Save on water while still growing food

This gardening season, with climate change causing higher temperatures and desperate droughts in multiple regions, many of us will experience weeks or even months in which sparse rainfall won’t keep pace with the sun’s hot rays. To keep your crops’ thirst quenched, try some options outlined in this roundup of water-wise gardening strategies, from familiar garden watering systems — such as soaker and drip hoses — to a lesser-known system called “partial root-zone drying.”

Weeding and mulching boost water efficiency –  A water-wise garden is no place for weeds. According to research from Michigan State University, a combo of good weed control and adequate mulch can conserve up to 1 inch of water per week during toasty summer months. Left uncontrolled, however, some weeds, such as crab grass and lamb’s-quarters, will slurp up more than 80 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of plant tissue.

Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems – Drip irrigation systems distribute water at regular intervals through a network of hoses or tapes with slits, pores, emitters or drippers. They work well for rows of crops spaced at varying intervals (you can set the emitters at wider spacing if you’re watering a crop planted farther apart), and perform best on relatively level ground, because pressure changes caused by sloping ground would result in uneven watering. If you have a large garden, look for systems that use inexpensive drip tape (brands include Aqua-Traxx, Chapin and T-Tape). The tiny holes in some emitters and drippers can become clogged with soil particles rather easily, so at least one filter needs to be screwed into the water line between the faucet (or reservoir) and the distribution lines of most drip irrigation systems.

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