Planting seeds into something that feels more like dust than soil, is a common thing here in Alberta. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, we do not get much rain at any time. Spring, however, often feels especially dry. Here we share how we deal with the dry spring weather challenge in the garden.
Challenges are there to be solved, not to dwell on. We love our many sunny days, to find ways to still grow a productive garden is inviting. We use the sunshine in our indoor garden to grow food year-round. In this article let’s see how to overcome the challenges that a dry spring represents.
Between snowmelt and planting time we often have a few weeks of dry cool weather. It is too cold to plant anything that is sensitive to frost, but greens, root vegetables, and onions can already be seeded or planted respectively. These plants will not mind a bit of frost but will have a better start before it is too dry to germinate.
We cover planting times more in our article When to plant what. There are many good reasons to start planting as early as you can, the dry spring challenge is one of them.
The spinach we actually plant in the fall, so it can grow during the cooler spring days. Planting spinach during a dry spring does not give good results. Read more about growing overwintering spinach here.
Self-seeded plants also often do much better than planted seeds, we let dill, cilantro, and annual flowers go to seed.
Start seeds in trays
We start many seeds indoors because of our short growing season. See here a schedule for when and what to start indoors.
Besides starting seeds indoors that have a longer growing season, you can also start most seeds in trays to transplant into the garden. Especially if you have no way to water the garden regularly, transplants might be a real help.
With the exception of long root crops like carrots and parsnips, about everything can be started in trays.
For this purpose, we are really just looking to sprout the seeds and start growing. Seeds can also be pre-sprouted, but that’s optional.
At transplanting, you will need to water the transplants in, not as much as trying to sprout seeds in dry soil.
Water the garden
To be able to water the garden, you need to have water available.
Also in the greenhouse, we have a water tank filled with water at all times. Water is precious in dry climates. To have systems in place to preserve it is important.
We try not to water the garden much during the whole growing season. We prefer to use mulch instead. However, in spring to get seeds germinated and plants established we do water the garden. With a water pump and a hose that reaches the farthest corner of our garden watering is not a huge task. Read more about watering the vegetable garden here.
However, we have to be conscious of how much water we use. Even though we can store over 4000 litter of rain water, some springs we do run out of it.
Provide shade for the plants
Bright sunshine all throughout a spring day is often too much for young seedlings. Use a shade cloth or frost blanket to give the plants the needed protection from the sun.
These blankets can also be left on not just for shading during the day, but also to give the plant some warmth during cool spring nights, it’s a win-win.
Mulch the soil
Mulch really helps to conserve moisture in the soil. Natural materials like compost, straw, wood chips, grass clippings, etc. can be used to mulch the soil.
Mulch can not hold moisture that is not there, but it can keep the soil moist for longer.
A no-till garden is mulched at all times, read more about to till or not to till the garden. It also holds moisture better than a tilled garden.
If your garden is not mulched, young plants can be mulched soon after planting.
Don’t grow plants that can’t handle dryness
In our garden, we have stopped growing broccoli. We grow some very early in the greenhouse but then when spring planting comes, broccoli is not on our list. These plants just go to seeds instead of forming a head for us. If you still want to grow them, you can, just water a lot.
We also seldom grow radish, again, you can but watering is a must. Otherwise, they will be small and taste bitter.
To grow kale we use the hydroponic Tower Garden. Hydroponic or aeroponics uses much less water than soil, it is a great solution for dry climate.
These are our tips to overcome the dry spring challenge in the garden. You might have some that we are missing. Please share in a comment below.