Rain barrels save water, but filters are needed

For newer gardeners, cool, gray maritime summers can tempt a person to skimp on watering. Surely it’s about to rain, right? Unfortunately, summer rain is often drizzle, enough to dampen the dust but rarely enough to satisfy the needs of our plants. Remember, although Washington is no longer in a state of extreme drought, we’ve been in drought for several years and still are, despite the rainy spring.

As a rule, unless your garden has enjoyed at least an inch of free rainwater every week, both edible and ornamental plants in active growth really DO need to be watered. One good way to reduce water use is to layer beds and borders with compost and a loose, airy topdressing such as medium-grind wood chips (NOT bark). Too ugly? By early summer, you shouldn’t be able to see the ground between plants so the chips will barely show, if at all. That combination helps soil retain moisture and reduces evaporation loss on warm and/or windy days.