Soaker hoses are a key tool in helping prepare gardens for a summer drought

We can do a number of things to prepare our gardens for the predicted summer drought.

We can do a number of things to prepare our gardens for the predicted summer drought.

Soils with balanced minerals, enriched with compost and organic fertilizer retain water like a sponge and require less irrigation. Side-dressing with fertilizer every three weeks or so, spraying with compost tea every couple of weeks and/or fertigation every three weeks will increase the plants’ nutrient density and enable them to withstand water shortages.

“Fertigation” is irrigating the roots of each plant with a nutrient solution like a bucketful of diluted compost tea.

Spacing plants farther apart than recommended allows for more growing room for the roots and less need to irrigate.

Most water loss comes from the plants themselves through transpiration from their leaves, not from regularly-tilled soil, so a bed of plants given more elbow room will require less water. Better to get a smaller harvest than none at all in crowded beds that need water you are unable to give them.

I plan for at least one bed in the rotation to be sown to cover crop for the entire year so I don’t worry about irrigating that bed since I’ll just re-sow it with more cover crop once the rains return.

Most of my beds are watered with soaker hoses, the round black ones that seep all along their surfaces.

I’ve been careful not to cut them and I’ve still got some that are more than 10 years old, so I’ve accumulated as many as I need for my 1,000 square foot garden.

At the end of summer I drain them and carefully wind them up, tie them and store them out of the elements. They can join up together, wind around the beds and water exactly where I want and they cut down on weeding too.

When I side-dress with fertilizer I water that in with a hand-held hose or it will just dry out in the sun and not get down to the roots.

Newly-sown beds will need hand watering until the plants are established and thinned out, then soaker hoses can be laid down.

I join the soaker hoses to lengths of normal hose that I have cut to size and attached male and female ends to so they can meet up at the faucet. I attach a timer to the faucet and a four-spigot connector for the hoses to connect to and set the timer for twice a week. I get all my watering supplies at Home Hardware and Irly Bird.

That’s all it takes and I can go away for two weeks in August with the knowledge that I’ll still have a garden when I return.

When using the soaker hoses, I make darn sure that the water’s not turned on too high.

What I want is just enough to allow water to bead up on the surface of the hose and drip very slowly. I learned the hard way – don’t ask. Drought? Never notice it since I’ve been watering like this for more than 20 years.

Oh, one more benefit of soaker hoses: used in combination with a cover they prevent tomato blight because the blight cannot adhere to dry leaves.

Lake Cowichan Gazette