Garden calculations in the dry season

the tank
Water hasn’t come through the aqueduct for more than a week and it’s down to less than half a tank of the two tanks. Can still make do for more than a week without having to go searching with wheelbarrow and water cans, but enhanced conservation measures are in effect.

Whatcha gonna do when your environment runs dry?

photos and captions by Eric Jackson

Is it all political? Actually, those do play out on the side and may come front and center. Neighborhood politics, like if the water committee is sending liquid through the aqueduct but the usual suspects are diverting it away from me and my neighbors for their agricultural uses. National politics, as in will a committee of plastic people in suits who never have to deal with any of this but pretend to be a stakeholders gets the IDAAN political patronage machine to usurp our local system and then get Nito and the thugs in the legislature to put it up for sale in a privatization auction? World politics, in which there are still oil companies attacking scientists and telling us that climate change and especially their companies’ role in it aren’t real?

Ah, well. The politics give way to agricultural triage, getting down to grunge for a hippie who never was enthusiastically a dirty hippie, making do until the pipes start to gurgle again. And also to keep the dog and cat bowls full. Also to avoid offending neighbors — especially but not only those who give no reason to offend.

Some of the families down in the hollow flee for the city during part of the dry season — but these tend to be families of union members, with enough syndicalist solidarity and often family ties with those left behind to fend off the phenomenon of absent neighbors getting their homes stripped. But were I to do that I would know specifically who some of the looters would be, and perhaps be surprised by some of the others. Caretaking is a big thing in the Interior, especially with racists in the legislature and online spreading the notion that it’s OK to steal from “the other.” But even without that cyclical degeneration of the national culture, finding a good caretaker is a difficult and often costly art.

The thing is to stay, defend as best as can, and ration so that come the rains there will be a thriving house and garden.

Will the spinach root and survive until rainy season transplant time? I press my luck. And even though it’s not peak insect season, it’s very important to change the water on a regular basis. You can still breed mosquitoes that can make you sick if you don’t.


dry season planting
What madness is this? Planting Chinese green beans and ginger in January?


A potted papaya in back, but four varieties of hot peppers on the way.

So what do you do, and not do?

Pee in a jar, not in the toilet, to save flushes and to pour onto the compost pile and various other key places around the garden. That stuff, undiluted, will burn a lot of plants. However, poured in a sort of dispersed circle about directly underneath the outer reaches of the branches, it’s one way to fertilize you trees without burning the roots. (If loads are still dumped in the toilet, use the lid and the bathroom door to limit the stench of doing water-saving multi-load flushes.)

You washed clothing? Throw neither the wash water nor the rinse water away. This goes on the garden, sparingly around the roots of specific plants. But if it’s something you are going to eat soon, do that with rinse water rather than wash water if you want to avoid a gross detergent taste.

Sweet bush peppers in the shade — will this plant give me another year?


It’s been years, but no nuts yet on the dwarf coconut tree. No need for water.


The little orange tree I transplanted from the compost last year? THAT needs water. And the brush piles on either side of it? Those need some dry season machete work, with some red clay soil and manure sprinkled on top to soak up the rains when they come. If it goes as planned, the brush piles will be the making of black dirt terraces and the sloping ditch between them will drain onto the orange. But dry season machete work on brush piles? Beware of snakes, which I try to neither kill nor provoke into biting me.


The stuff in the pot is for transplanting into an edible fence line.

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