SoCal Drought Gardening

One of the problems that I have with my garden in southern California, is the poor soil, heat and the perpetual dry conditions.  The soil in my yard is very sandy.  We live about a mile from the beach and our soil shows it.  We may get some rain in the winter, but the water doesn’t soak into the soil.  When spring comes, the sandy soil dries out.  When I water my garden, the water beads up, rolls off and evaporates in the heat of the day.

I have been trying for years to improve the soil with compost, organic soil from the big orange store.  Last year I purchased two straw bales, to try straw bale gardening.  It was pretty much a flop.  Peas, tomatoes and kale sprouted quickly, but didn’t thrive.

No matter how much compost and organic soil I add to the garden I still have the same problem.  The water doesn’t soak in and my veggies die of thirst.

I saw a post on Pinterest (that I can’t find now) about using an inverted water bottle to get water down to the roots of the plants.  I tried that next to a zucchini plant.  I cut the bottom off of a 2 liter water bottle and buried it top down next to my zucchini plant.  When I water, I just fill the bottle.  The water soaks into the ground under the zucchini where it can reach the roots.  The results were awesome!

bottle garden
Here’s the bottle buried under the zucchini plant.  There’s a cucumber plant to the left that is also benefitting from this arrangement.

bottle garden 2
I don’t have a lot of bottles laying around, and the process to cut them up and prepare this root irrigation gadget is a hassle.  So I tried something else.

I raked up a bunch of dried leaves.

Then I dug a hole next to some thirsty squash plants.  It’s hard to see here, but the hole is about a foot deep and six inches across.
leaves 2

Then I packed the hole full of dried leaves.  And I really mean, packed!
LEves 3

The idea is to create a sponge-like core of organic material that will allow water to penetrate deeper into the soil and reach the roots of the plants.
leaves 4

I only squirt water into the hole filled with leaves. You can see that the squash plants here are pretty scraggly.  They were planted about the same time as the zucchini pictured above. I will keep you posted on the progress of this experiment.

I poked a stick into the soil next to the hole, to serve as a marker for watering.  Instead of uselessly spraying water all over, only to have it evaporate and increase my water bill, now the water will soak into the soil at the level of the roots where it is needed.  The water will be absorbed into the soil.  Some may be retained in the leaf “sponge”.

Eventually the leaves will decompose into compost and provide nourishment for the plants as well.

Here is another root irrigation system that I found on
Plant Partner

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About 1heartle

My passion and obsession is with books, reading, life-long learning, libraries, literacy and tutoring. A second passion is public speaking, teaching and powerful presentations. I am always experimenting with new teaching and training methods in an effort to find the most effective way to engage learners.
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