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Good Gardening: Watering

John Fischer

Hi All, Lane County Extension Master Gardener John Fischer here with KLCC's Good Gardening.

I don't water my garden as much as most people. I want the plants to be hardy, I don't want to waste water, and I prefer the flavorful fruits and vegetables that drier soil produces. I usually put the drip irrigation system into my garden around mid-June. But this year is different.

Rainfall in March, April, and May combined totaled three inches-eight inches below average. We just had the driest April on record, and the sun was out more than usual, so the soil is already July dry. 

Credit John Fischer / KLCC
The South Willamette Valley had the driest April on record.

Fortunately, extra water is only the turn of a handle away. But good water management can save you money, and keep more water in our already low rivers and aquifers.

Drip irrigation uses half the water, and keeps your plants dry which reduces disease problems. Despite the pictures of glistening, wet produce on the seed package, keeping your plants dry will produce a better crop.  

A good layer of mulch will conserve soil moisture and help control water hogging weeds.  I mulch with leaves, but chemical free grass clippings are a great mulch too.  Cardboard and newspaper are also organic mulch materials.

Watering in the morning or evening will help moisture get to the roots-  before the wind and sun take it away. 

But our dry summer may also be a wake-up call that grows a new kind of gardening- one that focuses on crops that mature early when moisture is more reliable, and need less irrigation to reach maturity. Which is what people did here before dams made water available in the summer.

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

My drip system has already been in use for two months, and I am watering new fruit trees every other week. I may take the unprecedented step of watering mature - 70-year-old trees in my yard that pre-date me. The weather may get wetter this summer, but ground soaking rains are unlikely before October.

I'm John Fischer with KLCC's Good Gardening.