ever planted a garden or attempted to grow a crop, you know how challenging it
can be to keep plants productive when dry weather arrives. When the rain gives
way to seemingly endless weeks of sun and heat, their growth rate slows
dramatically and, despite your efforts to keep them moist, the plants can suffer
severely from lack of moisture.
you can use several techniques to protect your soil and plants during a
drought. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.
1. Mulch Your Soil
around your plants can help a great deal in retaining soil moisture. During a
drought, dry air can sap your soil of moisture through evaporation, but mulch
can act as a barrier. In fact, mulching can reduce moisture loss through
evaporation by as much as 50 to 75 percent, making it an extremely valuable tool.
If your soil
gets too hot, taking in water can become a challenge for plant roots, causing
even more moisture loss. Mulching helps minimize this issue by protecting your
soil from the sun, thus lowering the temperature.
2. Encourage Earthworms
Even if your
garden isn’t currently suffering from drought, earthworms are highly
beneficial. The tunnels they create in the soil help aerate it and allow
rainwater to penetrate deeper into the ground. In addition, earthworms enrich
the nutrient levels in your soil by adding phosphorus and potassium. Encouraging
earthworms now helps prepare your soil in the event of a drought.
way to invite earthworms into your garden is to provide food for them. Organic
material, such as mulch, compost or even the remains of last year’s plants, can encourage earthworm
3. Stop Tilling
that back-breaking activity you undertake every spring, turning over the soil
in your garden to eliminate weeds and prepare the ground for a fresh new crop
of plants? Well, as beneficial as tilling seems to be, it’s actually one of the
worst things you can do for your soil in times of drought.
tilling your soil may appear to make your soil loose and fluffy (and it does,
to some degree), it also degrades your soil in ways that make water absorption
more difficult. It
breaks up the soil tunnels created by earthworms, eliminating these
water-carrying channels from your soil, and it also causes a coating of tiny
particles to develop over your soil, which can inhibit water from easily penetrating
the ground and eventually lead to run-off.
soil may be easy to work with, the loosening of the soil can actually lead to increased
moisture evaporation, so weather the dry spells by giving up your annual
4. Plant Cover
cover crops—plants that "cover” your soil at times when regular crops or plants
aren’t growing—can be a great way to protect soil during drought. Cover crops
offer some of the same benefits as mulch, including lowered soil temperatures
and reduced evaporation, while also minimizing soil erosion and increasing
nutrients in the soil to be used by other plants.
choose from many cover crops, including annual ryegrass, red clover and
buckwheat. When the time comes to plant your spring crops, mow down your cover
crops with a lightweight mower or weed-eater (heavy machinery isn’t good for
soil either!) and use the remains of the cover crops as mulch.
droughts may still be a challenge, the above methods for nourishing your soil
during droughts should greatly aid in your quest to produce healthy plants and
crops, so the next time dry weather hits, you’ll be ready!
Improve your soil even more with this help from HobbyFarms.com:
the Author: Samantha Johnson is the author of
several books, including The Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Gardening, (Voyageur Press, 2013). She lives on a former dairy farm in northern
Wisconsin with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Peaches and writes frequently about
pets, gardening, and farm life. Visit her online portfolio.