Conserving Water in the Garden

One of the down sides to growing your own food is increased water consumption. In my hometown, our water prices are high. Just to run an average household, where I do 1 - 2 full loads of laundry, run the dishwasher once (sometimes twice), and 2 showers are run daily, our monthly bill is about $80. Add watering a garden to that, and we can expect to see our bill double. Ouch. Possibly the best investment you can make in order to lower your water bill is to use a rain gauge. We have a cute, decorative one (although my hubby would prefer an electronic, man-style gadget gauge), but you don't have to buy one if you don't want to. You can just clean a used tuna fish can (or some other waterproof, shallow container) and set it out in the garden. After it rains, check the level of water in the can. If you've got at least an inch inside, there's no need to water your garden.

You can also test whether you need to water by sticking a finger into the soil. If it's moist 1 inch down (1/2 inch down if the soil is in a pot), you don't need to water. Your rain gauge can also help you learn how long to turn on your sprinklers, if you use this type of watering system. Once the gauge hits the one inch mark, turn off the water. Right now, rain barrels are also seeing a resurgence in popularity. But before you install one or more, find out if it's legal in your area. Believe it or not, some cities claim the rain water as their own and make it illegal for citizens to collect it in any way. Too, consider whether it's worth the expense. Rain barrels can be really pricey, and most only hold 50 to 80 gallons. In many areas, especially where rain fall isn't common in the summer, that water won't go far at all. If you can make your own barrel - or better yet, a system of barrels - then the project may be more worthwhile. Also consider that rain barrel water isn't considered safe for watering vegetables unless it's attached to a proper filtration system. Setting ordinary buckets and watering cans around your yard is a cheaper way to collect rain water. It won't go far, but if you believe every bit counts, this is a super-easy technique. If it is legal in your area, consider using gray water on your garden, like used bath or laundry water. Do be aware, though, that some people believe gray water shouldn't be used on vegetables, since it could contain traces of human feces. If you can afford to install it, drip irrigation has the potential to save you quite a bit of money because the water will end up at the base of the plants - exactly where it's needed - and not in pathways, fences, and surrounding areas. Mulching is an easy way to retain moisture in the soil, keep weeds down, and - if you choose an organic material like bark mulch or straw - add nutrients to the soil. Watering in the cool hours of the morning also helps reduce your garden's need for water. Cooler temperatures and shade mean less water evaporation, which means more water for your plants' roots. (Avoid watering in the evening, however, since water may sit on plant leaves, leading to disease.)
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1 comment

  1. Cities can claim rain water? What?! Reason two hundred forty why country living is so sweet. I'm hoping summer will come with plenty of rain to last throughout the season. :)