With water restrictions in place throughout much of Colorado, many of us are wondering what we should plant in our gardens this year — or if we should even plant at all.
If there are no more April flowers, should we scratch the May flowers? Should we grow tomatoes or corn or petunias? How can we grow veggies if we can only water twice a week? Mr. MacGregor, where are you?
First things first. In many locations, drought plans exempt veggies and annuals from the twice per week watering restrictions to allow daily watering, if needed, by hand or drip irrigation. Check with your city for the rules in your area.
Then get the garden off to a good and healthy start.
• Clean out the debris such as leaves and dead plant that has collected during the winter.
• Till the garden by double digging or even consider the new trend, triple digging. You have to dig down to the third shovel depth to till. This is done in Africa with amazing results in production.
• Add compost. Tilling plus adding compost will improve soil quality and help it hold more water.
• Use mulch this season because it keeps more water in the soil and lowers evaporation. Wood mulch, straw and even newspapers and grass clippings all do the job.
Be sustainable in your plant choices and practices
Growing food is not a waste of water — it puts the most locally-grown food possible on your table. Please, just do it wisely.
Here are some tips
• Grow more edibles than ornamentals. Tomatoes have many uses on the menu and are easily consumed. Pumpkins, on the other hand, are generally more ornamental. Scale back on the pumpkin patch and focus more resources on food crops.
• Dress up your garden with edible and companion flowers. Nasturtium aren't just pretty, they taste good in a salad. Marigolds help deter pests. Using dual purpose flowers such as these in your garden gives more bang for your water buck.
• Plant in blocks, rather than in rows. Putting plants closer together creates shade that holds in moisture.
• Control weeds. They will suck up moisture your veggies need.
• Grow some veggies and summer annual flowers in containers. Potted plants generally require less water than when planted in the soil. Containers can also be watered efficiently with drip irrigation.
• Recycle water from the kitchen. After swishing a head of lettuce in a big bowl of water to clean it, pour the water on the pot of herbs outside. It's a few more steps, but the effort reminds us how precious our water is and that we need to use it wisely or even twice whenever we can.
Productive landscapes add value to our lives and are a responsible use of resources. This year, plan ahead and water wisely.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.