We’ve always been conscious of our water usage and do our best to conserve water year round. In years of below normal precipitation it is imperative that we cut our usage. There’s a feeling of helplessness when thinking about the worst case scenario of our well running dry. It has happened recently up on our mountain to another family and it certainly makes us grateful for what we’ve got. This summer is expected to be especially harsh. We’re well below average in precipitation totals. California relies heavily on snow pack in the mountains, which is at 0% of normal.
We considered skipping the garden this year to conserve water, but ultimately decided against foregoing the garden as long as we took extra measures to conserve water.
Shortly after planting our vegetable starts, I brought home some straw to mulch the garden with. This was an appropriate task for a larger vehicle, ideally a truck, but I had my little hatchback with me and didn’t want to make a special trip with the jeep. Surprisingly, with the bale cut in half, she fit into the hatchback.
We chose to use straw as a mulch for a few reasons: it is inexpensive, easy to spread, organic, won’t tie up nutrients in the soil as it breaks down because it decomposes slowly, keeps weeds down, and keeps the soil moist and cool. Be sure to use straw and not hay as straw has fewer seed heads (fewer weeds). Though I cant speak from experience, I’ve been told if you mulch with a thick enough layer of hay, weeds won’t be a problem.
Boy, does a bale of straw go a long way. I filled the garden cart with the straw flakes from the back of the car and the cart is still nearly full after meeting our mulching needs and passing some along to another garden.
I laid down a layer a few inches thick around all of the veggies. I tried to leave some breathing room around the plant itself to prevent any rot or mold issues and also to not provide a perfect access route for demolition to the bugs.
We’ve had the straw down for a month or so now and I’m very pleased with how effective it is as a mulch. We’ve really tested its ability to keep the soil moist and cool during a very hot stretch of weather and it performed beautifully. Usually in the summer heat it is necessary to water every day. The soil dries so quickly in the dry, scorching sun. Initially after mulching the vegetable garden with straw we were watering every 2nd day then stretched that to every 3rd day. The vegetables are thriving and I credit the straw.