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Green Thumb
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Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

Read this article about an interesting new fad. What do you all think? Anyone tried it? (on purpose) :D ... t=1&f=1001

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

I have seen it. I spent a week on the Hopi Reservation at Hotevilla, Third Mesa, Arizona. They do dry land farming of corn (as well as other things), which was amazing to me. I would have never guessed corn would survive that way. But part of it is they have their own varieties of corn that they have farmed that way for generations, so it is well adapted.

I don't think it works where I am.... lots of summer rain. That means you don't get dry farming, you just get inconsistent watering, none and then lots, back and forth. That isn't good for plants. This year was rainy enough that I mostly have done wet dry farming - that is not watering anything at all, but they were surviving on all the rain.
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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

Dry land farming is practiced here in dry Utah where there is not irrigation avialable. Mostly alfalfa and grains. Most of the stuff I plant in my garden would not make it here without irrigation. Here this year in May we got 1.81 inches of rain. Since then for June, July and August we have got 0.23. Hardly enough to wet your shirt if it came all at once.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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Super Green Thumb
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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

Alfalfa is a perennial with an extensive deep root system. This year it came up and gave a first cutting, but the second didn't even hardly start to grow. Some years there will be a second short cutting. Depends on the rain.

Grains are cold hardy and are planted early in April if possible so there is two months of growing time before it gets too dry and they will finish up.

Any crops that are cold sensitive and can't be planted till in May in this area, just simply are not going to make. it.

I think you could get some onions and peas, maybe carrots or other early cold hardy crops here, but forget the warm weather stuff on a dry farm most years in this area. Some years we get rains in June, but nothing this year. For sure you are at the mercy of the elements.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

I do remember reading once that if you hold off on the watering just before harvesting something the flavors are stronger. I guess that makes sense. The sugars and flavors are less diluted from water. I've found that to be true here. My most flavorful tomatoes are the ones I pick late in the season, when the vines are petering out and my energy level to water is petering out too! I get a little disinterested (sorry) in gardening after a whole season, then I might go down and pick a tomato, and the flavor is through the roof!

I don't think dry farming would work for me either. I garden at 5000' too. My soil is very sandy. I suppose if I brought in some heavy clay and incorporated it into my garden I might have a chance with some things. If I waited til the first rains of the monsoons here, (around July 4th) some things might have time to make it.

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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

DH and I bought some dry-land farmed tomatoes a couple of weeks ago on an all-too-INfrequent visit to a farmers' market (Temescal market in Oakland, if anyone's nearby).

Oh. Dear. Lord. They were the BEST-tasting tomatoes!!! :D DH asked me what I planned to do with them. I just looked at him, puzzled, and said, "Eat them." And I did. I think he might have gotten two of them, at my suggestion that he eat them before the whole pound disappeared. :lol:

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce


Good article! Thanks for posting.
I have been intentionally keeping crops dry 2-3 weeks before harvesting, but I had not thought about keeping them dry their entire life.
As the article says, greatly reduces yields.
But I suppose you could win a fresh tomato taste contest that way.
I have found that also drying my foods after harvest greatly intensifies the flavor.
Keeping crops dry 2-3 weeks before harvest and then drying to preserve may work just as well for flavor without reducing yields much.
I also harvest in the afternoon since energy gathered by the crop during the day is mainly used for growth at night.
But then there is not a big market for dried fruit and vegetables.
Probably mainly useful for home consumption.

Not over-watering plants is also good because it helps prevent disease.
When the plants are more dense, they are more resistant.

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Re: Dry Gardening/Farming for Sweeter Produce

Very interesting. I cannot dry farm as I actually do get seasonal and unseasonal rain. But, I have cut watering drastically. I used to water daily. Now, most of the yard plants get water every 4 days and some plants get even less.

My vegetable garden, and potted plants, except the orchids do get watered every day. Switching to less frequent watering was necessitated by the Board of Water Supply steeply increasing base fees and sewer fees. Even though most of my water ends up in the garden not the sewer!

I lost a lot of plants initially but the survivors are hanging on. I had tried to change my media especially on the orchids but they are in a dry mix and well aerated pots because it is a necessity when the rain comes.

I have started mulching more and that has helped the plants survive and I did find that some plants actually did o.k. without daily watering. Yields did not go down that much that I have noticed.

The gist of what I am trying to say is that even if you are not practicing dry farming, you may still be able to save some water because plants are more resilient than you may think and can do with less.

As far as flavor goes, over watering does make some fruit mealier (papaya), dilute the flavors (hot peppers and tomato ), but underwatering does cut yields and there is more fruit and blossom drop when I wait a little too long before watering. But if you listen to the plants and water accordingly you can get great tasting bounty from the garden and save some water too.

People who have added a lot of organic matter and mulched regularly probably know this already.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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