is a fantastic way to improve your garden and get drought resistant vegetables!

    Good luck with your garden and I hope you can find someone local to help you out!

    Wayne – Yeah, timing in certain climates is very important. Even here in western Washington I need to get some seeds down earlier next year so they have time to get their roots established before the dry season gets going.

    But that might mean I need to use cold frames or other methods to warm the soil to get some of the seeds to germinate earlier.

    Bocca – Yeah, I grew up and learned to garden in eastern Washington just north of Spokane. Very different climate than where I am now in western Washington.

    If you are getting rain on a regular basis and mulch your plants, they should be fine without supplemental watering. If you check the soil and it is still damp I would wait.

    But since you enjoy watering I can understand why you would want to keep doing that. You could try growing some water loving plants so you always have ones to water if even you reduce your watering in other parts of your garden.

    Thanks for sharing!

    John – Thanks for sharing and that is one approach. I’m not going down that route now but I have considered setting up some sort of hydroponic system to raise fish and grow vegetables.

    Beth – Thank you and yeah, I’m enjoying the conversation too! Lol, taking me a bit to get caught up!

    Yeah, that situation with aquifers going dry seems to be repeating all over. Even here in western Washington there are communities with wells that are having issues. It is much worse in eastern Washington.

    This is one reason I try to convince everyone to waterless. I’m honestly not convinced that even wet areas (like my area) will still have good wells moving forward. A lot of people could end up in trouble like your neighbor that had to abandon their home due to lack of water.

    If you can grow your food with no supplemental irrigation, then you are much more resilient. In my case since I don’t plan to ever sell my place and I’m not that old (33) it makes a lot of sense to build my place to not need extra watering. I plan on putting in a new well (I share one with my neighbor right now) but I want to be setup where I don’t need it. I’m not far from the Puget Sound and I can imagine the aquifer not lasting for my whole life since it was formed during the last ice age and may not be refilling faster than it is being used.

    Thanks for sharing what has been working and not working for you. I’m not very experienced with propagating trees/shrubs so I’m afraid I can’t help much there. Still waiting to get a propagation system setup at my place.

    Your climate is also so different from mine but here I time the planting of my trees and shrubs to correspond to the start of the wet time. So I like to plant in the fall and winter so the plants can get established before spring even starts. I don’t like planting trees and shrubs past March here since those plants almost always need more watering.

    But I know the timing at your place would be very different but perhaps the same general principle could apply.

    To help the trees and shrubs survive I always mulch heavily and keep the area around them clear of grasses and other competing vegetation until they get well established. I really like to place logs or rock piles on the sunny sides of my trees and shrubs to help shelter them. I learned this technique from a very large restoration project (millions of dollars)—they were placing logs on the exposed sides and then planting behind them. The site was very exposed and watering was not possible and mulch was too hard to bring in but the logs worked great and the plants survived.

    Hope that helps!
     
    Posts: 10
    2
    • Likes 7
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Hello everyone,

    This is CJ writing my first ever post to the forum. First, thanks to everyone here that has taught me so much in the few months that I've been following. Daron, I love getting your weekly blog post! This message comes in response to Steve's response above about growing annuals without supplemental water. That idea got me really charged up so I'd like to ask Steve and anyone else with wisdom more about it.

    As a recent transplant to eastern Kentucky (7a/7b) about a year into a PDC, I'm eager to learn everything I can about turning suburban clay back into healthy forest soil. So far so good. I've added lots of native biodiversity and attracted more bugs than I ever imagined possible in no-till home-made compost beds. We get huge leaf fall and now I compost or make mulch out of all of it. Though neighbors told me veggies would never do well in my small, somewhat shady backyard, it turns out, this property was a permaculture paradise waiting to happen. There was just a lot of grass in the way. :  )

    But Steve's taken it to the next level, actually growing annuals without water. My dream! Our issue with water is that we are situated on a hill and the house sits in the middle of it with a steep slope of ivy in the front and a wide, shallow backyard--my best area for perennial/veggie edible beds--*uphill* from the house. (2 pix attached) Catchment is a conundrum because my gutters are gravitationally below all the places I'd put that water to good food use. Add to this that our rains are very heavy and seasonal and the property is designed to evacuate as much water as possible. I have come to the conclusion that the absolute best--maybe only safe--way for me to manage water behind the house is in the soil. So, what you are doing, Steve, would change my life.

