Summer – bountiful harvests, bolting lettuces and dry, dry winds! I’m mostly at the Oasis on Hospital rd these days, with very little attention going into my own backyard edible oasis. I water pretty much every two days, using a hand-held hose so I can direct the water where I want it and give different plants the right amounts. For such a big area, 130m2 now and soon we’ll have 400m2 in production, this isn’t very time efficient though. So I’m looking at installing a full drip irrigation system, which is expensive but woul dbe a great timesaver. I’ll let you know how that goes!
Every summer there are water restrictions here in Wellington for the duration of Daylight Savings. The City Council has decided that “you can only use one watering system at a time (sprinkler, irrigation system, soaker hose or unattended hose) between 6am-8am and 7pm-9pm on alternate days. People living in even-numbered properties can water on even-numbered days and vice versa. You are able to use a hand-held hose at any time during these months except when water supplies are very low and more stringent restrictions are in place.”
To help the garden cope with dry conditions and water restrictions, it is important to increase organic matter in the soil well in advance. Organic matter holds on to the water and makes it available to the plants slowly, as they need it. You can add organic matter via compost, applying little and often and incorporating it to the top 10 cm. Or via bookish, the anaerobic composting system in buckets, which is then dug into the ground to a depth of 20 cm or more. And of course via mulch, a layer of fluffy organic matter on the surface of the soil. I use all these methods and find that after three years of this treatment, my garden copes better and better with dry conditions.
Another factor here is wind. The dry northwesterlies are especially bad this year with the strong El Niño. The wind dries out the plants and makes them pump water at a faster rate, it also dries out the soil surface. This means that it is extra important to keep the moisture in the soil, especially using mulch… but very often, the mulch blows away! I’ve found the best solution to be bulky mulch such as seaweed works well. Or cacao husks, if you put them down in thin layers and water between each layer, they tend to stick together and stay in place. Always remember to water the soil thoroughly before applying mulch.
My friend Sarah who lives in Melrose has had great results with mikroclimatunnels, both to keep the plants from blowing over and to keep moisture in. I think this is a great idea for smaller gardens or especially exposed beds. The tunnels are available from Sustainability Trust..
Enjoy your summer garden! Tomatos and basil, zuccini and beans should all be ready to eat now. To learn how to make the best compost to incorporate that organic matter into your soil to hold water, come to the workshop on Thursday: Perfect Compost starts at 6pm 29/1, at workerBe Oasis 5 Hospital rd. Sign up below!