WaterWise Gardens

The month of May brought some very warm weather to the Valley and already we’re seeing drought conditions and Stage 1 watering restrictions in place since May 1. Today Cowichan Valley watersheds are at Drought Level 3 – very dry. As drought conditions continue, there is a lot you can do to prepare your soil for the lack of rainfall in the coming months. The answer is organic matter – effective and efficient.

The following information from Gaia College demonstrates the benefits of adding organic matter to your soil and how a higher humus content greatly reduces your need to water.

Consider this:

  • 1″ of rain delivers about 28,000 gallons of water per acre
  • Soil with 1% humus content can only hold 10,000 gallons of water.  That’s less than 1/2″ of rain. What happens to the rest of the water? It either runs off (usually taking a bunch of topsoil with it), or it drains right out of the soil.
  • But soil with 6% humus content can hold 60,000 gallons of water, more than 2″ of rain!

That’s a huge amount of water, more than we could ever hope to hold in cisterns, rain barrels, ponds – any devices we might build ourselves.

mulched rumex

So, how do you increase humus in your soil?

Mulch your plants with leaves, straw, tree clippings, seaweed, shredded newspaper, or other finely chopped yard waste. Add several inches of this material around your plants out to the drip line to keep moisture in the soil. Turn this mulch into the soil in the fall and add fresh mulch on top. You will increase the humus in your soil with this practice, increase your soil fertility, and save precious water resources while increasing the water-holding capacity of the soil. Covering your soil with mulch greatly slows the evaporation of water from the soil and protects the microorganisms living in the soil.

To stay aprised of current water restrictions in the Region, check out the CVRD’s water use restrictions page: 


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