As I write this, it’s just past the spring equinox. The weather here in the Pacific Northwest is chilly, and there was frost on the roads today. There was plenty of rain yesterday, so why am I thinking about drought? While the Pacific Northwest may not know droughts like many places know droughts, we have a summer drought as well.
In the last few years, our summer droughts have gotten more pronounced. Even here, it’s prudent to plan for times when we won’t have as much rain, and spring is the time to plan how your garden will grow well into the summer and fall months.
How can you prepare for a summer drought right now?
Get Your Soil Ready
Spring is the time when people head to the garden center to add new soil to their garden. While it may not look like soil, adding last fall’s leaves or even a cover crop to bare places in your spring garden beds will help your soil maintain its moisture this spring and summer. After your perennials have pushed through the soil, apply mulch around them. Bare soil loses water much more quickly than soil that is covered with living or composting plant material.Open spots in your garden are also a magnet for weeds, so covering those areas with mulch or plants serves a dual purpose.
Now’s the time to install natural soil-builders in your garden as well. What are these amazing soil-builders? Why, plants, of course! Plants like comfrey make amazing natural mulch. If you have a place to plant a deciduous tree, it will provide you with a lovely layer of mulch in the garden when the fall comes as well.
Look around your garden. Are there areas that could really do with a little bit of shade? If your summer plantings often need a little bit of respite from the sun, plan to install drought-tolerant shrubs in that area. Shrubs and small trees will shade the soil, preventing water from evaporating right when it hits. They’ll also give your plants some time out of the blazing sun. This is especially useful for leafy green crops like lettuce that don’t necessarily love the intense sunlight.
Want to learn more about having your own garden? There is good information in an easy to understand format in
Contour Your Land
Spring is the time to visualize your property once again. If you find that all the water you pour on your garden drains away down a slope, never fear. Dig a long, shallow hole along the contour of your garden, and place mulch into it, then plant just below it. This hole or swale makes the water pause for a moment, allowing it to filter into the soil to nourish your plants.
In the summer months, don’t you wish you had a source of free, plentiful water? Whether it’s in a pond that you install at the bottom of a slope or in a rain barrel that’s attached to the side of your house, now is the time to plan to store water before the summer begins. Install your water storage structures when the snow melts, and you’ll be all set to capture any spring rain.
How are you preparing for summer’s potential droughts? Do you have water-saving tips and tricks to share?