A Sweet Potato Growing Guide

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Sweet potatoes make for delicious and filling side dishes, especially during the winter season with its savory and rich table offerings. The irony is that they are extremely frost-sensitive tubers that grow best when it’s warm.

There’s good news, though. You can grow your own sweet potatoes in a relatively easy way. You don’t even have to worry about spoilage with a generous sweet potato yield per plant – they can go unrefrigerated for months without going bad!

 

Choosing the best sprouts to plant

 

You can get sweet potato root sprouts – or slips – from quality gardening supply stores or nurseries. You can also save the roots from previous crops. If you’re buying, remember to get only untreated roots, because some stores use wax on sweet potato slips to prevent them from sprouting.

Determine the best time for planting outdoors in your location by consulting a frost-free gardening guide. This will help you plan out a growing and harvesting timeline and list, including when to buy sweet potato slips, soil, and the gardening peripherals you’ll be needing.

 

When, where, and how to grow them

 

Summertime is still the best time to plant sweet potatoes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow them indoors during winter. Count backwards six weeks from the time it’s warm enough to plant outside, and get root sprouts for planting (they are best planted ASAP).

Put some moist sand in a pot or any container of your choice. You will need a warm environment – around 75 degrees – to plant the slips. Place the slips in the moist sand. Wait for the shoots to sprout to about six inches long before cutting them off at the root.

Check outdoor temperature to see if it’s warm enough to transplant the sweet potato sprouts. Dig holes six inches in depth and 12 inches apart from each other. Bury the sprouts up to their top leaves – make sure to do this under a full sun and not when it’s overcast. Tamp down soil firmly over and around the sprouts before watering. After two weeks, use dark-colored rubber mulch to help keep weeds away, and to retain moisture at the roots. An inch of water a week is enough to keep sweet potatoes thriving.

 

When to harvest and store

 

Sweet potatoes mature between 90 to 170 days, so check for tubers around that time. If they’re still too small, leave them for a week more before checking. During this time, you can already use the young shoots and leaves for other dishes, but take care not to disturb the tubers too much. Bruised tubers can easily get diseased.

As with planting them, sweet potatoes are best harvested on a warm day when the soil is dry. Use a small spade or gardening fork to dig around 12 inches away from the main tuber, at an angle so as not to damage the sweet potato. Go around six inches in depth before gently lifting the freshly-dug potatoes. Dry them in the sun for a couple of hours before curing.

Keep the tubers you won’t be using for wintertime dishes in a well-aired space for about two weeks. The temperature should be around 80 degrees. Afterwards, you can keep your harvest of sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place (such as a pantry) for months.
sweet potatoes

Living with the Pantone 2017 Color of the Year

Pantone colors of the year for the garden

 

Fresh, hopeful, and redolent of healthy, growing things, the 2017 Pantone color of the year is aptly called “Greenery”. The color institute’s hue #15-0343 symbolizes new beginnings and fresh starts – things a lot of us certainly need in the coming year.

Recalling springtime, the yellowish-green shade borrows from nature while paying homage to it. With Greenery at the forefront of the palette, a fresh approach to many aspects of one’s lifestyle – including interior design, architecture, gardening, and even wardrobe – is to be expected. Here are some predictions on how Greenery can positively influence your home and your life.

 

A refreshing backdrop for everyday living

Many interior designers are saying that the neutral, clinical palette of strictly white, grey, and black are over and done with. While those hues encourage calm and zen-like attitude in daily living, they don’t really allow room for expression. This year’s Pantone color adds a much-needed punch to liven up the drabness of a neutral interior decorating palette without saturating its minimalist appeal.

Greenery also has a revitalizing quality that you can draw strength from whenever you feel tired or overworked. Optometrists actually recommend gazing at something green as a break from staring too long at the computer screen or reading. So go ahead and add Greenery in your work area – be it a plant, a picture frame, drapes, or an accent piece – and let it rejuvenate you.

 

A reminder to reconnect with nature

flowers in the garden

Pantone has always been careful about choosing the color of the year, and its choices often become a subtle commentary on current social and political situations. Greenery serves as a symbol of hope in a time of climate change, as well as natural and political upheavals and economic uncertainty.