    Here's my question for you: can you talk me through this wonder process in greater detail? Beyond what you've shared in your post, how do you manage no-till beds to maximize their absorption? Is there a particular quantity of compost or mulch that you use that you feel helps? I'm fascinated by the idea of teaching plants roots to dive deep from the time they are babies. Since they need water to sprout, when do you stop watering? Does the type of veggie make a difference? Does companion planting or interplanting annual and perennials make a difference? When do you mulch once you've seeded and do you remulch during the growing season?

    Thanks in advance!
    CJ
    20190610_182118_Burst01.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190610_182118_Burst01.jpg]
    View of the shallow backyard terrace with fledgling fruit guild, herb snail, and no-till bed with cinderblocks
    20190610_182154.jpg
    [Thumbnail for 20190610_182154.jpg]
    View of short distance from upper terrace to house
     
    Steve Thorn
    garden master
    Posts: 976
    Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
    291
    forest garden fish fungi trees foraging earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
    • Likes 5
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Cj Jones wrote:Is there a particular quantity of compost or mulch that you use that you feel helps?



    I don't make any compost, since I haven't really needed it.

    I've found that a mulch of a variety of green annuals, mostly that I get from cutting my yard (mostly weeds ) has worked the best for me in my main garden area where I'm growing mostly annual veggies. I try not to mulch more than a few inches, the less the better, that way the rain doesn't have to rain very much to soak the mulch and seep into the soil. The mulch slows the water run off and helps absorb the majority of the water and help it slowly soak into the soil. After the first mulch, the ideal mulch is self sustained by the natural mulching of plants and weeds shading out each other, dying and forming a new layer of mulch, while the new plants are growing up as the old ones are dying. This has been one of the hardest parts in my opinion, and I'm trying to figure out the best plants to plant at the different times for my area to create this natural cycle. The only work it requires at that point is just scattering the seed at the right times.

    For my food forest and other woody perennials, I use leaves and a few sticks and decaying logs that I lay on the surface of the ground. I chop up the leaves with a lawnmower for the newly planted areas so that it breaks down quicker and the nutrients can be absorbed sooner by the young plants, and put a light layer of whole leaves on top. For longer established areas that already have some of the mulch breaking down, I just use whole leaves. A light natural mulch layer here is preferred also. Too little mulch doesn't provide enough natural soil cover to provide the above mentioned benefits, and too much mulch can create an unbalance in nature, where I've seen it attract a large number of worms to break down the abundance of mulch, which then attracted a large number of moles to eat the earthworms, which then ate the roots of some of my small trees.

    Using these two different types of mulches for these two different types of plants, has really seemed to meet their different growing needs.

    I'm fascinated by the idea of teaching plants roots to dive deep from the time they are babies. Since they need water to sprout, when do you stop watering?



    I never water my annual garden plants, all of which I direct seed.

    I try to plant before a forecasted rain, so the newly planted seeds are watered shortly after being planted, and they are watered naturally by rain for the rest of their lives.

    Does the type of veggie make a difference? Does companion planting or interplanting annual and perennials make a difference?



    I try to plant the veggies in their preference of location, in a dryer or wetter area, but most of them can tolerate a range of conditions.

    Planting them very closely, has been very helpful, since they cover the soil, which provides numerous benefits.

    Planting them mixed with other different plants has been super effective at minimizing pest and diseases and maximizing soil and plant health.

    Due to their different growing preferences I usually plant annuals with annuals, and perennials with perennials.

    When do you mulch once you've seeded and do you remulch during the growing season.



    I like to apply the mulch a good amount of time before the first planting if possible, removing a good bit of it to plant and then respreading it when the plants are coming up well if it's needed, but if the plants are planted thickly enough, they shouldn't need it and can be mulched naturally going forward like was mentioned above.

    Your garden looks great Cj, would love to see some photos of how it progresses and wish you the best with it!
     
