Sunday, October 3, 2010
Gardening in a drying climate
Western Australia has had the driest winter in decades, and this is not unusual, but part of a consistent drying trend that has been going on for the last 40 odd years. In global climate terms, WA is the canary in the mine -we are the first to show symptoms of what is a consistent change to the weather patterns.
As a result our state government has told us in the metropolitan area of Perth that we can use irrigation for our gardens for only one day per week. Now, we are used to irrigating two days per week -and irrigation is necessary in a mediterranean climate with a long summer drought. But from 1 October all the way to the end of November we can only water once per week, and who knows if this will change in summer. We have long, hot dry summers, so most gardeners are worried. Very worried.
On the political level I feel this is a bit of a cop-out. Our state government has not done very much to create incentives for industry to become more water efficient, and has reduced incentives for private households to put in the kind of water recycling and water retention systems that will make us work harder at not wasting a drop of water.
In our garden we have already installed some shade sails and 50% shadecloth over our vegetable beds, which are built on the wicking system which reduces evaporation rates. (Search the Aussies Living Simply site for more ideas on wicking beds).
I have ordered a bale of lupin mulch -we will need to mulch heavily to reduce water loss this summer.
The good thing is that we already have drip line irrigation which delivers every drop of water to the plants not into the air where it evaporates. Most of the front garden is hardy Mediterranean type plants like lavender, rosemary and pelargoniums which will survive pretty well.
We also have NO LAWN. Nope, not a bit. Lawn is very water hungry. This will help.
I imagine that before the end of summer we will be taking quite extreme measures to keep our fruit trees alive. We may need to build shade structures like the ones in the picture above to help them cope.
In the long terms we will need to install a grey water system to re-use our water to help the trees out. I haven't done this yet, but it will become a priority soon I think.
I wonder if anyone has any suggestions for gardening this summer or in a drying climate? What would you do?