Water Wise Gardening in Los Angeles
David King, Gardenmaster at
the learning garden
If you listen to the news, you know California is in desperate drought and officials from all kinds of government are holding press conferences stressing the lack of water and everyone with a garden is being begged to use less water. Yet, if you want a garden producing food, how do you make the compromises needed to get some tomatoes or cucumbers without being guilty of over doing the water situation? https://www.permaculturenews.org/2010/09/16/ollas-unglazed-clay-pots-for-garden-irrigation/
Weeds are drinking water in your garden. You don't need that. Get the weeds out and 'they don't worry you no more.'
Time your Watering
Water later in the day so the water has a much smaller window in which to be evaporated. No matter the condition of your soil. Water later at night rather than earlier. If you water as the sun goes down, the plants will remain in the area of the roots longer.
Put drought resistant plants between the less resiliant so the hardy plants shade the less tolerable.
Keep your eyes on your plants, watch them with more diligence, with taller plants (tomatoes, climbing beans, squashes) allow some covering some of the more sensitive plants – it will cut down your yield, but it will also cue your water usage. Be diligent with all your food plants, you'll get more harvest. Keep a journal. Allow the garden to teach you.
Mulch your pathways with chipped wood; the larger pieces are great for putting on pathways, the semi-large pierces that once were the bigger plants are lovely in the beds; the sunshine breaks the chips into smaller and smaller pieces; and finally rake the almost disintegrated wood chips around the plants in the beds. This material finalizing the breaking down of the wood chips and are mutually helping one another in breaking down these bits of organic matter that feed your plants over a longer period of time.
Most important for getting organic matter into your garden bed, is to introduce organic mulch and the critters that are the life in the soil. “Organic mulch” somewhat saying the same thing twice, is anything that can be broken down in our gardens while making the soil more rich.
I haven't included several other ways to grow plants, including “hydroponics” which ditch the soil altogether and grow the plants in water. I'm not particularly enthused with using a lot of plastic in my garden or in anything I'm going to be eating. Call me superstitious...
On the other hand there are other ideas that I do believe might have merit our attention; the use of ollas is the same idea as drip, but instead of plastic, the garden has underground clay pots that “leak” water into the soil, cutting out the need for plastic hoses and the like. They still need some research before they'll be accepted at large, but I see a lot of benefits in the mindset that brings changes in our vision and new ways to solve old problems. (Olla - pronounced oyeyas) - this is a sample of what they look like - although they come in all the colors of the world, this is the raw olla and would be one of my first choices for a garden as it blends into the garden over time.
Sooner or later Angeles residents will be FORCED to adhere to some pretty hard new rules and we should be look at the new rules and begin, now, to decide what to do at once when the water is turned off. Even if you already garden with a look to sustainable practices, be advised that not enough people with reduce their water consumption (a fact we have learned from previous "save water" campaigns. Every single person who scoffs at demands we need to improve our water usage will prove the efficacy of water wise gardening. Make it a fun project; just do something to maintain our water supply. We are called to do better than we have.