Tag Archives: fruit

Gardening In Heavy Rainfall AND Drought

What happened to the soil in your garden during the last heavy rain? Did mini gullies form? Did you notice topsoil thinned out? Were any of your garden beds washed out, or sprinkled with silt from a higher hill? Where did the water go from your land? Did it wash away to flood local roads or join larger rivers?

And now in the summer months, are you experiencing a drought?

If only all that water had remained in the soil, ready to be used in drier times! So often drought-challenged areas experience hard rain falls that wash away the moisture-saving topsoils that gardeners so depend on. A double-whammy!

Protect Your Soil

It’s impossible to make it rain more, but an attentive gardener can prevent a drought from causing too much damage. One of the biggest challenges is to keep excess water from flowing away when it does rain. Levelling the ground can help, as can building the soil to absorb and retain more water. Sometimes, reserving sections of the garden for grass or trees helps with this – they stabilize the soil. Other times, choosing varieties of vegetables that are more drought resistant may be necessary.

We find that better irrigating is consistently under-championed as a tried and true method to resist drought hazards. As well as levelling a garden bed, it helps to build water-spreading structures, contour furrows, or pits and mounds.

The Magic of Organic

New soils tend to contain much more organic matter. They are much more drought resistant than well-cultivated soils, because they absorb water so much faster and hold it for longer periods. When organic matter gets used up and washed away over time, a number of things happen: if it is a “tighter” soil, it loses its granular structure and starts together, making it harder to absorb water. If it is a sandy soil, it may become so loose that water runs right through it.

Increasing the amount of organic matter in any soil helps conserve against drought. Leaving behind stalks, straw, and stubble from harvest to till them back into the soil is helpful. Farmers often actively plow the residual parts of harvest back into their soil. (This is also why it’s good to leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow.) Layering compost, seaweed, dry leaves, and cut grass in beds through the winter helps.

Every soil is different, and may require some experimenting to find what works best to capture and maintain moisture in dry periods. It is a sure bet that with the right attention to water conservation, irrigation, and garden maintenance, your crops will grow as big as ever, even in times of drought.

Wear Your Salad Around Your Neck

At the National Children and Youth Garden Symposium this week, avid gardeners gathered to show children just how easy it is to grow your own food.

Dr. Marturano started her lecture by giving out necklaces to grow sprouts in overnight. This is her way of showing how fun and easy gardening at home can be. She says

“We’ve made children aware of how healthy eating is important for them but we haven’t really reached the point of changing their behavior,” she said, “but if they grow it themselves, they want to eat it themselves.”

Rick Sherman, a school garden coordinator for the Oregon department of education, was involved in the symposium because he sees the importance of setting up the next generation for success in nutrition and access to vegetables. “It’s our duty as adults to share with kids where food comes from,” he says.

We couldn’t agree more!

Seed Swapping is Great

Inspired by a party conversation, I recently read Seedswap: The Gardener’s Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds by Josie Jeffery. Seed swapping is the sharing of seeds with friends, neighbours, and relatives, and exchanging knowledge and ideas. Not only is it super fun sounding, but exchanging seeds is a gesture of community goodwill, and can help in times of economic squeezes. It maintains food security and protects biodiversity, rare species, and seed genetics. At the same time, this fascinating activity helps to make sure that species of a plant is preserved and passed on. This sounds like a whole lot of wins!

“Seeds are, in a sense, suitcases in which people can transport their cultures with them… Many families have brought their favourite seeds on tremendous journeys.” -Mike Szuberla, Organizer of a seed swap in Toledo, Ohio

In the forward, Jeffrey says that seed saving and sowing are a crucial part of a much wider sustainability and self-reliance agenda, where “small is beautiful” and where we must think globally and act locally. Ever since humankind evolved from being hunter-gatherers to farmers, communities have had a vested interest in making sure the quality and security of food supplies. This included the saving, storing, and sowing of the most reliable and productive varieties of crops.

Seed saving and swapping can be a big community event, too, says Alan Phillips, the Chairperson of Seedy Sunday in Brighton, England. “The Seedy Sunday event in Brighton started just over a decade ago on the first Sunday in February. Now thousands of people come out of their winter hibernation for this community event, to swap seeds, meet old friends, buy seed potatoes, obtain heritage varieties, have coffee and cake, and listen to talks.”

Having experienced central Africa in the middle of a great drought, Josie Jeffrey says, and seen at first hand the reliance of people, livestock, and wildlife on wild plants, she is “absolutely convinced that conserving seeds is vital for our future. The act of conserving seeds has the potential to create local food security, and when conditions are right for sowing, seeds can be shared and can help enable communities to survive drought.”

Anticipation and pleasure encapsulate the essence of seed swapping for me. Sowing new acquisitions obtained from fellow enthusiasts who had a glint in their eye of the beauty or the food that they were sharing. Hopefully, the next generation of pleasure-seeking seed swappers is well on its way.

The Internet has masses of information on seed-swapping events. Ask around your area, because it is more probable that you’ll find plants that will grow well in the conditions provided by your local climate.


How to start a “Round Robin” Seed Swap:

  1. Collect names of the willing participants and provide the final list of names to everyone involved.
  2. Send a package filled with your surplus seeds to the next person on the list. If you collect your own seeds you can make beautiful seed packets with this fun tutorial.
  3. The next person will then take on packet of seeds from the package and replace it will some more seeds.
  4. The package is sent to the next person on the list, who removes and replies as above.
  5. The chain carries on until the last person on the list mails the package (which should now contain a completely different combination of seeds) back to the original organizer.

If you want to learn more about Seed Circles, Seed Libraries, and other activities and events, I recommend Seedswap – it was a lovely read, with many facts and pictures!