By Pamela Doan
We’re not in an official drought, but it’s been awfully dry for a few months again, as has been the trend for this time of year for many years. It is official that I’m sick of watering. Although I fantasize about living in a climate where four seasons of gardening is possible, my rhythm is geared to wind down at this time of year. My rain barrel is running dry, too, which is a sign that I need to add another one.
Everything about water is changing. It’s melting. It’s drying up. It’s pouring down from the clouds in extreme, record-breaking levels. It’s more polluted. It’s being overrun with invasive aquatic plants and creatures. It’s freezing when it shouldn’t, coming down as snow when it’s off season and generally producing dramatic and scary moments.
Even gardeners who recognize and accept this reality surprise me by not taking measures to conserve resources. A journalist who has been covering the story of climate change for decades pointed out in a conversation that many people think we’ll be able to do something when it gets really bad. I expect gardeners, my people, to have a deeper connection to the landscape and to nature.
Back to soil and water. It’s fall and an excellent time to harvest the leaves for reuse. In my three-bin compost pile, I’m setting aside one pile now to do its magic for spring and starting on a bin for the winter. Topping it off with shredded leaves makes just the right mix for a spring feeding. Most of this will go into the raised beds of the garden. I always need more compost than I make.
While I’m not a perfect composter, with a hot pile and the right ratio of carbon- and nitrogen-producing materials, I’m at least taking my veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and eggshells out of the waste stream. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, organic material (i.e., food scraps) is the largest proportion of municipal waste.
Watering plants is a constant in my yard. Even though I landscape with mostly native perennials, my projects are always evolving (to put it nicely), and there’s always a new plant that needs water to get established in its first season. That’s where the rain barrel comes in. I reuse cooking and rinsing water, too, with a watering can outside the kitchen door.
My next step is a gray-water collection system, but I’m not there yet. After interviewing a residential well-digger a few years back, I’m always conscious that weather factors beyond my control can create an expensive problem. Ever had a well problem? Turned on the faucet and nothing came out? It’s only happened once at our house and was easily solved. But it made me realize how much I take for granted that it’s all just going to keep working.