Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dry Farming ? How to grow food without water

I ran across this article about dry farming.  Although innovative it isnt truly anything new.  I remember my dad (an ex farmer from the 60's)  taught me these same principles.

The basic approach is to water well in the beginning to get the sprouts started and established, watering deep  is more important than often. You want the moisture to be under the sprouting plant.  Then as the plant grows, you cut back on watering frequency, but make sure that any watering is DEEP, meaning soaking through the top foot of soil at least. Then you wait until the top is completely dry, and the moisture level is 4 to 8 inches down (dig down to see). You want the moisture level to be normally just UNDER the root level. As the plant grows, let the moisture level go deeper before the next watering.

While not truly "dry farming" as in this article, you get the same effect. The roots grow down deeper and deeper in between each watering in search of the ever falling moisture.  Finally they get deep enough so that you dont need to water any more.  The roots are down in the area where there is enough moisture to maintain the plant.

The only thing i disagree with the article is, I find it better to water well as above, then let the ground sit untouched instead of tilling lightly to dust.  When you water and let it sit, the soil forms a hard crust on the surface that provides a good shield form evaporation.  Experience has shown that this crust is more effective at holding in water than dust.

Of course thick mulch also retains water, if available. a couple inches of mulch will almost completely block evaporation between watering.

Another innovative way to block evaporation is, <gasp> weeds! or should i say ground cover. I have found that if you let the weeds grow (depending on type of course)  they form a type of living mulch that not only keeps water in but provides for a lot of life. To keep them from overwhelming hte plants you can mow or trim the weeds between the plants, but leave a couple inches for "living mulch". Perhaps a dangerous approach but it works!

SO yes, this does work, within limits. yield is lower, while quality is higher.

Here is the original article :

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