Like a new leaf pushing itself out of the soil against all odds, this color is a reminder of rebirth. It encourages nurturing growth and positive change in the new year. Greenery also echoes recent ecological consciousness, which includes recycling, gardening with a purpose, alternative housing and lifestyle choices, and a myriad of other green revolution trends in the past few years.

 

An exciting palette to mix and match

Mother Nature could well be the best designer on the planet, because she can make the most riotous blooms in every hue look great with an all-green backdrop. Take a leaf from her book (pun intended!) and liven up your wardrobe and interior design palette with color pairings that reflect your personality and moods. The Pantone website offers suggestions on which colors to pair with Greenery, for fashion, graphic design, visual arts, interior and exterior decorating, and just about any color application you can think of.

 

We need to buy recycled rubber!

Why we should buy recycled rubber products…

Come 2021, rubber tire usage is predicted to increase by approximately 60%. Add that projection to the current 200 million already lying around—with some 100,000 pieces being taken off automobiles on a daily basis and with only 35% of this getting recycled—and the number becomes even more staggering.

Now consider this: tires need decades to break down, and even then, they do not totally decompose. This, of course, poses numerous problems.

Problems such as:

Hazardous Emissions

Tire burning—a practice done in cement production, where at least 50% of recycled tires are used as replacement fuel—causes a 500% increase in dust particles and a tenfold increase in Sulphur dioxide. For environmental and health activists alike, these numbers ought to not be ignored.

Add up the toxins produced from tire decomposition alone, which have been found out to cause lead contamination in the soil, and the whole scenario of tires accumulating in vacant lots and whatnot becomes rather dreary.

Overcrowded Landfills

rubber tire pile

So far only 11 states have banned the dumping of tire waste in landfills. Rubber products still constitute at least 2% of total solid waste currently found in landfills at any given time. In 2007 alone, millions of tons of tires were dumped into already heavily clogged landfills. Space for other wastes is becoming more and more scarce.

Infestation

Tires discarded poorly can cause water/moisture accumulation. This, in turn, could lead to infestation: mosquitoes, rodents, and other kinds of pests. The presence of these pests, as warned by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, could trigger vector-borne diseases—encephalitis being the most obvious.

Tires and rubber products in general are essential in this day and age; this statement cannot be refuted.

Another statement that cannot be refuted is this: indiscriminate tire accumulation is a problem that we all have to address. One way to do so is to patronize recycled rubber products. The dangers listed above should be enough of an argument for us consumers to do just that.

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/environmental-impacts-throwing-away-tires-79649.html

http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/publications/Documents/Tires%5C43296029.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2002/may/15/environment.waste

 

The Low Down of Garden Fencing

garden chair and table

Pets like cats, dogs, and rabbits are adorable…until they mess up your garden, that is. The bane of gardening maintenance usually involves critters (not just your beloved furbabies). Wild animals, rodents, and other creatures should be discouraged from eating or messing around in your yard with the help of an effective garden fence. Not sure how to go about it? Here are some practical tips.

Out of sight, out of mind

In most cases, animals can’t have what they can’t see. Blocking your garden from view is an effective technique for critter-proofing. A solid fence will hide a garden and its delectable offering, and consequently, the desire to feast on them. This is especially true if you live somewhere with wild animals like deer, foxes, rabbits, and others roaming about.

You don’t have to invest in an expensive solid brick wall to protect your garden. A fence of wooden planks or bamboo poles in the appropriate height (make sure to check building codes in your area for height restriction) should do the trick.

When it comes to your pets, it’s best to keep them indoors. Provide a different outdoor venue for them to run around and exercise, such as an enclosed “catio” for your cats, or a backyard with no vegetables, flowers, or fruit that dogs can trample on.

Make it dig-proof

If they can’t go over it, they will go under it. Rabbits and other burrowing animals can still get through to your garden by digging under your fence. Prevent this by installing a chicken-wire fence with holes no bigger than one centimeter in diameter. The bottom of the wire mesh should curve 90 degrees outward before being buried in the soil at least half a foot deep. That should discourage Bugs from stealing and feasting on your carrots.

Make it jump and climb-proof

Animals are wily and determined if they’re after a food source. Raccoons and opossums will climb a chicken-wire fence if they see that your garden yields something they can eat. Deer can jump over fences, too. You can install a solid wooden fence not shorter than 6 feet, and then string electric wire at the top. Angle the wire to further deter jumping and climbing over.

