From the dirt to our plate; the trials and realities of first-time farm ownership

2017 Garden Update: The Drought

In various areas across the country farmers and ranchers are feeling the effects of drought.  For this Garden Betty and most of North Dakota the lack of rain has been painfully obvious.  In plots and fields from one side of the state to the other, crops are stunted and showing signs of drying up.  Here, spring never really hit…we went straight into summer.  Crazy hot summer.  

Last year’s garden was as close to perfect as one could expect.  With plentyful rainfall, I had watered less than a handful of times.  Garden pests were at a minimum and the soil was fertile in the newly opened ground.  This time last year we were already harvesting zucchini, cherries, apricots, green beans and raspberries.  Spaghetti squash were the size of footballs, dill was easily over knee high and beets ready to be pulled.  

This year, my garden is lagging behind.  The green beans and zucchini should be ready shortly, as will a few early cabbages.  Broccoli, spinach and lettuce performed well but the latter is showing aphid activity.  They need to drink too I guess.  

The overall consensus is that everything is delayed by drought.  My best guess?  We are 2-3 weeks behind last year – even with regular watering.  I’m almost to the point of considering mulch or straw to help retain soil moisture.


All of my early fruit, including cherries, apricots and raspberries are still green.  The melon vines are quickly outpacing my cucumbers at this stage with flowers only recently starting to form.  All of my peppers want to flower but have had a long hard climb back from the brutal spring winds.  The Jalapeños and Okra are my two exceptions at the moment…they love this heat!

This type of weather makes water access crucial, especially for new plants.  Planted late spring, our mini-orchard could easily suffer if roots are not kept moist.  Apples, plums and grapes are protected from deer and free ranging birds.  Without water, there will be no need for such protection if they fail to thrive.  Thankfully, our well is keeping up nicely with spigots located near each of our planting spaces.


I have been opting for longer watering times once or twice per week to soak large areas well.  Hand watering with a hose has helped provide supplemental water where needed.  On mornings when expected temperatures are in the 90’s I hose water into troughs hoed down each garden row.  In this way, I provide water while encouraging the roots to go deeper.

Speaking of 90-degree weather, the plants aren’t the only ones suffering.  My birds have been panting to beat the band.  Fresh, cool water is also a necessity to keep them hydrated.  An old ice cream bucket allows a quick refill of water up near the house next to the shade bushes.  With the addition of ice, they stay close to drink their fill.  Last year’s frozen zucchini also offers a cool treat to beat the heat.


As the green grass fades quickly to brown I find myself praying for rain.  I have a lot of canning and stocking pantry shelves planned for this year.  Many of my basics have been running low.  With the drought threatening much of what gets bought in the grocery store…canning, freezing and dehydrating our own goods might become a necessity, not just a hobby.

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