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Mulch and Water Conservation

We are past California’s rainy season. This year, we are suffering from drought again, with soil moisture, snow packs, and water reservoirs all at very low levels with no rain in sight. If forecasts are correct, we are entering an even longer extended period of dry weather and water use will be an issue for a year or longer. In addition, factors like population growth will further necessitate our doing more with less water.

This reality prompts the backyard gardener to panic slightly, concerned with the inevitable: how do we grow more food with less water? This article marks the beginning of a series of posts accompanied with (Youtube videos) on your options.

Background of the approach
I grew up in a village in southern Iran, originally named Dozdaub meaning “water thieves.” It was later renamed Zahedan, meaning “aesthetics.” As a community with little natural irrigation or fertile soil, we were very at home with the austere use of water.

After moving to California, those values did not disappear. As the co-founder of Urban Farmers, I live in San Francisco, CA, but use my parents’ backyard in Danville to grow food. There, a forty-year-old water well has consistently provided us with an abundance of good irrigation water.

My experience in a variety of garden settings has illustrated to me a crucial truth about natural gardening.  Although most of us have only been gardening for a human lifetime at most, nature has been at it for millions of years. By observing nature and working with it, we can find powerful and sustainable answers to our gardening questions. While some of the solutions will take years to develop, some are simple, producing immediate results

While nature itself is the best teacher, ancient cultures living in self-sufficient communities have developed many natural techniques, such as ways of storing and using water. It’s both possible and fruitful to examine these techniques and adopt them to local climates.

In the current drought conditions, I plan to remodel parts of my garden and experiment with new ways of saving water. I will chronicle these efforts, illustrating practical ways to change your garden and gardening techniques to adapt to drought conditions.

Over the next nine or ten blog posts, I will share knowledge on how to work with nature in order to store water, reduce water use, and grow a productive garden, even during drought conditions. Your comments and questions are welcomed and will add dimension to this discussion.

To quote Willa Cather, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” The metaphorical “storm” has arrived, and it may prove to be the backyard gardener’s best teacher

About The Author

Siamack Sioshansi

Siamack is the executive director and co-founder of the project. He was born in a small village in southeast Iran where he learned about food and the importance of community resiliency. He attended Purdue University and worked for IBM and Apple Computers before starting a software company. He lives in San Francisco.

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