Need Tips - Gardening Under Drought Conditions Article : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Spoke with a brother-in-law in Central Florida yesterday. He said the Chain-of-Lakes in Winter Haven are so low most boat ramps have been closed and the canals which connect the lakes are impassable. Started me thinking about a possible Countryside article on gardening under drought conditions. Please send me your tips and I'll incorporate what I can, with credit given to the forum in general. This is the first draft:

Gardening Under Drought Conditions

Ken Scharabok, Waverly, TN

Many areas of the country are suffering continued drought conditions. How then does one garden under severe water restrictions? Some suggestions:

- Drip irrigation is normally more effective than general watering, since a little often can be better than a lot occasionally. Drip irrigation is widely used in dry countries, such as Israel.

- Try to select varieties which are drought-tolerant. For example, a variety suitable for Arizona may be suitable for South Florida.

- For watering trees or shrubs, use a 5-gallon plastic bucket in which a small hole has been punched or drilled near the bottom. It is basically the equivalent of drip-irrigation, and soluble fertilizers can be mixed in with the water first if desired.

- Consider asking your men folk to urinate into something like a bleach bottle. When full, it can be poured around plants since it contains urea, a fertilizer, in addition to the liquid. Each use means one less commode flush. If you donít like the way it looks sitting on the top of the commode tank, either decorate it or hide it under the sink.

- Where allowed, consider the use of plastic barrels to retain some of the rain water. Dip out and use as required.

- Consider the use of container gardening, such as plants grown in cut off gallon milk jugs. In this manner, you are just watering the container, not the ground in general.

- Recycle all of the gray (sink, laundry and bath) water practical.

 Disconnect the traps under sinks (seal the vent hole) and place a 5-gallon plastic bucket under each sink for recycling.

 When doing laundry, pull out the discharge hose and let the washer discharge into two 5-gallon plastic buckets. The first discharge, with the soap, can either be saved for reuse on the second load, or used in the garden. The rinse water can also be used in this manner, resulting in using basically the same water for several loads.

 During a bath or shower, stop up the drain. Then scoop out as much water as possible for recycling. For a shower, consider what is generally called a 'Navy shower'. Turn the water on for ten seconds to get wet. Turn it off and soap up. Then turn the water on for fifty seconds to rinse off. A hardware store will have a shut-off valve which fits above the shower head to facilitate this. The bumper sticker - "Save Water - Shower With a Friend" - also comes to mind.

 Gray water can be used to flush the commode. Just pour enough into the bowl (not the water reservoir tank) to cause it to flush out waste.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, March 20, 2001


On the washing machine water, I would change it to 4, 5 gallon buckets, as 2 would not be enough on a full load. Don't forget to add to leave the lid up so the washer can not spin the water out untill you want it to. I pour the rinse water back in for the next wash. I also put washing machine water in my mop bucket for the floors, and then put that on the plants too. I have a plastic tub in my kitchen sink for the dishes, and I can lift it out and pour it into a bucket or mop bucket.

We have a 5 gallon bucket under the kitchen sink for the coffee grounds and rinsing out of the coffee pot and filter. This is great for plants, it's water and grounds.

Keep some ice cream buckets on the counter top for catching all the water waiting for the hot to heat up. I use this for everything.

I even scoop out the water in the animal water troughs as I need to clean them, and carry it to the plants. Mulch very deep and pour the water right at the base of the plants. Save the cleanest water for the potatoes and strawberries. With the melons, pour the water right in the place where the base is growing, and the melons won't get any grey water on them, they stay clean. Don't use any greese cutting dish soap, this will harm the plants. Ivory is good.

In our 3 month drought, I would look for the plants that were drooping, and give the water to them first. Shade the west side of the plants, the late afternoon sun will fry them. You can put loose straw on the plants from the top down to shade the west side. Plant corn at the furthest west in the garden, and this will shade late in the day.

It's allot easier to carry two buckets 1/2 full than 1 full! Never just carry one bucket, it'll wear you out fast.

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 20, 2001.

