Summer Gardening Tips for a Sustainable, Water-Conserving Garden
There is no denying that summers in Canada are becoming increasingly hot and dry. Wildfires, heat waves, droughts… This is scary news especially when most of us are trying our best to garden ecologically and sustainably!
With hotter weather and water shortages, it is becoming increasingly important to garden in a way that conserves water, for the health of plants and soils, and the health of our planet.
Whether you garden in the ground, in containers, or even in pots, here are some ways you can take care of your garden while conserving water this summer.
Feed the Soil
Nutrient-rich soils retain water better, and produce healthier plants!
Here are some tips for keeping your soils well-fed:
- Decomposition is your friend: make sure you leave roots and dead leaves to decompose in the soil! These create layers of moisture-absorbing materials, and the nutrients produced through decomposition will be absorbed by your plants and soil-dwelling microbes.
- Add compost to your soil, mixing it directly with soil, or adding a generous layer to the top of your soil, especially around the base of your plants. Work the compost into the layers of soil underneath using a garden fork to gently combine the compost and soil.
- If you mow your lawn, leave the clippings on the grass to create a layer of mulch, and allow this layer to decompose, further feeding the soil with organic matter. This layer of mulch will also protect your grass from moisture-wicking evaporation (another bonus point towards water conservation!)
Mulch, Mulch and Mulch Some More!
Mulch has so many benefits to your garden and soil. A well-mulched garden needs less water, has less weeds, and healthier soil!
Thick layers of mulch will help to drop the overall temperature of your soil, protecting the beneficial microbes that live in the top two inches of soil. It will also limit evaporation, safeguarding moisture in the ground. And finally, a well-mulched garden is a powerhouse against weeds, which also leech nutrients and moisture from your plants!
Here are some tips for good mulching:
- Choose a lighter coloured mulch, as dark ones may be dyed and might also trap more heat
- Avoid rock mulch, as they absorb heat & require landscape fabric which is bad for your soils. Also, limestone rock mulch leeches calcium carbonate into your soil over time, making it more alkaline.
- Add 3 inches of mulch, especially to your vegetable garden, as vegetables are not bred to compete with weeds. This will adequately protect your plants from any competing weeds, and will help lock in all the moisture you need for a thriving garden!
As for you gardeners, make sure you stay hydrated as well! Wear a sunhat, and sunscreen, and take lots of shade breaks if you plan to spend plenty of time in the garden this summer (as you should!).
Gaia College course material
Gaia College instructor: Jennifer Burns-Robinson