Regularly check for holes and gaps

Apart from keeping them out, you wouldn’t want any animal to get stuck in a hole in your fence. Those YouTube videos of dogs peeking out from below wooden gates or poking from holes in privet hedges may be cute, but extracting them could cause lots of effort and risk. Some animals like deer and foxes could also get hurt when they’re stuck, or lash out at rescuers with kicks and bites. Avoid these scenarios altogether by regularly mending holes and gaps in your fence. You can grow climbing plants to cover your chicken wire fence, or board up holes in wooden fences. Keep the soil around and under your fence packed and firm to prevent animals from digging.

 

Five Different Types of Gardening

balcony garden

Gardens can be as unique as a person’s fingerprint – from the typical backyard vegetable plots to the manicured gardens of Versailles. They’re born out of different needs: beautification, as food source, for recreational pursuits, and others.

Gardens are as diverse in looks as they are in purpose, as evidenced by the following different types of gardening. Which one is for you?

Vertical

This kind of garden uses not just the plant beds and horizontal surfaces of a yard, but also its walls and other vertical spaces. Vertical gardening is popular among those who don’t have space for a full garden, like apartment dwellers. It also allows a creative way to enjoy the benefits of a perennial garden while beautifying an unattractive wall or fence.

A vertical garden usually has a frame to hold the fabric layer, the plants, and the garden’s entire irrigation system. Many homes are employing this space-saving technique to gardening, but a lot of public spaces like building facades and the walls of parks and thoroughfares also showcase it.  

Container

Tiled patios, wooden porches, and other surfaces that can’t accommodate vegetable plots and flower beds are well-suited for container gardening. Containers can range from plastic to ceramic pots, and even organic vessels like coconut husks and eggshell halves. It’s the garden type of choice for many beginning gardeners, or those who want to grow a select group of plants, like herbs or blooms.

Raised plant beds framed by wood, plastic, stone, or rubber borders also fall under the container gardening category. Those who prefer their outdoor garden space to feature landscaping elements and wish to segregate their vegetable, herb, or curated plants use this technique to mark them off as separate from the ornamentals.

Indoor

This type of gardening has become an integral part of interior decorating in the same way landscaping has with outdoor design. Many homes have incorporated “indoor-friendly” plants in their living spaces to help purify the air, add a touch of nature, and also as statement pieces.

On a more practical note, windowsill gardening and plants grown on a dedicated ledge, table, bench, or counter help supply kitchen pantries while keeping the temperature even for the plants no matter what the season is. Some plants need to have their seeds sown and take root indoors before being transplanted outside, as they can be too fragile for chilly or hot weather, or could develop rot quickly if unsupervised.

Water

Water gardening combines decorative and botanical elements to create a whimsical touch to exterior and interior spaces. Ponds, fountains, and tanks are some popular examples of this type. Those who want their water garden to be permanent have it integrated in their outdoor design by a contractor, as with constructions of elaborate ponds and waterfall features. However, a tub or a tank will work fine on porches, patios, and other outdoor spaces, as well.

The secret to a successful water garden is to make it look as natural as possible. The water also has to be protected from freeze, algae, and pests. Popular plants for water gardening include many types of water lilies and lotus, hyacinth, duckweed, and other floating types.

Community

A community garden is a single piece of land tended to by different people. They are often found in special sections of public parks and other spaces, or in the middle of an apartment complex or shared living facility. Its main purpose is to bring people together through cooperation and the shared benefits of a garden – whether it’s the beautification of a public space, for social gatherings, or to share the “fruits” of a harvest together.

Vegetable and fruit gardens are popular for community gardening because people can see just how successfully they’ve grown their own food. Flower gardens are ideal for quiet spaces like parks, hospitals, libraries, and other public spaces where people come to sit and think. Community gardens bring people together and give them a sense of purpose and pride, which is why many local cause-oriented groups include them in their list of projects.

Protect your garden during the warm winter

seed pods frozen in winter

Because of climate change, we’re looking at an unseasonably warm winter. This affects many things about the coming season: your wardrobe, outdoor activities, and yes, even garden upkeep and care.

