Making Your Soil Drought-Resistant

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Making Your Soil Drought-Resistant by Lauren August 19, 2014

A severe drought plagues all of California, where homeowners are now facing fines for wasteful water usage and highway drivers are reminded to conserve water with roadside signs previously used to estimate “minutes to” the next major highway. Beyond California, the entire west is abnormally dry. Crops suffer, animals suffer, and we all must ask ourselves what steps we can take to help.

Using compost and, in particular, compost and mulch in combination is documented to improve soil’s water retention, reduce run-off and overall water use, and help return clean fresh water to our earth’s aquifers—all important steps in mitigating the effects of excessive drought.

How? Compost and the beneficial microbes it contains improve soil structure so that it can hold on to water and release it in the root zone as plants demand it. This improved soil structure also allows water to flow naturally through the depth of the soil and return to our underground aquifers, rather than just run off the surface and into other waterways (as it does in conventional agriculture systems, carrying excess chemical fertilizers with it).

Further, as water flows through the soil, the beneficial microbes help to remove toxins, so that the water that reaches the aquifer is pure and uncontaminated.

Mulch assists this process by preventing surface evaporation, protecting soil microbes from harmful UV rays, and, depending on the type of mulch used, providing a food source for some of these microbes to break down and move nutrients to the soil.

The new season is a great time to amend soil with compost and start to encourage these beneficial colonies of microbes to reproduce and flourish, particularly in the fall and winter planting seasons, where demands on the soil are generally less intense than the push of spring and summer growth.

Gardeners can further conserve water while caring for their plants by watering early in the morning and only as much as plants require and the soil can absorb.

We can all also help by making sure no water gets wasted. So, when we’re waiting for our shower to heat up, let’s catch that water in a bucket and use it to water or even brew some compost tea!

Monitor the drought here with the National Drought Mitigation Center: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

For more information about protecting our soil & waterways, visit http://www.soilsforsalmon.org/

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