Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How 7 Bales of Straw Saved My Sanity (and Garden)

Last year we had a dry July -- simply no rain.  And the hot weather came in June.  We finally returned to a better rainfall cycle in August. 

I watered every odd day on the calender for six weeks!  I use rain water for my "kitchen" garden -- greens, herbs, peppers, and cherry tomatoes in a space on the east side of house -- so I could water every day there if I needed to (with peppers and tomatoes in pots I sometimes needed to!).  The fenced-in main garden and the perennial foods area (rhubarb, elderberries, grapes, asparagus, some berry bushes, and Jerusalem artichokes) are too extensive to be served by rain water alone.  Our city limits watering to every other day.   I used little mulch and my watering system was overly complicated.

We had a dry winter.  We got some spring rain.  The forecast was for a hot summer with lots of dry days.  Things had to change or I would grow to hate my garden.  We got a trailer; it was big enough to haul 10 bales of straw home. 

I moved my blueberries so I wouldn't have to water their old location; they weren't getting enough sun anyway.  (In their new spot, they don't get enough acid -- I think next year they go into big pots.)
I pulled up the soaker hose that had fed them and re-routed it through the asparagus bed with bean patches on either side of it.

Grapes don't require a lot of watering since they have deep root systems.  A bale of straw went on them so I could get by watering them only every ten days or so.  A bale and a half of straw went around the berry bushes,  the plum tree,  the elderberries, and the rhubarb.     I didn't water anything in that area until mid-July or so.

A half-bale went around the apple tree.  I mulched the black raspberries (but not soon enough or deep enough -- another change for next year).  More straw on the potato beds, but they simply did not do as well as last year.  It might have been the seed or that this was a second year in that place. 

A half-bale went around my kale plants in my kitchen beds and around the kohlrabi.  Dried grass clippings mulched all my herbs and pots.  My peppers were withering  quickly until I did that.  A 37 degree C  day will still send them into a droop, but they perk right up with an evening water.

In the main garden I mulched as I planted.  I didn't even think about watering until the end of June.  Then I got out my hoses,  simplified the joins, and came up with a system that involved no Ys,  only two hoses,  the ability to turn off flow at the last end, and my rain sweeper attachment. With it I could water everything in about an hour.  I still used my 2 gallon jugs for watering the grapes, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers (filling them with the free hose end), but the attachment can gently feed a 30 inch  long section of trellis planting.  I'd often get weeding done while jugs were filling or the attachment was watering a section of bean or pea trellis.

I had snap peas and greens aplenty.  The pole beans are producing the dried beans I like.  If I get rain, I don't water.  I've eaten, dried, and canned kale.  My jalapenos are super happy and my other hot peppers are pretty chirpy.  I've got a late crop of snap peas coming up in one of the potato beds.  It's not perfect, but I don't dread odd-numbered days on the calender as much.

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