 

Warm winter and weed growth

reeds

Many gardeners agree that winter weeds are relatively easier to control than those that grow in other seasons. Autumn is the best time to treat weeds since September to October are the peak months for their germination period. Neglecting to treat them could mean a garden overrun with weeds come springtime. It’s best to avoid this, since it’s harder to get a neglected garden back in shape than if you actively try to keep it weed-free before the winter.

 

In the cold, weeds hardly germinate and most die once chill sets in. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security that you will find your garden weed-free come springtime, though. With a warm winter, expect the weeds to act as they would in the spring and summer. Not only will they germinate and spread in the same manner as summer weeds – you can also expect other types of weeds to find their way into your garden if you aren’t careful.

 

Weeds to watch out for

grass

Winter weeds come in two general types: grass and broadleaf. Grassy weeds are distinguishable by their longer leaf blades and parallel veins. They can be annual like bluegrass, or perennial like quackgrass.   

 

Broadleaf weeds also have annuals and perennials. They come from seeds that have two leaves, and are identifiable by veins that look like nets. Some broadleaves have distinct flowers like dandelions. Annual broadleaf weeds exist in twelve-month periods – meaning they germinate, grow, and then die within a year. Some winter annuals include chickweed, deadnettle, white clover, and bluegrass. Perennials are those that grow for two years or more. They’re the products of tubers or bulbs, and rarely, seeds. They’re harder to control, so take extra care to look out for their kind: white clover, dallisgrass, and buttercups in winter. However, because of the unseasonable warmth, there could be dandelions and plantains – typical summer broadleaf weeds – in the mix.   

 

How to arrest weed growth

plants getting overrun with weeds

Temperature plays a big role in weed management. Never neglect to mulch as it helps insulate roots and keeps nourishment where it’s needed while protecting from the onslaught of seasonal weed. Mulching also helps soil temperatures remain even during frost or heat, but always check soil temperature to determine the depth and amount of mulching needed. You may have wintertime mulching scheduled, but unpredictable weather could change some of those activities.

 

In normal winter seasons, a herbicide typically takes two to three weeks to be effective, as opposed to just a week during summer. With warm winters becoming more apparent, it only makes sense to constantly check the temperature to determine the proper application and timing of weed killers. You can hand-weed recognizable weeds first.

 

You might need to introduce watering to your gardening itinerary for a warm winter. The soil will be thirsty, and so will your plants’ roots. Irrigate properly and regularly (every three to five days, again depending on the temperature) to keep roots properly moist and nourished.

 

Which Garden Matches Your Personality?

There are times when you walk into a garden and immediately feel right at home. On the other hand, there may also be instances when, no matter how neatly manicured and cared-for a garden is, there’s just something about it that doesn’t sit right with you.

 

Gardens have personalities, too. If you’re thinking about starting your own, it’s a good idea to learn which one matches your personality so that you can live in harmony with it for a long time. When you figure out particular moods and energy you want to convey, you can design a garden with relative ease.

 

The calm and serene soul

 

People who want to relax in their garden have no use for fussy, showy plants that distract with their leaves, branches, blooms, pungent aroma…or upkeep. If a plant makes you stare at it and notice its small imperfections and flaws (and your fingers immediately itch to trim or put things right with gardening tools), then that plant probably shouldn’t be in your garden. This means no exotics like Venus fly-traps, plants that are difficult to grow and maintain such as laboriously shaped hedges, blooms or fruit that give out strong scents, and plants sensitive to too much heat or cold.

 

The good news is that green in itself is a color that relaxes the eyes and encourages serenity. You can’t go wrong with perennials and evergreens because they’re dependable and hardy. Select plants that thrive in most seasons, do not require a lot of cleaning up and trimming, and will not give you grief as far as upkeep goes. Undemanding succulents, forest grass, most vines, and graceful lilies can become points of contemplation whenever you need to quiet your mind.   

 

The creative collector

 

On the other hand, if you want to draw energy from your garden, you can fill it up with color, texture, scents, and shapes. If you have a collection of unique trinkets to complement your garden, even better! A nice pottery, jar, basket, or even wine bottle collection can bring out your plants’ natural beauty when artfully arranged in vignettes all over your garden. Intersperse pieces with bright blooms of peonies, cannas, or dahlia, and exotic scents of lilies and roses to truly pique the senses.

