Northland gardeners battle drought

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The Northland has officially been placed into a formal drought status, as unrelenting dry conditions continue.

“We are absolutely feeling the drought,” said Haley Diem, Education Outreach Coordinator for the Duluth Community Garden Project. “I planted the gardens maybe three weeks ago and I’ve been having to water constantly, weekends, all the time in order to keep the plants alive. I’ve actually stopped planting the gardens. About half my gardens aren’t planted yet because it’s easier to water the transplants rather than traveling to all of my different gardens and watering them.”

2023 began with a lot of precipitation and snowmelt–which might have set us up to avoid a drought–but conditions changed quickly. In may, Duluth saw less than an inch of rain.

“So during a drought, it’s best to either water early in the morning,” said Diem. “Or at dusk, that’s my favorite time to water. Then the plants have time to slowly absorb that moisture overnight and it won’t be evaporated by the sun. If you water in the heat of the day, oftentimes it just evaporates before the plants can even take it up into the roots.”

Diem said using water efficiently is key. That will give your plants the best chance to thrive.

“As far as water conservation techniques during drought times, it’s really important to mulch around your plants and straw is the best mulch that you can use,” said Diem. “I would stay away from wood chips, especially fresh wood chips because in their decomposition process, actually take up nitrogen from the soil and that makes less accessible for the plants. When I plant, I leave a sort of donut of soil around the plant. But that’s especially important during drought times because as you’re watering instead of the water just running off to the rest of the garden, it concentrates that around the base of the plant and then it gives the water some time to slowly trickle down into the roots.”

Dry conditions are expected to persist in the Northland through the summer season.