Monday, January 18, 2010

Water Retention Amendments or Shade Cloth?

Water Retention – Amendments or Shade Cloth?

Dear Jim;
I keep up with the digest and I have a question also with respect to using
shade cloth. On the island that Iit
is arid and has high winds. The soil is of volcanic origin and porous, so
water does not stay in the soil suspension for very long. It evaporates
quickly or percolates away quickly. In a case like this would shade cloth
prove to be beneficial? The sun is always out, so any advise to control
excessive heat and/or water evaporation would be appreciated.

First things first. If you use the level 18"-wide ridged soil-beds,
you will minimize the quantity of water you have to use. Water about an
inch in the 10-12"-wide planting area every day - and even twice a day if
necessary. This will be better for your plants than any shade cloth.
Plants must have sunlight to photosynthesize, and reducing that will reduce
your yield with most plants - especially fruiting plants. We use shade
cloth only in the last extremity - if all else fails.

Which direction do the winds come from? Can you build or grow a wind-break
between the prevailing winds and your garden? Close-planted shrubs or trees
can greatly reduce wind damage. But you must make certain that the
wind-break does not shade your garden! Build it far enough away that it
does not block any sunlight.

Now, since your soil is very porous, you may be able to improve the
water-holding characteristics and reduce your water usage further. do you
have access to coir - or coconut husks? Finely chopped, these are great at
retaining water, and would be a wonderful addition to your soil. Lacking
that, you should look for other clean organic material, such as coffee
hulls, rice hulls, sawdust, etc. that you can get very inexpensively, and
add large amounts to your soil-beds, working them into the soil as you can.
Be very careful if you already have plants, however, that you do not disturb
the soil and cut your plants' roots!

If you aren't already, I recommend you begin feeding your plants a balanced
natural mineral nutrient mix. They will be much better able to withstand
the harsh weather conditions if they are healthy in the first place. The
formulas are on the website, and if you have problems getting anything, I
can ship the micro-nutrients to you (see The Store, Fertilizers - at the
bottom of the page).



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