We have a well here on the farm – so we don’t have a separate water bill to pay every month.
That’s nice, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t see the point of conserving water in the garden. After all, I want to reduce my environmental impact as much as possible, and plus, it’s fun to learn new ways to save!
This summer, it’s been super hot and dry where we live. We’ve only had a couple of rainstorms and most of them were so brief and so heavy that they did little to penetrate our dense clay soil.
Hence – researching and implementing some new watering strategies.
If you’re looking to grow the most gorgeous garden you’ve ever had, it’s important that you be aware of the best watering practices for gardens.
Here are some tips to help your plants stay hydrated – without destroying the planet in the process!
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1. Amend Your Soil
Adding organic matter to the soil can help improve its structure. If you have clay or sandy soil, you’ve probably noticed that your soil either stays wet and muddy for a very long time, or that the water leaches out almost immediately after you’ve watered.
When you put compost into your garden – as well as other organic ingredients like chicken manure or straw – these things will break down over time. They will improve the ability of your soil to hold water and will also make it more fertile, too.
More fertile, better moisture retention=less mud and less stress. If you’re having a really hard time getting water to stay in the garden, you can add water-retentive granules or gel to your compost, too.
Want to learn more ways to reduce mud on the farm? Make sure you check out my article about making the most of mud on the farm!
2. Water Wisely
If you’re like me, you follow one of two watering patterns – you don’t water at all, or you water so often there’s standing water in your garden.
Don’t be like me!
Many people overwater their gardens, and this is not only wasteful, but results in you doing way more work than you actually need to. Look at the soil closely before watering to determine if you actually need to. If it looks damp about a spade-deep in the ground, it’s fine. If it’s dry, time to water.
Remember, a light, sandy soil will need to be watered more often than a heavy, clay soil. Usually, plants need about 5 gallons per every ten square feet about once a week, but this will vary depending on your plants and soil type.
A caveat to this – if you have clay soil, like me, the soil might feel damp regardless of whether it is irrigated. Similarly, if you have sandy soil, it might still feel dry despite being recently watered.
To combat this, take a close look at your plans to see if they are suffering from any signs of water stress. Being aware of potential problems in your plants is a good way to tell whether you oil actually has water or not.
3. Use Mulch
Using mulch in the garden is a great way to conserve moisture and to combat weeds. Here are some potential mulch materials you can use:
- Wood chips or shavings
New to mulching? Make sure you check out my article about everything you need to know about mulch!
4. Avoid Tilling
Tilling is necessary in some cases – but often, you can get by without it. Instead of tilling each spring, add organic matter to support soil structure and suffocate weeds by planting cover crops in the fall. The cover crop will emerge in the spring and choke out weeds, and the compost will fortify and aerate the soil for you so that tilling is not necessary.
If you haven’t already, take the time to check out some more tips for a no-till garden in this article.
5. Plant Native Species
There are a ton of native perennials you can grow that not only require less water, but are also better suited to your local growing environment. Check out this list of pollinator-friendly perennials, or consider planting drought-resistant plants such as:
6. Set up an Olla
Ollas are usually in the form of jars and are some of the most effective watering systems in the world. All you do is bury the olla near the roots of the plant and fill it with water instead of watering the plant directly. You’ll lose less due to evaporation and ground runoff since you’ll be watering the plant – not the soil.
7. Use a Cloche
A cloche is a translucent cover that you put over your plants – it can protect plants from cold weather but it can also conserve water because you will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. You can find or build these in all kinds of shapes or sizes – you can even just use a sheet of plastic. For it to be effective, make sure it’s as airtight as possible.
8. Invest in a Rain Barrel
When you set up a rain barrel, you can collect rainwater to be reused in the garden. All you have to do is position it so that the downspouts from your gutter or drainpipe empty into a barrel. If you use a rain barrel, just make sure you cover it with some kind of protective covering so that it doesn’t become a haven for mosquitoes and flies. It should also have some kind of faucet so you can extract the water that you collect.
9. Consider Drip Irrigation or Soaker Hoses
Drip irrigation is a great way to save water if you have a small yard or individual plants. You lose basically no water to runoff or evaporation -saving you money and making your chores more effective.
Another option is to install soaker hoses like these. These apply water directly to the roots of your plants – and if you know anything about gardening, you probably already know that the roots of the plant are what needs the water most. Watering just the roots can prevent a lot of problems related to pests and diseases, too.
10. Recycle Water from the House
If you really are short on water for the garden, consider reusing some of the water from around the house. Here are some ideas:
- Save water from your fish tank when you perform your biweekly water changes – not only will it hydrate your plants, but fish emulsion is a great fertilizer! Just avoid using saltwater on your plants.
- When you empty the dehumidifier, use it to water your plants.
- Save old cooking water – not only is it a great way to use water that you used to cook pasta, rice, potatoes, or vegetables, but it also fertilizes your plants.
- Use grey water – save water from the shower, bathtub, washing machine, or hand washing station. You can buy a greywater diverter or simply save it in a bucket. Just keep in mind that some household detergents, particularly those that contain bleach, dishwasher salt, or disinfectant, can harm your plants.
11. Consider Xeriscaping
Xeriscaping is basically designing your landscaping to use local plants and features and it reduces water in the process. This process requires you to plan ahead and select and zone plants based on their water requirements. You limit turf areas, reducing your need to water pointless vegetation, and you can improve these oil in the process.
Want to learn more? Check out this article here, which has more details on how to xeriscape like a pro.
12. Use a Sprinkler Timer
If you’re like me – distracted and frazzled – then using a sprinkler timer is a great way to automate at least one aspect of gardening. You’ll save time and money by investing in an inexpensive timer – and your plants won’t be over- or under-watered, either.
13. Plant in Grids
Planting in grids instead of rows is a good way to save water. Not only will you avoid wasting space by watering empty sections of garden, but you’ll also reduce the amount of weeds that pop up, too.
Here are some more tips for planting in grids that you should check out.
14. Water in the Morning
Avoid watering late in the afternoon or evening – the sun’s rays will be too hot then. In addition, if you leave your watering chores until you get home from work, the plants likely won’t have time to dry before the sun goes down. This can lead to fungal growths and other problems.
15. Build Furrows
A furrow a shallow trench that is dug between raised beds. These furrows help channel water to plant roots and is a great way to save water. The beds can be between one and three feet apart, but the wider apart they are, the more water you will use.
To use a furrow, just fill your furrows completely with water and then use a finger to make sure the water has penetrated the bed. It can take some time for the water to run from the mounds to the beds, and you will waste some water through evaporation – otherwise, it’s a neat way to keep your plants hydrated.
So there you have it! The best ways to water your garden don’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. You can implement many of these at home with materials you already have.
What tips do you have for keeping your plants watered during this hot, dry summer? Let me know in the comments!
Want to learn more about gardening? Be sure to check out these articles!
- 23 Awesome Organic Fertilizer Ideas
- 18 Hacks for Eliminating Garden Weeds
- 10 Things You Need to Know About Growing Mint
- The Best Tips for Growing Chamomile in Your Garden
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