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Handling Unstable Weather
|Unstable weather occurs between seasons, but it is also anticipated to increase as the climate adjusts to high carbon dioxide and methane concentrations, deforestation, and other large-scale changes in the atmosphere and landscape.|
Rainfall patterns may alternate between dry spells and torrential rains. In that case, mulching will absorb rain, protect soil from the damage caused by the impact of torrential storms, and hold moisture for prolonged rainless periods.
Another moisture management practice is swales (long, often curved depressions in the soil with a raised section on the downhill side). On large farms and landscapes, swales are large. In the garden, much smaller swales can be effective when well placed. If there is some slope to a garden area, a swale above a bed will catch rain and allow it to soak in slowly, making more water available to the plants below. Swales also slow the rainfall preventing rapid soil erosion, thus keeping fertile soil where it is needed, and keeping it out of waterways where it chokes fish and ruins habitat. Swales need to be vegetated, with something low-growing that will survive occasional ponding of water. Native is best!
Rain gardens can be considered a type of swale. They are wonderful, fairly easy to design and plan, can be simple or complex, and in my opinion, most places should have at least one! (I am working on one at home.)
Wind is a natural phenomenon that can cause trouble especially for young plants. Miniature windbreaks, such as a line of soil raised up a few inches above the garden bed, can protect low, young plants. Taller plants with sturdy stems can be planted as windbreaks (you need to know where the prevailing winds are coming from, and keep the taller plants from shading the shorter ones).
Some plants prefer cooler temperatures, and early hot spells may be problematic for leafy greens. It is good if you can set up garden beds with simple frames to support shade cloth for those mini heat waves.
On the other side of temperature extremes, we can see late or early frosts. The same frames that can hold shade cloth can support row covers to hold in heat. These also reduce the drying effect of chilly dry winds.
Healthy soil will provide healthy plants that are more resilient in any environment. Pay attention to keeping organic matter and moisture at optimum levels. Soil is a living system, and living systems do not change instantaneously. Consistent attention to these systems has the best result. Trying to fix everything all at once after a period of neglect is the least productive way to manage soils.