    Cj Jones
    Posts: 10
    2
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Wow. No compost. Ok, Steve, you've blown my mind. Thank you for taking the time to give me these insights. I will take notes and begin weaning myself off the hose!

    Thanks again,
    CJ
     
    Beth Wilder
    Posts: 108
    Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
    40
    forest garden foraging trees books wofati food preservation fiber arts medical herbs solar rocket stoves greening the desert
    • Likes 4
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Steve, do you have pictures of any of your gardens posted anywhere? I'd love to see what your waterless gardening looks like, as I'm having trouble visualizing it! And I think a lot of what you're doing might be useful in our situation as well. Thank you!
     
    Steve Thorn
    garden master
    Posts: 976
    Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
    291
    forest garden fish fungi trees foraging earthworks food preservation cooking bee woodworking homestead
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Beth, here's a few links to a some of the threads showing pictures of some of my garden plants. I don't have a picture of the whole area right now, but I'll hopefully add a picture or video of it soon to the first thread below.

    https://permies.com/wiki/108035/Growing-Natural-Farming-Garden-Natural

    https://permies.com/wiki/113808/Growing-Lettuce-Natural-Plant-Nursery

    https://permies.com/wiki/113685/Growing-Cucumbers-Natural-Plant-Nursery

    https://permies.com/t/112291/Growing-Squash-Natural-Plant-Nursery

    Hope some of these are useful!
     
    Posts: 278
    Location: South Central Kansas
    3
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    For me I use a hugelgarden. And for other places I use Ollas.

    Both get wood chips as mulch.

    I also let things grow to shade the soil.

    The hot sun/air will dry out soil a lot faster than plants will.

    I live where the summers are rather HOT and generally little rain.

    Irrigation for me is a necessity if I want foodstuffs to thrive.

    It is a matter of how MUCH irrigation I want to do.

    I collect some rain water and have access to well water if needed.
    But I would rather NOT spend hours watering things.

     
    Beth Wilder
    Posts: 108
    Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
    40
    forest garden foraging trees books wofati food preservation fiber arts medical herbs solar rocket stoves greening the desert
    • Likes 2
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Thank you, Steve! Wow, it seems like you get a ton of seeds (lettuce, cucumber, squash, etc.) to germinate without watering. I'm very jealous! We've wasted a lot of money on seeds that never germinate because the time when we need to plant them to get harvests is during the dry, hot, windy season here. (April isn't too hot, and I always get my hopes up and throw out a lot of seeds. Often they start to sprout but then shrivel or get mowed down by ants or rodents because by the time they're up they're the only green thing going besides the mesquite leaves.) For things like lettuce, I could try seeding under an expanded metal truck bed thing that we use as a raised platform for our shade structure ("palickie"). But greens we can grow pretty successfully most winters here. It's stuff like hot peppers I'd really love to be able to grow because it seems like they'd do so well if we could get them to survive until monsoon, and they don't like so much shade, I think.

    I'd really like to see if we can get cucumbers to do well here. They're originally from the desert, aren't they? And we got plenty of good ripe squash last year even planting in mid- to late-July after the monsoon had really gotten going (we got our first frost November 11th, but not too bad -- I harvested all the remaining squash, tomatoes, peppers, and watermelons the next day before the first hard frost and the squash stored fine). (In passing: Has anyone observed, in terms of phenology, a connection between things like cranes arriving for the winter and first frost? We observed the first cranes last year on October 16th, a little less than a month before first frost, and I'm wondering how predictable that sort of timeline might be.) I'd like to try seeding some cucumbers when monsoon starts.

    I tried to attach some pictures from our successful garden last year, but it didn't work. I need to better figure out how that works here.
     
    Kai Walker
    Posts: 278
    Location: South Central Kansas
    3
    • Likes 4
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Beth Wilder wrote:Thank you, Steve! Wow, it seems like you get a ton of seeds (lettuce, cucumber, squash, etc.) to germinate without watering. I'm very jealous! We've wasted a lot of money on seeds that never germinate because the time when we need to plant them to get harvests is during the dry, hot, windy season here. (April isn't too hot, and I always get my hopes up and throw out a lot of seeds. Often they start to sprout but then shrivel or get mowed down by ants or rodents because by the time they're up they're the only green thing going besides the mesquite leaves.) For things like lettuce, I could try seeding under an expanded metal truck bed thing that we use as a raised platform for our shade structure ("palickie"). But greens we can grow pretty successfully most winters here. It's stuff like hot peppers I'd really love to be able to grow because it seems like they'd do so well if we could get them to survive until monsoon, and they don't like so much shade, I think.

