Friday, September 9, 2011

Gardening During a Drought

A few days ago, I took advantage of the cool morning weather to weed the garden.  We haven’t watered in several weeks because the tomatoes are finished and the squash dried up.  Now that the heat has let up a little, I’m trying to decide if I should plant a fall garden.  I usually don’t plant one because the yields are uncertain.  Tomatoes may or may not get enough sun and an early cold season could stunt everything else.

Our winters are mild, so the herbs and peppers thrive and produce year round.  We have several types of chili peppers, oregano, mint, and rosemary.  The eggplant is flowering again.  Basil seedlings are popping up and if I water, I’m sure the parsley seeds will sprout too.  I’m wondering, though, is it ethical to plant a garden for my own exclusive use when I already know the drought will persist through November?  Our area of Houston is not on water restrictions, but the rest of the city is.  Should I use up water with a garden that may not yield?  The peppers and some of the herbs will survive with minimal watering, but anything else will require weekly water, at the least.

Barbara Kingsolver lists this dilemma as one of the reasons her family moved from Tucson to the Midwest.  In her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she outlines her concerns about gardening using water that her desert community has to transport long distances.  As she increased the size of her garden each year, and finally made the decision to subsist only on what she and her neighbors could grow locally, she saw the use of water for growing food impractical in a desert climate, especially given zoning laws calling for natural landscaping.

I garden for several reasons: to provide healthy organic food for my family, to teach my children about food production, to eat more local food, and to show my children how to care for the planet.  As food prices continue to increase, I hope to grow more of what we need for budgetary reasons.  While cost is not the only factor, I’m sure our water bills will increase significantly if this drought continues. 

What do you think?  Should I nurture the basil seedlings, plant cilantro and romaine lettuce seeds, and look for other seedlings at the home improvement store?  Or, should I save my gardening efforts for the spring, when the rain will hopefully return?

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