Some months back I opened an Organic Gardening Newsletter email and something caught my eye right away: Dry Farming.
I’d never heard of this, so I immediately clicked on — read — was interested — and did even a little more research.
Come to find out — I’ve been doing this for 35 years! I just didn’t know it had a title.
You can read slight variations of the definition for Dry Farming, but in a nut shell — it’s growing things without watering them. The plants are watered by rainfall only.
Disadvantages? (That depends on the garden or gardener.)
The article that Organic Gardening linked to was about someone dry farming tomatoes. It was either in that article or another I read that they went on to tell what they felt the disadvantages were for not watering.
- One disadvantage mentioned was that it increased the chances of blossom end rot due to fluctuations in watering.
I can’t say that I’ve never had blossom end rot — because I think everyone has at one time or the other. But for most part my tomatoes are free from that. This year — out of hundreds and hundreds of tomatoes, I may have had 6 with blossom end rot. And — we had drought the entire month of April and then again in part of June and July.
- Another disadvantage they mentioned was cracking and splitting if water fluctuations are drastic.
The only time I’ve ever found that a concern with my tomatoes is if we have tropical storm or hurricane rains. When hurricane Sandy was approaching us in October of this year, I harvested many of my large tomatoes so they wouldn’t crack. I left that many again on the vines. I did not have cracking on the ones I left — although I thought maybe I would.
- They went on to say that dry farming can reduce yield size.
Hmmmmm— interesting. I’ve been harvesting 1000s of tomatoes each year for the last 35 years. I never have watered. I think if the plants gave me any more fruit —- I don’t know how I would handle it.
- Another thing mentioned was that tomato plants may look straggly and start to wilt.
The only tomato plant that I’ve ever had look “wilty” in 35 years was the Opalka variety that I grew this year. Come to find out — that is one of it’s characteristics. My tomatoes are always my best looking plants during drought.
- They did attribute dry farming as a known way to improve flavor of tomatoes.
- And of course not watering saves lots of time and money.
Other articles I read mentioned that a lot of dry farming goes on in the Southwest where water has become scarce.
Many — if not most — of the fruit farmers started dry farming because they didn’t have water. One couple just couldn’t afford to replace the irrigation pipes that watered the apple orchard and had resolved to let it die. The weaker trees that needed to go anyway died off. The others kept going strong and much to their surprise the fruit increased tremendously in flavor. They were in business again!
Another fellow who had always watered moved the Washington state. He couldn’t get enough water from his well to supply the fruit trees. He went to the forest to learn. He then heavily mulched all his trees with wood chips. He got (gets) tremendous yields, delicious fruit, and hasn’t watered for 31 years.
Is it Gardening Suicide?
Most gardeners today think it’s gardening – suicide not to water. And I guess it would be —- if you garden conventionally or traditionally —- with bare ground and all the many disadvantages of that method. See my last post.
Interestingly enough, studies have found that most garden and farm managers over water (and over fertilize — especially when it come to nitrogen.) Nature has a delicate balance and doesn’t like too little or too much. You don’t have to know all the complexities. She’ll do all the work for you.
What Gardening Without Water Requires from the Gardener
Gardening without water requires more implicit obedience to nature’s laws, but it’s rewards are much greater. Ground must be covered. The soil must have organic matter — not only to supply nutrients — but to hold the water that the rain provides. Roots will be stronger. Crops will be tastier. And the gardener doesn’t have to work themselves to death.
Nature always wins. Make her your partner and you can’t loose.
Organic gardening is easy, efficient, effective — and it’s a lot healthier.
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