Skip to comments.Growing in a drought
Posted on 08/31/2011 1:08:20 AM PDT by EnglishCon
I have lived in many countries over the years, and have always had a vegetable garden. Not just for cost, as many of the countries I have lived in have had what we considered dirt cheap food, but for the quality. Nothing compares to the taste of veggies fresh from the garden.
Recently, some friends told me about the bad drought in Texas. Their gardens are blackened and burnt, with food only coming in, grudgingly, thanks to heavy watering every other day. It immediately took me back to two of the hardest places I have ever tried to raise food.
Kenya and Botswana. Both places have no rain at all for months and months, then an entire years worth of rain in about 6 weeks. The temperatures, especially in Kenya, make the current Texas heatwave look like a refrigerator. Water sources are unreliable, even in the towns. Yet both places are stuffed with families that grow not only enough to feed themselves, but enough to sell too from their personal gardens, not from farms.
So how do they manage that?
The technique involves three separate things, all of which are easily made by anyone with the ability to use a shovel, hammer or a trowel.
Raised beds. When we rented our home in Botswana, in the yard behind the house was a series of concrete troughs, roughly 4 foot wide, 2 foot deep and 15 foot long, running North to South. Concrete base, concrete sides, they looked like fish pools. In the corner of the yard was a pile of soil. Red, dry and fairly lifeless. Those were the raised beds, designed to keep every drop of water you added to the soil from disappearing into the parched earth. You would fill them with soil during the rainy season and plant your seeds. Drainage holes about 16 inches below the top of the beds would prevent the seeds damping off, and ensure a goodly amount of water for the initial growing. One improvement we made was to use each trough in turn as a deposit for any vegetable waste a three inch layer of chopped vegetable waste or cow manure in the bottom of the trough would rapidly compost down and improve the soil immensely. At the end of the dry season, when you had harvested the crops, you would shovel out the soil and let the sun sterilize them for the next crop.
Shade netting. Every 3 feet in the troughs was a hole, just the right size to take a ¾ inch PVC pipe. Most people used branches, but the PVC pipe was more stable and used by anyone who could afford it. Horizontal pipes across the top turned the uprights into a frame, to which you would attach the shade netting, a fine mesh nylon weave. You have seen it before, if you have seen a stone building being renovated it costs about $30 for 100 yards of 5 foot wide and cuts down the light to the beds by about 40%, according to my very old light meter. One length tied to the top of the frame, and one length on the Eastern and Western side which could be raised or lowered, depending on the day. Our drying evening winds invariably came from the West, so lowering the side flap and tying it down until sunset prevented a lot of wind drying of plants. Then raising it again and Tieing down the Eastern side, just before bed, prevented the plants being scorched by sunrise.
Thread watering. Watering plants is the biggest problem during a drought. For some plants, the watering can came into play, but for others like bean vines, pea vines, tomatoes, zucchinis, pumpkins and squashes, we used a technique called thread watering. Along the top of the shade netting frames for these beds ran three PVC pipes, capped at one end, and attached to a gallon lidded bucket at the other. Each pipe had holes drilled in them very small holes, less than a millimeter across. At each hole location, you would tie a coarse thread about 6lb test fishing line size, and run the thread down to the base of the plant, pegging it into the soil with a 6 nail. Fill up each bucket every night, and the single gallon of water would irrigate the whole row for 24 hours with minimal losses. The lids did dual duty of preventing evaporation and preventing mosquitoes breeding.
You may want to try it, you may not. But I thought it would be interesting for those who are in the drought to see how people who are always in a drought feed themselves.
Great stuff for avid gardeners and some good tips for gareners in areas where there are dry spells even up north.
That variant of drip irrigation you mentioned. The pvc pipe using threaded wicking action. The thread or line you mentioned I assume wasn’t nylon. Did that thread or line go to the depth of (2’ down) of the raised bed or go down just a few inches ? Were these pipes placed north to south and placed on the walls creating the raised bed lengthwise or east to west across the raised bed ? And were a number of these pipes installed equalling each row of seed ?
What about another prayer by the Governor. Normally that works. If you are sincere it always works for me and many others on this site...........
Each pipe had holes drilled in them very small holes, less than a millimeter across. At each hole location, you would tie a coarse thread about 6lb test fishing line size, and run the thread down to the base of the plant, pegging it into the soil with a 6 nail.
I don't quite understand. Is the string threaded through the hole in the pipe? Or just tied around the pipe at the location of the hole? Approx. what diameter of pipe, noting that the reservoir is only 1 gallon?
And, just want to add that a large part of Oklahoma is also experiencing severe drought, not just Texas.
Used to live in NW OK so I know what hot, windy & dry is all about. Live in WI now where we measure drought by weeks, not months & years. Anyway, I'm expanding my hosta garden into an area not covered by the sprinkler system and in under trees where it gets very dry. Using moisture crystals with the new plantings. I've noticed that when I lift a hosta to move it to another location that the roots are clinging to the moisture crystals so I think they like them! So the MC's are another tool in the water conservation box.
I re-read your piece about using the threaded line and understand for your vine crops (beans etc) set the pipe on your sun screen which is above the raised bed . The threaded line would also train the vine to grow on the line while irrigating it and it was stuck in the ground a few inches deep.
Ping to the Gardening list!
Weekly Gardening Thread
You-Know-Who can use this advice for when he is removed from office and deported to his native Kenya.
You are a clever fellow!
Good stuff! Thank you.
We tried growing three tomatoe plants in Global Buckets this summer.
Our tomatoe plants never grew more than a foot tall. When we finally gave up and put the plants in the ground the grow bucket (the dirt) was packed with root. Long thick ponytails of root had grown down into the resevoir bucket.
Each tomatoe was a different variety. Each plant came with it’s own tomatoe worm investation which doesn’t have anything to do with the buckets, obviously. But, another problem we had with the G.B.’s, is I think the water in the resevoirs was over heating because of our three digit heat.
We moved them to partial shade but I think the root problem was too advanced.
These poor tomatoes have had a rough summer. Doesn’t look like they will recover before fall.
Eastern New Mexico is in the severe drought along with the rest of you.
Now that takes gardening to a new level. We are so spoiled as a rule we would not think of doing this. Thanks for posting.
This is just fascinating to me! As a gardener, I am in awe of any other gardener and their location (how they garden to the climate/soil instead of forcing a garden that isn’t suitable). Even with common issues like a large population of deer, I am interested in flowers/plants/shrubs that are deer resistant (even if you add some of your deer yummy favorites... it isn’t a bad idea to keep a garden intact). It is no different than choosing full sun plants for sunny areas and not choosing shade only plants. Good job, Englishcon! Love the post!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.