4 Tips For Gardening In A Drought

Posted on Monday, December 07, 2015 | By Alycia Lang |

I think it’s fair to say that water use has been on the mind for a while now in California.

We’re in the middle of the most severe drought on record in the state, and while we are expecting (fingers crossed) a wet winter, one El Niño season is unfortunately probably not enough to end it.

While we all seem to be doing a bit to conserve water (Californians used 28% less water this year than last), one well ­intended trend we’ve noticed amongst our homesteader friends is the choice to abandon their backyard food gardens all together. While we’d all like to think that the most effective way to reduce our water usage is to simply use less of it (intuitive, right?), it may not be quite that simple when it comes to growing food.

The unfortunate fact is that large­scale agriculture, which supplies most of our grocery stores, accounts for upwards of 80% of all water use in the state. So here is the twist for home gardeners: while it’s certainly good to monitor your overall water use at home, you may actually be contributing to the water shortage by abandoning the idea of growing produce in your own backyard! For every vegetable you don’t grow at home, there’s one you will buy from the store which likely took a whole lot more water to grow than yours would have.

It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re not equipped with the tools you need to effectively save water while still keeping your garden alive. But fear not, homesteaders, here are a few resources, tools, and tips to help you make the most of your water usage no matter where you live!

1.Use an Olla

Traditional watering methods often create an excess of water, some of which doesn’t actually reach the plant, but instead runs off. An Olla is a porous clay pot buried in your garden that allows plants to take exactly how much water they need by pulling water out from the clay reservoir with their roots. Fill the Olla only one or two times a week and watch your plants thrive. 

2. Install a Greywater System

Installing a greywater system is a cost­-effective, easy way to save water by using water you would otherwise simply throw away. Not only will it lower your water bill by using the same water you use for laundry to water your plants, but it will also help you bring your food source back to the backyard without the guilt of excess water use! The average washing machine uses between 20-­40 gallons of water per load. Imagine what you could grow with all that water!

FARMcurious hosts occasional hands­-on  which should give you all the information you need to install your own system at home. Check on upcoming classes HERE.

3. Place plants with similar watering needs near each other in your garden!

This is just one of many great tips we’ve found on Water ­Use It Wisely’s website. With over 100 practical tips to help you cut down water use, the website is easy to navigate, fun to look at, and informative! Check it out HERE.

Check out some great books on growing food in small spaces

Keeping your food hyper­local (your own backyard) will not only help reduce the greater agricultural water use, but will reduce your carbon footprint by eliminating shipping and transport pollutants!

Some of our favorites are:

Happy drought ­tolerant gardening, everyone!