Friday, 13 July 2012

Gardening in drought conditions

As we enter into over a  month now of drought condtions in Ontario, there are many places in North America that are even harder hit.
While most of us are conscious that global warming is happening and affecting us more from year to year, it's still shocking to see how rapidly our climate seems to be changing. There have been record setting highs this month throughout North America, and many farms have suffered irreparable damage for this season. In fact, the USDA has declared this the biggest disaster in the agency’s history as crops dwindle. Many regions in the US have been declared natural disaster zones, due to the loss of crops, and farmers will be receiving low-interest loans to help buoy them through this difficult time.
According to a report from CNN today, half of America's pastures and ranges are in poor or very poor condition, up from 28% in mid-June.

Our tomato garden

The past 12 months have been the warmest the United States has experienced since the dawn of record-keeping in 1895, the National Climatic Data Centre said earlier this week. Of course, this drought will have repercussions internationally. Since 75% of grocery store products use corn as a key ingredient, expect food prices to skyrocket. Corn is also a staple in many fast foods. Corn is in ethanol and the main food source for chickens. In addition to this, maize is in many things that aren't obvious like adhesives, aluminum, aspirin, clothing starch, cosmetics, cough syrup, dry cell batteries, envelopes, fibreglass insulation, gelatin capsules, ink, insecticides, paint, penicillin, powders, rugs and carpets, stamps, talcum, toothpaste, wallpaper, and vitamins.

We consciously try to buy products that don't have GM corn listed in their ingredients, but it really is difficult, as so many products have corn as an ingredient. Perhaps this emergency will force people to take a closer look at the monoculture we have created in North America, and how vulnerable this has made us in regards to our dependence on one crop.

This drought has left most of our gardens crying for rain, but it is all the more important to try and save our gardens this year, as food prices will rise drastically in the coming months. The projected rise in food costs is an important indication of why it is so important to raise your own food. We're been trying to water consistently, but as the water levels become lower in our area, we also have to conserve water.

Often when plants appear wilted they have already experienced stress, so it's important to water consistently. We're now filling jugs from our local lake to water our garden, in order to not use too much water from the well on the property where the garden is.

There are some important measures to take to help your garden in such times of low water, to help avoid stress among the plants. It's important to make sure that there are not a lot of weeds competing with your plants for water. It's also important that soil be of good quality, full of organic matter to retain water and to provide maximum nutrients to the root system.

Another important method of conserving water is to mulch your garden well.
"Mulch is by far the best way to preserve the water in your soil and can be a very effective way of feeding your soil and regulating growing temperatures. Mulch can be almost anything: straw, grass clippings, corn cobs, river stones, pea gravel, chipped bricks, bark chips, leaves, peat moss, seaweed, wood ashes, sawdust and so on. Mulch helps preserve water and regulate the temperature in your soil and, if organic, feeds your soil. All that organic matter keeps your soil loose so that it can retain moisture and promote root growth." -Gardening Channel

This article has great tips for keeping your garden alive during a drought, so be sure to have a look at the other tips it offers. We've been using cedar mulch for our most sensitive plants, such as onions, carrots, beets and lettuce; all those vegetables that prefer cooler weather.

We're just figuring this out as we go along; we'd love to hear how others out there are dealing with this drought!