Climate Tip | Water Conservation for Gardeners

June 9, 2023

By Jessie McSwane


This year, across the region, we’re experiencing a very dry spring, overall. This may have proved tough for some garden seedlings trying to become established. The map above shows low soil moisture for most of our area – mostly around 15%. To further understand our current conditions, see the chart below, which shows average moisture levels this year compared to the 5 and 10-year averages. You’ll note that, except for heavy(ish) rain around the 20th of May, we have had comparatively dry soil conditions. Both of these figures were retrieved from


Imagine our soil moisture and precipitation relationship like a budget. In our area, we need a certain amount of moisture to meet our demands – that’s the planned annual budget. In an average year, most of our income comes in the spring, winter, and fall while most of our spending (irrigation, household uses, evaporation, transpiration) happens in the summer and at which time, we run a deficit. We rely on the precipitation in the fall, winter, and spring to ensure we have enough to spend in the high-demand months. If we have a major reduction in income now, we might find ourselves in a bit of trouble later. Thankfully, it’s been on the cooler side, so moisture is not being lost as quickly as in the heat of July and August.

So now we, as gardeners, growers, and conservationists, are faced with a tough predicament. How can we both conserve water and keep our plants healthy and happy? Keep in mind that our soils are on the lighter side and do not retain moisture very well. This doesn’t make them bad soils, in fact, many of our soil types on the East End are considered to be prime agricultural soils. Well-draining soils like ours can prevent root-rot and allow plant roots to spread with little obstruction! It’s just more of a challenge in a drought. How can we make minor changes to our routine and lighten the demand on our resources?

We can…

  • Add resources: retain moisture by adding mulch or compost to your gardens! Not so much that you encourage the establishment of fungal diseases, but just the right amount…think Goldilocks…
  • Change habits: if at all possible, avoid watering your plants during the hottest part of the day. Instead, try to water in the morning or evening. This reduces the amount of water lost by evaporation and allows the soil to absorb the much-needed water.
  • New techniques: drip irrigation is probably the easiest way to conserve water and is a good practice even when we aren’t in the middle of a drought. If you use overhead sprinklers, much of the water will evaporate before your plants reap the benefits. It will also leave a lot of moisture on the leaves of your plant, which could lead to disease. Drip irrigation brings water right to the roots, conserving water and protecting plants from unnecessary disease pressure.
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