 

Lanterns can be beautifully showcased in a back yard, and would look especially romantic at night for outdoor dinner parties. The secret in showcasing your creativity and your collection lies in muted curation – both for keepsakes and plants. Select a common denominator among the pieces you want to display, and build your vignettes from there. For instance, an old teapot can be used as a container for small cacti or blooms, or a basket can become a pretty repository for freshly-cut herbs or flowers.

 

The whimsical individual

 

Gardens that inspire imagination typically include arches, trellises, gazebos, topiaries, a water feature, and sculptural elements or two. Got a set of garden gnomes or a flock of plastic pink flamingos? Bring them out and let them invade your garden for a true wonderland setting. You can go with a particular theme so you won’t end up overwhelming your garden with a hodgepodge of features. You can also choose to decorate by season, and let the colors of winter, spring, summer, and autumn guide you in your gardening design color and texture palette.

 

Sinewy topiaries and shaped hedges can become semi-permanent features of a whimsical garden. The same goes for garden trellises and gazebos – these take time, imagination, and devotion to accomplish a playful effect. A quaint garden may look effortless, but bear in mind that the most whimsical gardens are often products of professional gardening and laborious work to accomplish.

 

Common Plant Diseases

common plant diseases  Common Plant Diseases

There are many diseases that can threaten your garden’s safety. Every good gardener must see to it that aside from giving his plants water, sun, and nutrients, diseases are kept at bay. Here are some of the most common types of plant diseases to look out for and how to treat them.

Blights

plants with blight

Leaves or branches that suddenly wither or brown and stop growing is a sign of a type of blight. It is bacterial disease that causes chlorosis or insufficient production of chlorophyll – causing the plant to die. The common types of blight include fire blight, alternaria blight or early blight, and phytophthora blight or late blight. Blights are common during humid weather or after a period of heavy rainfall. Once you spot these black-brown spots on your plants and leave begin to turn yellow, immediately remove and destroy affected leaves. They can be treated with fungicides and biofungicides but quickly become resistant to it-so treat fast and treat hard, ensuring all affected plants are treated. Ensure plants have good drainage and prevent overhead watering. Mulching with black plastic or rubber mulch prevents the fungus from spreading onto the leaves. You can also opt to use disease-resistant hybrids especially if blights are common in your area.

Cankers

Can be caused by bacteria, fungi or other organisms, cankers usually form on woody stems, causing them to wither and die. While some plants with cankers look similar to blight damage, but some cankers ooze, may look sunken and leaves lesions on tree barks. Man-made or natural wounds are the usual entry point for many fungal cankers and usually does not manifest until the plant or tree is under stress. There are cankers that aggressively affect some plants and have no cure. In cases like these, the entire plant must be removed to prevent nearby plants from being infected. To prevent cankers, use proper pruning techniques to only create small wounds so they can heal quickly. Do not prune during wet seasons as this is when cankers and other fungi are most active. Promote plant health and vigor by watering and properly, moderate fertilizing, and mulching- this way your plants have the ability to protect themselves from disease.

Rots

decaying tree trunk

These are diseases that decay part dog the plant. The rot can affect roots, stems, leaves, and even fruits –  leaving them soft and slimy or hard and dry. They can be caused by various types of bacteria or fungi. The best defense against rots are ensuring good drainage. Make sure the roots are completely dry before watering again. For already infected areas, make sure to remove and dispose them and apply compost tea or add beneficial bacteria to your soil.

Rusts

rusty plants

A powdery coating or a rust-colored coating is one of the easiest ways to identify plant rusts. These are kinds of fungi that attacks healthy and vigorous plants unlike other plant diseases that take advantage of weak plants. Rusts will take advantage of new sprouts, leaves and tender parts of a plant. Severe infection of rusts will cause stunted growth and yellowed or discolored leaves. For small infections, areas where pustules (orange, yellow, brown, black, or white spore producing structures) are visible must be removed and disposed.  Applying neem oil can kill spores on the leaves and is a good organic alternative to fungicides.

