Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)

Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Investing in soaker hoses is money well-spent

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought

By Mary Lowther

We’re entering dry summer conditions and must use water judiciously. Luckily for me, I have already amassed enough soaker hoses plus a timer to water my whole garden according to protocols the CVRD lays out for most stages of drought. A timer with four openings attaches to a spigot in the back yard and each quadrant receives half an hour of watering, starting at 3 a.m. and ending at 5 a.m., every four days. If I had to water less frequently I’d plant my crops farther apart to allow roots to access more soil and if I couldn’t water at all, I’d yank out plants in between the others and watch them for dehydration. A well-nourished, fully mineralized soil holds water like a sponge, taking plants through a drought with a minimum of fuss, and adding compost tea every two weeks helps.

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought because the undisturbed mycelium and fungi help to hold nutrients and water in place. In the spring we have regular rainfalls so most of our crops don’t need watering. I don’t wait until plants show water stress because they may never recover, especially cauliflower. Instead, I stick my finger in the soil up to my first knuckle and if it’s dry, I start watering.

Newly-sown seedlings require a sprinkling of water every day, maybe twice a day if it’s very dry, until they sprout, and then I put a soaker hose down and attach this to the watering timer.

If you can only afford one soaker hose per year, I recommend getting one because by the time you’re my age you’ll probably have enough to do the whole garden. When you discover that you use far less water and have far fewer weeds, slugs and sow bugs, you’ll never return to sprinklers.

When the weather gets hot and dry I lay on about six inches of mulch, consisting of hay, straw, newspapers, leaves or other dried vegetation — whatever’s available. One year I used stalks from herbs I had harvested and that sure smelled nice when I walked on it.

As the last of the crops come out of the ground, I rake off the mulch and sow cover crops in time for fall rains. When I’ve left mulch on the beds, hordes of slugs and sow bugs have orgies under the cosy warm canopy, ready to eradicate whatever I subsequently plant.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening