This article is for gardeners who want to work smart, avoid large amounts of hassle, and don’t want pricey irrigation bills. The ideas I have gathered together here were all chosen because they are one and done, when done correctly. Meaning, the first years of your gardening experience will be the most intensive with each progressive year being easier than the prior, possibly to the point were all you have to do is plant!
I hope this article will be helpful to you in building and maintaining soil moisture and beautiful garden. Let’s get right into it…
Water is key in a successful garden. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Soil Moisture helps plants grow, it keeps the soil bacteria munching away, and the insects and worms working 24/7. Without it, everything slows down. To minimize the amount of work that you have to do, and maximize the amount of water your garden stores you will want to save every drop Mother Nature already offers.
“Free” soil moisture (free as in you don’t have to break out the garden hose) can be collected in two ways assuming you don’t live next to any waterways: when it rains and when it dews in the early morning. It should be your goal to collect as much water as possible while not letting it get away.
Moisture is lost in two ways. Either it goes up: evaporation, or it goes down: into the water table. To maintain productive soil you have to maintain effective levels of moisture at all times. Here are some common ways to maintain soil moisture…
Hugelkultur- burying partially decayed logs, twigs, and branches to attract beneficial fungi and soak up large quantities of water below the soil’s surface.
Plants that are placed on, or near hugelkultur beds will send out deep roots that work with the fungi, and benefit all summer long from an underground reserve of soil moisture.
Swales- trenches that catch and hold water on contour along the soil surface. These are used to catch water, but not necessarily carry it very long distances. Depending on your type of soil swales will either hold water on the surface for some time while it slowly sinks deeper into the ground, or they will increase the amount of water a plant on the bottom or immediately next to it receives in a rain. These can be made to any depth or width specific to the needs of your plants.
Mulch- a surface dressing of any material that allows water to pass through but not back out, decrease (or increase) soil temperature, and act as habitat for insects and small animals. The depth of the mulch is dependent on your plants. Mulch is not good for new seedlings, so areas should be mulched only after seedling have grown enough to not be harmed by some disturbance. Mulch is also helpful to keep down other plants, which will compete with yours for moisture.
Closed Canopy Gardening- this is a method of growing that focuses it design on leaf cover and minimizing the percentage of exposed soil. The lower the percentage of soil open to the sun, the lower the rate of evaporation. This is like mulching, but uses the plants as the mulch. Although mulch is normally used until the canopy has been established.
These are the methods I have implemented in my gardens. I find that they work best in concert with each other. I currently employee all the methods in combination in several hugelkultur beds that are mulched, have swales between rows of plants, and maintain a closed canopy for most of the year. I hope these methods will help you in your gardens! If you want to contact me post a comment below. The other readers and I would love to hear your feedback and your success stories. Once again, I wish you the best of luck!
Thanks for reading!