Preparing for A Year of Low Rain

Reader Contribution by Megan Wild
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Droughts are a worsening concern for large areas of the United States and many other places around the world. Both California and huge swaths of Australia suffered record-breaking droughts last year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this year is going to be much better.

It may be difficult to make certain plans months ahead as far as weather is concerned, but it’s still best to know what to do. In this case, if you live in an area where you’re at a high risk for drought, then it’s best to start planning now.


Regulate Water Supply

If you use a well, you should start to be aware of how much water you use on a daily basis. This is especially true during the winter, when you aren’t watering plants outside.

Keep track of how much water you use; then you can start to make small changes to conserve it. Take shorter showers, check for and fix any leaks, and harvest all the rainwater you can. You can store it in barrels, and if you’re using it on the plants and not for consumption, you don’t have to worry about treating it.

Harvesting and storing rainwater is actually a pretty simple but useful task. If you set it up, all you have to do is move the barrels when it rains and replace them with new ones. Then the full barrels simply wait until they’re needed, and you have a backup supply of water! To do this, simply get an appropriate barrel. You can buy them specifically for this, or you can make your own. Either way, make sure it’s clean, has a lid and a spigot, and is opaque. Not allowing light in helps reduce the risk of algae growth and keeps your water cleaner. Then, simply adjust your gutters to flow into the barrel, and remove it when it’s full.

If you want to be extra cautious, add a mosquito-egg repellant to the water, but be aware that this makes it very unsafe for human consumption!

Have a Backup Plan

When you know that you’re likely to face a hardship, despite all the planning you can do, it’s still best to have a backup plan. There are things that happen that you simply don’t have any control over. If your life and livelihood depend on getting enough water to your homestead, you don’t want to be stuck without a backup.

If you need to, have a plan to get water delivered. A water truck delivery is a cost-effective, durable, and reliable way to transport water, and a great way to get it to your homestead.


Prepare Decent Soil

Hopefully, if you’re homesteading, your soil is already in good shape. However, you may need to make some alterations in order to prepare it for a lack of rainfall. You can do this in part by changing how you plant. Using techniques like companion planting and cover crops can help expand your soil’s ability to retain water.

Companion planting is where you plant items together that do well in close proximity. This can be for a variety of reasons — either they need different nutrients from the soil, their roots hit different depths, or they might repel bugs that are attracted to others nearby. Typically, you can plant in a way that combines these effects and allows the plants to grow to their fullest potential without any additional work from you.

Combine this with cover plants, which are usually a low-growing, shallow root plant, and you can also suppress weeds and add nutrients to the soil. Less competition from weeds helps to make sure your plants get enough water, and when the ground cover dies off, it acts as a natural fertilizer.

Preparing your soil this way can improve its ability to retain water, making the most use of the rainfall and your watering practices.

Improve Irrigation Practices

If you’re used to spraying water on your crops, you can quickly and easily improve your efficiency by changing to drip or micro irrigation. Drip irrigation does involve a bit of a purchase. You need a drip hose, which you then run through the plants. It delivers water straight to the soil as opposed to having it run off the leaves or evaporate under the sun.

It can be done with low-pressure water systems, too, so even if your well gets low, you can still get your plants watered. The most important aspect is that it delivers water directly to the roots of the plant. Low-flow irrigation is incredibly effective and allows you to save a ton of water. You can combine it with companion planting and cover crops and double the water conservation!

While global warming is an increasing concern, you can do a lot to prepare yourself for the effects. Learning how to make the most of your water is a vital skill for anyone, and it’s getting more and more effective.

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