Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Resilient Gardener

Gardeners pay close attention to weather forecasts, however, even the best forecaster does not always get the long term conditions right. The gardener can consult an almanac or a ground hog but whatever they do, there is little substitute for the understanding that this growing season may not be the same as last year. It may be better or it may be worse, either way the wise gardener is prepared.
One of the best ways to be prepared for unanticipated changes is to plant a garden that is resilient. Resilience is an ecosystem, in this case, the garden’s ability to withstand sudden catastrophic events.
A prolonged drought or excessive rainfall, could, from a garden perspective be considered a catastrophic event. This is especially so, if the gardener was unprepared, and had planted a garden that relied on the weather conditions always being the same.

Planting the resilient garden requires the gardener to purchase plants that are best suited to the conditions that are the norm on the site; for example, if you have a 90 day growing season and want to grow tomatoes, pick a variety that will mature in that period. There are a number of heirloom varieties that will ripen within 65 to 70 days.

There are six words that will help you create a garden that thrives. The words are right plant, right place, and right time. Pay close attention to these six words and you are off to a good start.
Floating row covers can assist the gardener protect the garden if the year is cooler or wetter than the norm. I have three row covers in the shed in the backyard and during the first week or two and the last three weeks of the garden season I pay close attention to frost warnings. 

 Simply because the usual last frost and first frost dates occur around given times, does not mean there will not be a change, so be prepared.

This way on cool nights pull the covers over the garden before dark and if the frost comes, the plants are protected.

Long dry spells or a drought is a serious threat to the vegetable garden. Many of the vegetables we love to grow and eat, require regular watering( tomatoes, peppers cucumbers, lettuces, for example).
If your backup watering system is the city water and there is a long dry spell water restrictions may, wisely, be put in place, and you will then need to schedule your water usage. If the long spell turns into a drought, water use will be further restricted.

You can add a rainwater catchment system, rain barrels, for example, however, it has to rain for these barrels to be filled. Still having the barrels in place to catch the water when it does rain is sound planning.

Mulching the garden will increase the garden’s ability to withstand dry spells. In addition to mulch, adding organic material, compost, for example, will help feed the soil and thus the plants.

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