Surviving the 2012 Drought

It is dry this summer. According to experts we are in the midst of the worst drought in the U.S. since the 1950s. Right now more than 60% of the country is experiencing drought conditions. While the hardest hit by the drought are farmers and home gardeners, all consumers will be affected.

The Effects of a Poor Corn Crop

Corn growing areas have been hit especially hard, and this is driving corn prices to an all-time high. The biggest effect this will have will be on grocery prices. Nearly ¾ of all grocery products found in stores contain corn! Perhaps the easiest way to save money is to switch to unprocessed foods. Fresh veggies and ingredients to make your own food are always cheaper than buying processed foods.

The drought will affect gas prices. According to the USDA, 40 percent of the entire U.S. corn crop is used to produce ethanol. This year refiners are required to buy a minimum of 13 billion gallons for blending into gasoline. So no matter how high corn prices rise, a large amount will go to making gasoline, which could make prices more volatile.

Gardening During a Drought

In vegetable production, an adequate supply of water during the growing season is directly related to produce quality and yields. Unlike grass and other landscape plants, vegetables can't go dormant when the water supply is inadequate. However, there are several techniques that will significantly reduce the water requirements of the home vegetable garden. Here are some tips to help you conserve water and use it more efficiently in your garden.

Amend Garden Soil

Amending your soil with organic matter will great help your garden retain water. Compost created from plant materials is very porous and will act like a sponge to help hold in moisture. Manure also works great as a soil amendment, but due to its high salt content it should only be added 4-6 months before planting. This will give it time to break down.

Irrigate Efficiently

Watering only at the base of the plants will reduce water usage by about 50%. Soaker hoses are great for watering traditional garden rows and raised beds alike. Soaker hoses only need to be run for 15-20 minutes, and a timer is a great help with this. Also, for best results use soaker hoses under a layer of mulch. Check your soil moisture by making a ball in your hand. If the soil sticks together easily, it has plenty of moisture. If it falls apart, it is time to water.


Mulch reduces evaporation by trapping moisture in the soil. This can great reduce the amount of water needed to maintain proper soil moisture levels. Use 1-3 inches of mulch depending on the particle size of the mulch. Most mulch types we sell at Bob’s are fairly fine and only require about an inch of coverage for optimal moisture retention. However, mulch like bark nuggets, require deeper layers to trap moisture.

Grass clippings make excellent mulch for the vegetable garden. Apply fresh clippings in thin layers (up to ¼ inch thick) and allow each layer to dry before adding more. The clippings quickly dry down and additional layers can be added weekly. Do not place fresh clippings in thick piles, as they will mat, decay and cause odors. Do not use clippings from lawns that have been treated with herbicides or other pesticides in the past month. A couple of sheets of newspaper may be used under the clippings to help control weeds. Do not apply newspapers more than a couple of sheets thick or a soil carbon to nitrogen imbalance may occur. Do not use glossy print materials, their inks may not be soy based like newspapers.

Targeted Watering

You can target the timing and amount of water to add. As a rule of thumb, water is most critical during the first few weeks of development, immediately after transplanting, and during flowering and fruit production. Here at Bob’s we make a science out of watering at just the right moments during the growth of our plants. That is both critical to the proper development of the plants, but also making efficient use of our water supply.

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