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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fighting Drought

For various reasons I have discovered that joining in the community garden was probably not the best idea, and one reason is the timing.   Last year when I was not involved, they had plenty of rain, in the spring and in the summer.   But this year there was one long drought period in the spring, and we're in the grip of a much longer one now, as July approaches.

But I'm not surprised.   When I was doing some serious vegetable gardening, alone on my own property, some years ago, June was usually the driest month.   So I keep hoping for better in July and later.   Meanwhile we've been forced to do a lot of watering, flying against the wisdom of some older heads, who will say that once you start watering you have to keep at it, which implies that it's better just to leave things in the hands of the heavens, and if that means letting the garden die, so be it.

But with so much invested in it, we, and I especially, are not about to let this garden die.

When two other families started the community garden last year, G., who with his wife C. owns the field in which the garden is located, parked his beat-up old pickup behind the garden permanently, with a 250-gallon plastic tank mounted on its bed.   He refills it by going to the river about 3 miles away and pumping water into the tank from there.

My contribution is to use a smaller, stainless steel tank that used to be one of my honey storage tanks.  It holds 600 pounds of honey, which, because honey weighs 12 pounds to the gallon as opposed to 8.34 pounds per gallon of water, translates to about 50 gallons of water.   (Or 71.  I'm not sure.   My figures keep coming out differently, depending on how much of a daze I'm in at the time.)   I have to use the truck to get to the garden anyway, and it's the height of ease to fill the tank from my well, which is really more of an underground spring.  It stores only the water that is in the two-inch casing, and instead taps into an underground vein of water which so far, in about 30 years, has never run dry, and the same can't be said of the conventional deep wells of up to 300 feet or more that everybody else around here uses.

But yesterday I did something that I really didn't want to do, and that was to water my three 40-foot rows of a variety of supersweet corn called "Bodacious, whose seeds are sold by Gurney's.   But the corn and the melons, along with a couple of other crops, mainly the squash, are the only reasons I got into this gardening thing again this year, and the corn, though still looking good, was starting to look just a wee bit frazzled around its edges, in this drought and the temps of about 90 F every day, though it is already more than shoulder high and so exceeds the old rhyme about it's a good sign when the corn is knee high on the 4th of July.  And so yesterday was the first time that I completely emptied my stainless steel water tank.

But I think I can continue to fight this thing out, as long as my well pump and my truck hold out, and if the drought doesn't get too ridiculous.

About eight years ago we had the only drought since we've been here that caused the creek to run dry, except for a short stretch of about 80 feet near where my 19-foot, self-drilled shallow well is located.   That was a good year around here for the drillers of deep wells, and there is still time for a repeat of that, or worse.

But I still hope, and even expect, that this will be a good year for my corn and melons.  I've found that at any rate, a dry year is better for watermelons and cantaloupes than wet ones.   You can at least control the amount of water the plants get when it doesn't rain much.   But nothing can be done when Mother Nature decides to get extra generous with her gifts from above, as she already did so profusely with the snow this past winter.


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