The Dog Days of Drought

| 8/24/2011 11:12:58 AM


I am worn down. Nature has just about broken me. This drought has gotten into my brain and is corrupting the files. We have had a brutally dry summer and I’m getting really sick of doing Mother Nature’s work for her.

Now I know I have no reason to complain. I grow vegetables on a very small scale compared to most commercial farmers. And the fact that I actually have the luxury of being able to water and irrigate means I really should just shut up and stop complaining. Farmers in the southern U.S. - now they have a right to complain. The images I’ve been seeing on the news of withering corn and cotton and wheat plants are really depressing. I can’t imagine being one of those farmers who has invested that much time and money into a crop and then have to watch it dry up and die.

But I do think I have some basis for empathy, and this summer has greatly enhanced that ability. I grow in a very drought-prone area, so I’m used to this, and I expect it. The last two summers, though, have been particularly wet with more rain than we would have liked. On a good note, all my heat-loving plants like peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and tomatoes are doing great. The downside is that I have been watering all summer and it’s become a real grind.

I keep thinking about all the people who toured my garden early in the season, which was very wet, and raved about my soil. “Oh your soil is great!” “You’ve down such a great job on your soil!” Well I have put a lot into nurturing it for the last decade or so, but moisture disguises the reality of my soil. My soil is sand. When it’s moist it looks wonderful. When it gets dry as it is now, it looks like, well, a beach. A beach with a lot of organic material in it, but sand none-the-less.

So watering becomes a process of trying to return a specific area around a vegetable plant to something that will retain some moisture. If I’m using a watering can this means 6 or 7 sprinklings of water. The water from the first sprinkling generally runs off, and then each subsequent one soaks in a little bit more. If I don’t keep putting the water to it, it’s just not worth doing.

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