How to make your water stretch further in the garden…

Well with the intense heat creating droughts in New Zealand, and restrictions on water consumption high on the news agenda, I thought that I would talk more about this topic this week and how we can help ourselves.

As many of you know I am currently overseas and have been for the past three and a half weeks. Before I left home, I made quite a few raised gardens, because the soil on Waiheke Island is mainly clay.

The gardens I have made have been done in a layered system, the way you would make compost, and each one has been made using different materials as a test to see which conditions best support which plants. I have one 1000ltr tank of water for the garden and the experiments are happening while I am away. My daughter is at home and under strict instructions to only water the food gardens three times a week with a watering can and to apply it to the base of the individual plants only. Little did I know that she would decide to be away for two of these weeks, so the first experiment went out of the window.

I have 12 different beds growing various vegetables, flowers, berries and a few natives. Now remembering that these plants had no water for two weeks in the intense sunshine, I am pleasantly surprised by the results. After a skype call last night and a tour of the garden the results are as follows…

The worst affected bed from lack of water is the strawberries, which looked very thirsty and had only tiny berries on them. However, surprisingly the lettuces planted in the same bed were healthy and plump. This bed had a seagrass mulch on it and got sun from 10am until 5pm; the hottest part of the day.

The flower beds are happy and producing well, with a range of flowers from cornflowers, sweet peas, calendula, phacelia, snap dragons and beneficial bee blend. These flowers were planted in the least amount of compost and some without any mulch, but were more established than the vegetables.

The kale which was planted in winter is still going strong with no white fly and the sunflowers in the same bed are coming to a head, so will flower soon. These are planted in 20 cm of composting material with no mulch but have a layer of Bokashi underneath.

The tomatoes in pots suffered, but are still bearing fruit with minimal disease and the carrots which were planted in a poly box were a little wilted, but still plumping up.

The two raised beds that I lovingly made with 90litres of Bokashi in each are pumping away with the bean and beetroot bed absolutely going off and producing an amazing amount of dwarf and snake beans. The tomato, basil and chilli bed are doing well also.

As for the other beds – frankly, I didn’t dare ask.

This goes to show (as I already well know) that Bokashi is a wonder composting system. It helps hold moisture in the garden beds a lot longer than any other compost I have used. Why not use your food scraps to grow the best food!!!

I have had to have total detachment from the food gardens while being away, as I have no control over the environment or my daughter (!) during my absence.

I will be refreshing all my beds with Bokashi each growing season and, as I make more beds, I will use this process as well. My gardens were sprayed with EM (effective microorganisms) each week before I left and I believe this also helped to keep up their resistance and health.

Upon my return, I will be looking into setting up grey water systems to water the garden going forward. The above mentioned gardens were all newly established for this summer and no previous gardens were here before.

I think the morale to this story is that a lot of the plants we grow don’t need as much water as we think and that Bokashi is a lifesaver.

I’d love to hear your stories over summer and learn what’s working well in your garden to help stretch your water further – please get in touch!

Happy growing everyone!


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