Wilts

wilting plants

Leaves wilt when they are not properly hydrated. In many cases, a small amount of wilt in between watering is healthy and prevents root rots. But when wilts continue to show even after replenishing your plant supply, your garden may be infected with fungi or bacteria that prevents your plant’s water conducting system from functioning properly. Some types of wilt like the verticillium wilt are very destructive and can stay in the soil for a long time. In many cases just removing infected areas may not work and it is better to completely remove the infected plat including the soil to prevent further damage to other plants. Do not use previously infected soil or include infected leaves to compost.

There are many diseases out there that may affect your plants. Your best defense is to make sure they are healthy so they have a chance to fight illnesses. Proper watering, good drainage, adequate sunlight, consistent pruning, mulching, and fertilizing at the right time will go a long way. It also helps to look out for certain disease-resistant crops to lower their chances of getting infected

 

Common Garden Pests

a snail on a plant

Not all garden inhabitants are good. While some of them can be very beneficial, some are just plain parasites that harm your plants (and even you). To keep your garden safe and help it continuously thrive, every gardener must know how to avoid or remove these pests. But with the number of bugs, insects and other friendly creatures in a garden, it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate the good from the bad. Here are some common garden pests, how you can identify them, and how you can get rid of them in your garden

Aphids

One if the most common plant pest in the world with about 4000 different species. They favor feeding on new plant growth and feed by the cluster. They are small, soft bodied insects that can either be white, yellow, brown or green in color, depending on the species. They reproduce rapidly and when overpopulation occurs, some of these aphids develop wings (yikes!). Once they reach this level, they can be very harmful to the plant, stunting growth, reducing vigor and causing leaves to wilt, curl, and turn yellow. To control an aphid infestation, you can easily cut off heavily infested leaves and throw them away. For heavier infestations, you can try spraying botanical insecticides or introducing ladybugs in your garden. These ladybugs will feed and feed on your aphid colonies until none are left and the great thing about them is that you do not need to introduce harmful pesticides in your garden.

Blister Beetle

Not only do these beetles destroy crops and garden plants, they can be extremely toxic. When crushed, they secrete a blistering agent called catharidin, as the description suggests, contact with this fluid will destroy tissue. The secretion is so potent; it has been used in products for wart removal. This makes the Blister Beetle harmful to plants, humans and livestock that are near the infestation. When ingested, the catharidin toxin can damage the stomach lining and urinary tract, and can be lethal-even after dead bugs have dried out. the There are about 250 species of the Blister Beetle with varying size and color, and can sometimes be confused with the Asparagus Beetle, another garden pest. Most of these beetles are usually ½ to an inch long with long legs and antennae. Small infestations can be handled by hand picking, just be sure to wear protective gloves to avoid any injury. Put the beetles in a container with soapy water. For larger infestations, try adding diatomaceous earth around affected areas or a garden insect spray. Birds also play a good role in eliminating these beetles without the use of pesticides, invite birds in your garden by providing feed and water source.

Slugs and Snails

These slimy, creepy crawlers have earned quite a negative reputation for gardeners. Usually found in damp, shady areas, they lurk under rocks, heavily mulched, or shady areas in your garden. These nocturnal creatures while glide and slide along your garden, leaving a trail as they munch on seedlings, low hanging fruits and leafy vegetables and plants that they can reach. Handpicking can greatly reduce their numbers. You can also create a bait with shallow containers with beer. The yeast in the beer attracts them and will fall into the container and drown. Opting for rubber mulch instead of organic mulch will also lessen the dark, damp environment that slugs and snails love.

Termites

These wood munchers can create nests in the roots of your plants. While they mostly consume dead wood, some of them have been reported eat the plants and even crops like bell peppers. That and their nests nestling on your plant’s roots makes them vulnerable to other garden pests! Non chemical options include introducing beneficial nematodes in your garden. They seek out a wide range of garden pests including termites. Another alternative is to swap out organic mulch with rubber mulch to discourage termite infestation in your garden as they cannot feed on those.

 

There are many harmful pests that can grow and thrive in your garden. They will always find your garden as it begins to thrive or grow beautifully. The important part is taking precautions and learning to recognize the common culprits and nip their growth by the bud so that they do not create extensive damage.

 

Ten Great Water-Saving Gardening Ideas

picture of a dripping sink in a garden

In these times of drought, we all need to be smart about keeping our plants healthy – and not waste water at the same time. A thriving garden doesn’t require tons of water. It simply needs a smart gardener armed with practical ideas and frugal techniques.

