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Garden Notes from Farmer Carla

Conserving Water in the Garden

As you probably know, the City of Northampton issued a Non-Essential Water Use Restriction on June 22nd, and even though the production of food is exempt from the restriction, there is much we can do as gardeners to help our community save water during this dry spell. Of course, managing our gardens for efficient water use has benefits beyond water conservation, too. Many water-saving practices also contribute to healthier soil in general, and to higher yields from our favorite crops. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

1.   Make sure the garden has plenty of organic matter

Adding organic matter is like putting a sponge in our soil. It soaks up water and holds it in reserve so that when the plants need it they can reach out and take what they need. The down side of that sponge is that when it gets dry, it can be hard to wet it again.  If we put all our compost right on top of the soil surface, we may find that it dries out and gets crisp. When this happens, all the good micro-organisms that help to bind water to the bits of soil die, or, at best, go dormant. To avoid this, make sure you work your compost well into the top six inches of your garden beds. Then keep it moist as best you can. One of the best ways to do that is to mulch the garden well (see Tip #3, below).

2.   Water the soil, not just the plants

Although this rule may seem counterintuitive, plants actually prefer to take their water from the soil particles rather than from soil gaps that are filled with free flowing water. This is because soil particles are tiny batteries that electromagnetically hold a concoction of chemical nutrients that the plants need to survive and thrive…Click here to read the remainder of this article.

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