Hard Won Watering Wisdom

| 5/26/2016 8:57:00 AM

Of Mice and Mountain MenI've been dabbling around with my little mountain-side garden for, oh … five or six years now, and I've learned a few things along the way. It seems like I've learned more about what doesn't work than what does, but that's probably because failure is more evident than success. Unless it's spectacular success. Average success tends to go unnoticed.

One of the first lines of wisdom I gathered was about watering. This wisdom breaks down into three categories: what kind of water, how much water, and when to water.

What Kind of Water

I learned early in that rainwater is magical stuff. I can water and water with the hose and our well water and get only a marginal response from our plant life. But one decent rain and everything greens up and bursts into bloom. What gives with that? We don't even have all that chlorine, fluoride, and who knows what else in our water. There is no mineral taste to it. It's great water!

But our well water is on the hard side. Our fixtures calcium up after a short while and things like shower heads and sink aerators have to be soaked in vinegar regularly to keep them flowing. Can that calcium be affecting the plants? Maybe temporarily messing with the pH of the soil? I don't have a definitive answer to that yet, but it is my working theory.

Harvesting and storing rain water is a good answer, as long as you don't store it too long. Even Unicorn Drool – I mean rain water – will go septic if stored too long. Building a solar still using a sheet of clear plastic is pretty straight forward, uses no fuel or electricity and works mostly unattended while turning out some distilled water for use on plants. You do have to rinse out the evaporator trays every morning, so it takes water to continue making water, but its one way to remove the calcium.

How Much Water

Early on, I figured, “If some water is good, more is better” and I tended to water every day. This is bad. Okay: it's good for seedlings. Seedlings need a SMALL amount of water regularly so their teeny little roots don't dry out and cause the baby plant to wither and die. But even here, too much water at once causes the seedlings to flop over in the mud and rot.