    I'd really like to see if we can get cucumbers to do well here. They're originally from the desert, aren't they? And we got plenty of good ripe squash last year even planting in mid- to late-July after the monsoon had really gotten going (we got our first frost November 11th, but not too bad -- I harvested all the remaining squash, tomatoes, peppers, and watermelons the next day before the first hard frost and the squash stored fine). (In passing: Has anyone observed, in terms of phenology, a connection between things like cranes arriving for the winter and first frost? We observed the first cranes last year on October 16th, a little less than a month before first frost, and I'm wondering how predictable that sort of timeline might be.) I'd like to try seeding some cucumbers when monsoon starts.

    I tried to attach some pictures from our successful garden last year, but it didn't work. I need to better figure out how that works here.



    Have you tried rain gutter gardening?

    We made a tall sawhorse.
    On each side we installed some house gutter (no drain needed).
    Filled with dirt, planted lettuce.

    Unless bunnies can levitate, they can't get to the lettuce! Storage underneath if desired.

    Benefits: waist high so no bending. Little or no animals eating things. Easier watering and weeding. It can be collapsed for storage too!
    So long as you do not seal the end caps, excess water will leak out.
    It will require more frequent watering though as the metal will heat up and dry out the soil faster.
    Plastic guttering just didn't seem strong enough or last long enough for the effort.

    We could have made it a two tier but didn't see the need. And added in drain tubing from one tier to a lower one.
    Still didn't see the need as it was easy enough to manage as it was.

    If you want more planting space, then every 5 feet you may want to add in another A-frame portion of the saw horse to help support the weight.
    It can be made nearly any length too.
    Strawberries, lettuce, spinach, similar worked really well for us.
    The window boxes were great too!

    We could plant earlier than in the ground. In case of freezing weather we could easily move it into the garage and back out again.
    We thought about adding wheels but that might have been an issue with the thing sinking into wet ground after frequent rains.
    At one time we placed 1/2 concrete blocks on the ground and inserted the 2v4's into it so if a strong wind came by it wouldn't blow over.

    Wood can be stained too (Dandelion wood stain).

    I can see one downside though. Deer. Looks like a banquet table for them!


    See pics:


    IMG_1447.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_1447.JPG]
    wood was free. Brackets to make sawhorse about $10. Window boxes we had for a long time. Box of screws. Measuring tape, saw, screw gun, drill bit to drill pilot holes.
    IMG_1448.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_1448.JPG]
    It can fold up quickly and stored for winter time. It is also movable when needing to mow the lawn.
     
    Beth Wilder
    Posts: 108
    Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
    40
    forest garden foraging trees books wofati food preservation fiber arts medical herbs solar rocket stoves greening the desert
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    Very cool, Kai, thanks for posting those ideas! I think we'd have to be constantly watering something like that here in the hot sun and winds of spring, and there are many demands on our water. We are expanding our rain catch systems gradually in order to be able to support more growing, etc. And we do cage plants to keep rodents out -- more for perennials and things we have a small number of, like peppers and tomatoes, than for seeds we sow a lot of -- and try to eradicate the anthills near our growing areas. Spring is just a really tough time for plants around here (for the animals, too, which is why they eat anything green they see).

    I was just talking to my dad, who read in the big state newspaper that our monsoon is forecast to start late and a bit paltry this year, but hopefully stick around a good long time and improve in quantity towards the end of the season. Hopefully we also have a late first frost, I guess!
     
