HOW TO COPE WITH BIG DRY
If you live in Southland, or any other region that’s been as dry as a bone for far longer than usual, you’ll have been watching the skies and hoping for rain! I didn’t know how long the gardens and orchards here could survive the arid conditions we were experiencing before the weather finally turned cooler and it rained.
I hoped everything was resilient and that the time I’ve put into building a water-retentive soil with lots of humus would pay off. Watering from the mains or tanks of stored rainwater was an emergency measure, I believed – moisture captured in the soil by the organic matter contained therein should be all that’s required, but when it came to newly planted trees and shrubs, I’d taken out insurance by watering deeply whenever I could. That meant careful use of stored water for us here, and so I chose the evening to give drinks to my young plants and hoped that a night of relief from the sun would give them time to drink deeply and replenish their wilted leaves before the sun rose again in the morning. It was no good mulching during the drought – that would do would be to stop any rain that might fall from getting to the roots where it was needed. Mulch should always be applied to well-wetted soil.
Some of my larger-leaved plants, the gunnera (pictured) or Chilean rhubarb, for example, seemed to benefit from having any desiccated leaves removed, leaving the stillgreen ones to keep the plant going, but I’m not sure if that’s the case.
Of course it all became moot when the several days’ worth of rain arrived and revived the garden and filled the tanks but it was a lesson worth having and sharing, because as sure as eggs, we’ll have another drought and that might be next year and for a longer time, who knows?