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Some Like It Hot: Gardening During Moderate Drought, Plus Composting Rules Coming

A hand putting food scraps into a bin.
The final measure of Vermont's Universal Recycling Law, which bans all food scraps from landfills, goes into effect on July 1.

This past week, four of Vermont's counties are dry enough to be considered officially in a moderate drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor.

They include all of Windham and Bennington counties, with much of both Windsor and Rutland counties not far behind. Most of the rest of the state is considered "abnormally dry," too.

What might this mean for your gardens and raised beds? You'll see the effects of hot, dry weather on your garden plants, flowers, trees and shrubs, too. Things like leaf scorch, and curling leaves are common in hot, dry conditions. This means the plants are trying to conserve water.

Implementing the right watering strategies while also conserving water is the way to go. Learn how to water and mulch, delay some plantings and shade some babies. (We mean the plant variety ... although sunscreen and floppy hats are always encouraged for actual babies).

Watering during drought

We have to water a bit differently, depending on what we are watering. Seedlings that haven't been in the ground very long, like carrots, beets, lettuce and beans,  need frequent, almost daily, watering to keep soil evenly moist. Their root systems are still close to the surface.

For plants with deeper root systems, like flowers, tomatoes, squashes, cukes, trees and shrubs that have been in the soil for a few weeks now, water every two or three days. Make sure you do it long enough so the water will soak down eight inches into the soil.

How will you know you've watered enough? Water for a couple minutes, then stop. Come back a half hour later and dig down about eight inches, and if the water has reached that level, you're good! If not, water a bit more, and take note of how long.

Ready, set ... compost!

Act 148, Vermont's Universal Recycling Law that's sometimes referred to as the food scraps ban, will enact its final provision beginning July 1. The state will prohibit all food scraps going into the landfill.

Luckily, to comply with the ban, you've got several options. Your trash hauler may be adding on a route to retrieve organic matter from its customers. Or you can compost your organic matter! Visit the solid waste districts in your area and you'll find lots of information there. You can even purchase a composter from them.

More from Vermont Edition: How Composting Fits In To Vermont's Recycling Conversation

If you're going to use a composter, in order for it to break down properly and provide you with rich material that you can use in your garden, a great rule of thumb is that for every bucket of food scraps and organic material you add to your composter, add in three buckets full of brown material like soil, turn it around and let it do its thing. That will help compensate for all the moisture you're adding from the food scraps.

Another habit to learn from the get-go is how to reduce your food waste. You can find tips forhow to do that here.You can also listen to this Vermont Edition episode on reducing food waste for more great information.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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