|Water, water, nowhere|
|Written by Chandra L. Mattingly|
|Tuesday, August 07, 2012 1:43 PM|
By now, many gardeners have given up due to drought.
Others are watering, as are we, and paying sewage rates on gallons and gallons that go nowhere near the sewers. On the positive side, I guess, our water usage has jumped into the bulk or commercial rate so is less per gallon.
In Aurora, residents can buy a meter for their outside faucet to track water used that doesn't go into the sanitary sewers. At summer's end, they take the meter to Aurora Utilities and the sewage paid on those gallons is discounted from their bill. Unfortunately, Rising Sun Utilities doesn't do that.
But the city does water all the community plantings, from the big flower pots to the welcome sign to the downtown beds – as do other municipalities in Dearborn County.
Unfortunately, they don't water private flower and vegetable beds. Or established trees and shrubs, all of which could use a little water by now.
The best way to do so is to use a soaker hose, spread around the tree or shrub to the width of the branches. Water well perhaps once a week rather than shallowly more often, allowing time for the moisture to penetrate deeply.
As for your garden, the same general rule applies. A soaker hose buried amidst the vegetables gets the water to the roots with little waste. And a thorough watering less frequently does more good in general than daily but shallow waterings, with some exceptions.
The biggest exception is newly-planted seeds or plants. The former need daily watering to keep the soil surface moist and allow the new plants to emerge. The latter need daily or near-daily watering until they've had time to adjust to their new location. Frequency of watering can be tapered off after a week or two in exchange for less frequent but thorough watering.
Whether the vegetables you'll harvest are worth the cost of water and the time spent watering, I can't say. You will know how fresh they are and whether they've been treated with pesticides, however. And I think there's a huge difference in flavor.
You do want to water around the foundation of your house, I'm told. The experts say lengthy droughts can cause the soil to pull back from foundations and lead to cracks and future leaks when/if it ever rains.
Of course, folks who don't want to or can't spend the money on watering everything may have to pick and choose. Most trees and shrubs will survive a drought, though long-term stress can lead to their eventual death. Grass will go dormant and come back when it rains. Annual flowers, however, aren't likely to grow and bloom without water.
Perennial flowers, on the other hand, may or may not survive. Those which have bulbs or tuberous roots such as daffodils, tulips, day lilies, some campanulas and others should survive, as should most decorative grasses.
And the native wildflowers or developed versions of them probably will make it if well established. Those include black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, Shasta daisies, asters, and many others. Natives have many other benefits as well, including what they provide in food for bees and wasps, butterflies and birds.
Earlier this week I admired a friend's sloping bank which sports naturalized daffodils in the spring. This summer the grass has gone dormant and Queen Anne's lace has covered the bank, a shortened version due to earlier mowings. It's definitely as beautiful as any non-native flower and also serves as a food plant for butterflies: nectar for the adults, chow for the caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail.
Those caterpillars also eat parsley, fennel and carrot greens, so if you find “worms” in these herbs and vegetables, either leave them be or transfer them to a patch of Queen Anne's lace. Or take them inside, keep them fed with fresh greens, and raise them – the whole process of egg to butterfly takes about three weeks and there's nothing like releasing a winged jewel into the sky!
Back to dealing with drought, mulch will help conserve the water you pour on your plants but also will absorb the really light rains we've gotten this summer. Some parts of Dearborn and Ohio counties have fared better than downtown Rising Sun, but in July we got rain twice, three-tenths and a tenth, both in the first half of the month.
So far in August we got a sprinkle, enough to wet the street but not the pavement under the trees. It will take a lot of rain to moisten the earth, and it's too late in the season to help agricultural crops.
A summer drought seems to have become the pattern for our area; we may need to adjust our growing methods to take advantage of spring rains, planting and harvesting early to grow vegetables effectively.
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