Hardy as hemp is, these resilient plants still require a regular supply of water to stay strong and healthy. Ideally Mother Nature takes care of this need by delivering a good soaking rain every week or so but as any farmer knows that’s never a given. Here in Maine right now things are definitely getting a bit dry–been several weeks since we’ve had more than a brief shower. That means we have to irrigate. At Bald Mountain Botanicals irrigating hemp means drawing water from the brook that flows through the property.
Water of Life
We’re only about a mile from where the brook originates on the flank of Bald Mountain. There aren’t any farms or homes between us and the brook’s head so we’re basically getting water straight off the mountain.
Our irrigation routine is pretty simple. We make sure the plants are getting at least 1 inch of water each week, so at week’s end we subtract whatever rainfall we got and irrigate with however much water is needed to bring the week’s total to the equivalent of 1″ rainfall. Brook water is pumped using solar-generated electricity to a storage tank in the middle of the hemp field, where it can be easily distributed to the plants.
The best time of day to water is dawn: the water has a chance to really soak into the soil before the sun comes up and starts evaporating it. Plus it’s just a great time to be outside greeting the new day. We mulch the hemp as much as we can to minimize evaporation and conserve water. The mulch also creates a shaded and most soil surface where insects and microorganisms thrive, key to creating a healthy, vibrant, living soil. I love removing a handful of mulch and seeing a busy world teeming with life (of course a lot of the life is microbial so cannot be seen with the naken eye).
While hemp needs regular water, you have to avoid too much water as hemp roots don’t like to stay wet all the time and in fact will become diseased fairly quickly if not allowed to dry out. When that happens it’s very hard to correct (ask me how I know!). So it’s a balancing act of providing not letting the root zone dry out completely but not keeping things saturated all the time either. Of course a well-draining soil is critical.
The Dreaded “D” Word: Drought
Today the local National Weather Service office said midcoast Maine is officially in a drought and warned that we may be in for an extended dry stretch. Unfortunately this kind of thing seems to be becoming more common here as climate change progresses. We’ll get weeks of no rain then eventually a deluge, followed by another dry stretch.
Here’s hoping the drought ends soon and we’re back to regular rain throughout the summer–but if not we’re certainly prepared to keep our hemp well-watered and happy through the rest of the growing season.