Orient Wallace Center fights back against drought

Last year the Wallace Centers of Iowa, one of which located five miles east of Orient, was caught unprepared for drought conditions and spent the growing season fighting an uphill battle to catch up.

Diane Weiland, CEO and program director for the Wallace Centers of Iowa, said they have been more proactive this year preparing for a drought.

“We have had to do lots of watering, but we planned for a drought and put drip tapes in the rows of vegetables,” Weiland said. “It allows us to get water to plants in an efficient way.”

The farm — birthplace of Vice President Henry A. Wallace — has about five acres of vegetables along with seven flower beds, an apple orchard and wild prairie to complement the gathering barn and homestead.

Weiland said the drought forces growers to make the tough decision to prioritize what flower beds and vegetables to help along with additional water.

“No matter how much you water, it is never the same thing as a good half inch of rain,” Weiland said.

Drought management

The growing and blooming season is quickly coming to a close. It has been hurried along by hot temperatures to end August.

Gardeners and flower enthusiasts alike can take steps to help finish out the growing season on a positive note.

“For some things, people have to realize it is just too late, you will never be able to catch up,” Weiland said.

Summer squash and melons are two vegetables that are past the point of gaining much benefit from watering.

Weiland said if gardeners are starting a fall crop of loose leaf lettuce or spinach, it is best to help it along with consistent watering practice.

“That doesn’t mean water every day,” Weiland said. “Just get into a habit of watering every two to three days.”

Establishing a water schedule for perennial flowers could also be beneficial to help the plants regain strength to survive the winter.

Weiland said annuals are a personal choice. In order to keep the flowers blooming, it will take a lot of watering. A lot of varieties are past the point of recovering for another good bloom.

Preparation

The Wallace Center took several precautions to protect their harvest from drought conditions.

Along with the drip tape, Weiland and her staff used mulch and black plastic for the long rows of vegetables to help the soil retain moisture.

“We had to prioritize early which ones were going to get watered,” Weiland said.

Another area of concern in the drought is the establishment of young trees. Weiland said it is imperative to get them off to a strong start and they will need several gallons of water a week.

“Even if the tree is three or four years old, with the drought conditions last year and now this year, young trees need attention,” Weiland said.