If you really anticipate a severe dry season, you can use the hiller attachment on the troy bilt tiller to make depressions/rows scooped out BETWEEN the hills to plant corn, etc. What little rain DOES fall will settle in between the hills around the plants, as will your sprinkling water, grey water, etc. Of course one major benefit of our raised beds (and planting on TOP of them), has been that the cat or dog will usually walk in the low walkways, between the plants. During your severe drought, you'd be better off letting those animals conserve their moisture, as well, by keeping them housed, or tied. This should keep them out of your garden. Ken, you've intrigued me with the idea of rain barrels... I think we'll install some gutters on the barn roof, this year. Rain water IS a bit more acidic, but still can be utilized in the garden, etc. Yeah, good plan.

-- Action Dude (, March 20, 2001.

Cindy, how about a nice oak shoulder-yoke to carry those two buckets? Then you could FILL BOTH of them at once! I'll have to mention it to your husband. Nyuk, Nyuk... (just kidding)

-- Action Dude (, March 20, 2001.

Can't emphasize mulching enough, either. If you live in an arid area, as I do, and don't have access to a lot of green mulch, you can cut open paper feed bags and lay them end to end, layer newspaper, get free plastic "tarps" from lumberyards (these are the reinforced plastic tarps that cover lumber, and are tossed away)and lay those down between rows. Good idea, Ken! Jan

-- Jan in Co (, March 20, 2001.

You like to pick on me, don't ya Dude? That's ok, nyuk, nyuk. Well, my skinny little sticks of legs would never get that contraption even an inch off the ground! I will admit I tried once, just once, to fill the wheelbarrow up with water and move it. Good thing it was hot that day!

-- Cindy in Ky (, March 20, 2001.

For the "bleach bottle", you'll want to dilute it before you pour it on the plants as it is strong enough to burn them.

-- Steve - TX (, March 20, 2001.

Ken... ever seen the ad for the 'self-watering, self-weeding ... etc Earthbox??" Well, hubby just built me planters here and we are using old 2-liter bottles with a few holes poked in them to water. Not only saves water by directing to the plants (and avoiding much evaporation) but also saves the back. Same thing could work like a 'dripper' hose.. just use smaller bottles....

-- Sue Diederich (, March 20, 2001.

Ken, here is a link to a very interesting article about gardening without irrigation in a dry climate. 20homestedlibrary/030201/03020100frame.html

I'll be interested to see the completed article!

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, March 21, 2001.


The only thing I'd add is a rain catchement system, using gutters and downspouts, and storage in a cistern to help carry you through those dry times. Several sites have designs for these. It's a change in the way of thinking and living too...use it all the time, not just for forecasted droughts. I like the "concept" of Earthships..the complete package of sustainability.. Just my 2 cents worth.

-- Deborah (, March 24, 2001.

We have a system to get rainwater off the garage roof. We just inspected the water tonight, and it still is sweet and fresh. I'm buying more barrels for the garden tomorrow....(we have 1000 gal tank, too....boring for those of you who have read this a million times, but I post for new readers...) We are also putting gutters on both sides of the ram barn and we will collect rain water into a trough for the rams (have this set up for the ewes already.) We may do this for the chickens...gutters on the hen house, too.)

One other kind of simple thing: plant crops that mature early, if possible. Get them in as soon as you can. This year I will try to bring in early peas and green stuff (spring spinach, etc.) to take advantage of a harvest that happens before the hotter, drier weather sets in. It may be a great year for corn. But I may not be able to water it!

Ken, we have huge lakes up here that have dried up *totally.* This is the resource for hydro power generation for the western power grid. If folks in California could only see this, they would really get their electricity conservation going. It's really scary!!!!!!!! Good idea to write this info for everyone!

-- sheepish (WA) (, March 24, 2001.

Ken, if you're going to use grey water to flush, and assuming you're using something designed for a septic system, then use it from the toilet cistern ("water reservoir tank"). Flushing from there is designed to work effectively. Just dumping it into the bowl from a bucket doesn't work nearly as well, and you need to use much more water to get the job done.

-- Don Armstrong (, March 25, 2001.

Was looking at one of the agriculture site and they recommmend this site if you looking for ideas on what to do in a they tell what plants take the most water and when to water the plants that are producing fruit.

-- Joanne (, March 30, 2001.

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