 

To retain water, add compost to your soil

Organic composting helps amend your garden soil with nutrients so it can be fertile. It also traps moisture to help plants take root. Composting can be done even without an expensive bin. As an example, you can collect food scraps from your kitchen and take them straight into a compost pile.

 

Apply mulch to your soil

Mulch provides a protective layer that can prevent up to 70% of moisture from evaporating, especially on a hot day. After composting, apply an adequate layer of mulch to avoid water runoff. Mulching also keeps weeds from taking over precious soil space and vying for water and nutrients, which your growing plants badly need.

picture of brown rubber mulch

Have a strict AM and PM watering schedule

Keeping to a fixed routine can help you save water while optimizing root and plant growth. Gardens are best watered from early morning up until temperature begins to rise before noon because there is less evaporation then. If your plants are in pots and containers, they tend to dry out quickly so water them at noon and into the early afternoon.
Avoid watering at night – this can cause fungal growth because there is no sun to help evaporate excess moisture.

watering plants when there's sunlight

Know which plants to water at specific times

Of course, observing your plants for any sign of drought stress means you have to customize your watering schedule specifically around it. Knowing the types of plants and their developmental stages can also help you incrementally reduce watering. For instance, squash, melons, cucumbers, and other vine crops only need ample watering during their flowering and fruiting stages. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants also do not need excess watering as they love the heat, and tend to bear more fruit in warmer weather.

 peppers

Avoid “thirsty” plants

If you’re starting a garden from scratch, it’s wise to go for plants that don’t “guzzle” water and require a lot of maintenance. Low-maintenance plants like succulents are ideal because they thrive in drought-like conditions, such as in deserts. Go for small plants and those with narrow leaves instead (ferns are a good example).

If your garden already has established plants that are slow-growing, fret not because those don’t require a lot of watering, either. Thirsty plants include big-leafed ones, ones that need constant fertilizing, and those that grow at a rapid rate or are newly-planted.  

 

Save kitchen and fish tank water

After boiling vegetables, don’t throw away the water in your pot. Let it cool before using it to water your plants. There are added vitamins and minerals in this water that can help nourish your plants. The same goes for water from your fish tank- it’s rich in phosphorous and nitrogen that can aid plant growth.

water in a pot

Choose drought-tolerant plants

In times of drought, think small. This means the smaller the produce, the bigger its chance of surviving hot weather. Think miniature bell peppers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, and other vegetables that are tiny yet rich in nutrients, and actually flourish in heat.

someone holding cherry tomatoes

Other tried-and-tested drought-resistant produce include okra, Swiss chard, legumes like chickpea, lima beans and cow beans, mature rhubarb, chiles, cantaloupe, and herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, and lavender.

 

Collect rainwater in your garden

You can harvest water when it rains by using a plastic or metal barrel to collect roof runoff. You can place the barrel directly beneath a downspout so it collects most of the water and fills up quickly. Use a dipper to water the plants with, and keep the barrel covered to prevent insects and debris from getting into it. Doing these can significantly reduce your water bill, as opposed to relying on a garden hose for regular watering.

rain barrels collecting water

Select practical plant containers

The kind of pot or container you put your plant into can have a great effect on its growth and your gardening habits. Avoid metal containers because they will just take away the moisture from the soil in the container and create an overheated environment. Use them as decorative outer containers, instead.

 

Go for glazed pots. If you choose unglazed terra cotta ones, chances are the soil will dry faster in them because they’re porous. If you need to transplant seeds and starts outdoors, you buy coconut husk pots that decay when roots start taking hold, or biodegradable plant pots that allow you to bury them whole into the ground without replanting.

 

Group plants with similar water needs

In a drought, it’s no longer practical to plant in rows. It makes better sense to do block and grouped planting. The logic behind this is that the plants provide much-needed shade and nutrients for each other without competing for moisture and nourishment. A water-efficient garden layout can have blocks of similar-needs produce like cucumbers, squash, and zucchini – these vegetables require the same amount of watering. It may be tempting to add some cauliflower or broccoli into the mix, but as they need more room and are thirsty plants, they will create a problem with watering and nourishment.