Getting water to a dry garden

100_3041What’s with this necklace of empty milk jugs I’m wearing as I head out on my bicycle? It’s no fashion statement, that’s for sure. I’m taking them to my community garden plot two miles from our house, and on a bike this was the best way to transport the weightless but bulky jugs.

I’m trying an experiment to help my drought-prone plot. Last year, I would go down to Amethyst Brook, about 30 feet away from the garden, fill up milk jugs with water, and pour it out on the garden. This kept the beds moist — for a few hours — but the soil dried out so quickly that I wondered if I was merely returning the water I’d hauled from the brook back to the brook, underground.

So yesterday I watered the beds as usual, then went back to the brook. I filled the jugs with water, and took out a pin and pricked their plastic bottoms. I placed the jugs in the middle of the beds where I’ve planted early crops, a kind of poor man’s drip irrigation. After some experimentation, I realized that unless I made the hole very small, the water would drip out too quickly.

But this is just a stopgap measure. The best technique for growing vegetables in sandy soil is mulch and adding organic matter. I need to buy some good-quality hay, plant before rain is expected, and then mulch to keep the moisture from evaporating.

My ratio of work to vegetables at the community garden plot was very high last year. Last fall I hauled in 36 buckets of manure, about two per bed, along with leaves to increase the amount of organic material in the beds. And this year I’m concentrating on crops that did well last year, such as tomatoes, potatoes, beans and butternut squash. I’ll decide in the fall whether this second garden is worth the effort for next year.

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