The Q&A Archives: Maximize Watering

Question: I am making a garden for my mother and I was wondering if there is a chemical that makes a garden maximize its water usage. I know the obvious like not to water in the heat, and to have the soil broken up, etc.

Answer: Since you're just starting the garden, you can employ all the tricks of the trade to help conserve water in the garden. To begin with, you can incorporate lots of organic matter into the soil to help retain moisture. Spread 4-6 inches of compost, leaf mold, or aged-manure over the top of the soil and dig it in to a depth of 6-8 inches. After planting, mulch around the plants with more organic matter, to keep the soil moisture from evaporating too quickly. Organic matter will need to be renewed each year, but as it breaks down minerals will leach into the soil and help feed the plant's roots. You can also put a 'leaky pipe' or drip irrigation system into the garden prior to planting and mulching. Applying water to the soil surface, but under the mulch material, will keep the water from evaporating too soon, and will help keep the plant's leaves dry, which will help prevent diseases. There are co-polymers on the market that swell to several times their size when they get wet and then slowly release their moisture, but these are more suitable for container grown plants than for those grown in the soil.

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