    Kai Walker
    Posts: 278
    Location: South Central Kansas
    3
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator

    Beth Wilder wrote:Very cool, Kai, thanks for posting those ideas! I think we'd have to be constantly watering something like that here in the hot sun and winds of spring, and there are many demands on our water. We are expanding our rain catch systems gradually in order to be able to support more growing, etc. And we do cage plants to keep rodents out -- more for perennials and things we have a small number of, like peppers and tomatoes, than for seeds we sow a lot of -- and try to eradicate the anthills near our growing areas. Spring is just a really tough time for plants around here (for the animals, too, which is why they eat anything green they see).

    I was just talking to my dad, who read in the big state newspaper that our monsoon is forecast to start late and a bit paltry this year, but hopefully stick around a good long time and improve in quantity towards the end of the season. Hopefully we also have a late first frost, I guess!



    I completely understand the high heat and strong winds (Kansas here).

    A shower 'D-Ring' could be added to filter the sun. We have ours on the east side of the garage so as to avoid the sweltering heat in the afternoon. We didn't use any D-Rings.

    Here, we have rainy springs and the rest desperately needing rain (hence the reason to build a hugel garden, trenched).

    Since lettuce is a cold weather crop, watering is not a big issue for us for lettuce or spinach.

    Have you considered using Ollas for irrigation?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IWZZcgZs6Y

    Plants like tomatoes love even and constant moisture. Ollas can be a perfect compliment to your watering methods.
    Using up to 90% less water is something many people like to investigate.

    Of course mulch is a plus!


    IMG_1797.JPG
    [Thumbnail for IMG_1797.JPG]
    Pop top off to fill. Pipe holds water too! We are using this one for the wife's fire ring planter containing strawberry plants and some flowers.
     
    Kai Walker
    Posts: 278
    Location: South Central Kansas
    3
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    After a little brainstorming, we came up with an idea.

    Attach a 5 gal bucket with a fitting on the side near the bottom. Run some drip irrigation lines to each gutter with appropriate restrictors on the ends.
    Should keep things moist and less manual watering.

    The other idea was a wicking 5 gal bucket so the soil draws what it wants.
    This concept is one I might try in my regular raised bed garden so I don't have to water daily.

    Might even use several of those buckets or if I can find one, a 55 gal drum or large plastic trash can for water and tie that in. Less trips and less gas used to haul the water.

    Would only need this if the OLLAS I installed are insufficient for the job at hand. I have 4 ollas in the raised bed garden for 3 tomato plants and some sweet peppers * strawberry plants. Cost me $60 to make those ollas.
    I let the ollas run very low right now since we have record rainfall.

    Won't know anything until the heat of the summer gets here and the rains dry up.

    Can't build a hoop house due to local permit being needed.

    So I have tomato plants in the hugelgarden and tomato plants in the regular raised bed garden.

    Then see which this year is less work for the benefits (cost in time and water vs amount of tomatoes I get).

    One year we had to go every single day and fill 20-5 gal buckets of water at a time and take it to the garden to water. 10 trips a day is a lot.
    Too time consuming for 30 tomatoes. Too much gas to haul them as well.

    But it was a learning experience.

    Edit: found a decent youtube video for those in Phoenix Az.
    Something similar might help you or at least give you some ideas.
    [youtube]
    [/youtube]

     
    pollinator
    Posts: 146
    Location: Missouri Ozarks
    19
    • Likes 1
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    A useful resource for growing without or with less irrigation is Steve Solomon's Gardening Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway"

    It focuses on annual vegetable growing in the maritime Northwest climate, but there's useful things in there even for those of us in different climates and using a broader range of growing methods.
     
    Tyler Ludens
    master pollinator
    Posts: 11375
    Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    743
    cat forest garden fish trees chicken fiber arts wood heat greening the desert
    • Likes 5
    • Mark post as helpful
    • send pies
    • Quote
    • Report post to moderator
    I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned the importance of latitude in evaporation over irrigation/precipitation.  The lower the latitude the higher the evaporation, and the more likely one will need to irrigate.  So if you live at a low latitude, closer to the equator, don't feel bad if you have to irrigate when folks at higher latitudes say they can do without irrigation.  The difference is profound.

     
    I carry this gun in case a vending machine doesn't give me my fritos. This gun and this tiny ad:
    A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
    http://woodheat.net
    • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
    • New Topic
    Boost this thread!