Grey cloud cover and a light morning drizzle has taken the edge off the drying conditions in mid-summer Northland. Or so it appears. Once soil has become dry, it hardens and the soil pores which normally let water in shrink down and resist water penetration. The amount of time and water it takes to rehydrate soil depends on many factors, including soil type and depth, cultivation practises, slope, organic matter content and other considerations.
My method of delivering water to the soil is ‘home-made’, basic and a fair bit of work to manage. But it is matched to the garden soil conditions and is able to keep the gardens sufficiently watered in a drought if I start watering early enough. The usual flow of gravity fed spring water has become a trickle, so I prime my water pumps, give thanks to the little river running around the gardens, and start drawing water up the four-meter high river bank. I use an electric pump to power two portable sprinklers and also a petrol-powered pump.
Early February 2017
Donnelly's Crossing, Northland NZ, the early stages of a drought and the gardens are seemingly overflowing with organically grown vegetables - tomatoes, salad greens, cucumbers, sweetcorn, kale, courgettes, Maori potatoes, spinach and more. Inwardly I give thanks for the plentiful water supplied by the natural spring and the rocky stream that runs around the acre of gardens. I reflect with a sense of success that I have managed to grow enough organic vegetables in the volcanic silt/loam soil to provide an abundance of fresh, delicious, nutrient-rich food for my family and myself and to earn a modest, but sufficient, income selling vegetables at Northland's farmers’ markets.
But it has not been easy. Now, more than ever, I marvel at the depth of skills, knowledge and commitment required to grow food in ways that restore, rather than deplete, the natural environment.