With the economy on the downturn, more and more people are starting gardens to help ease grocery bills. Growing one’s own food is a step towards living sustainably, so this is great news. However, more gardens mean more water use, and 40% of water used during the summer is used outdoors. So, as you plan your garden this spring, be sure to keep water in mind and take measures to reduce water usage.
Reducing water usage in an organic garden not only conserves our most precious resource, it also lowers costs and in many cases, benefits the plants as well. By paying attention to how your garden is watered, you can be sure to give plants just the amount of water they need to thrive without overdoing it. Many of the water saving methods mentioned below also benefit the soil and enrich your garden in other ways. Water should be a key part of your garden planning from day one. Read on for ways to garden sustainably and save water.
Ways to Conserve Water in the Garden
- Say no to water-hogging lawns. Maintaining a lawn, especially in climates where the grass is not native, is very water intensive and unsustainable. Replace your lawn with landscaping that is suitable to your climate, or turn it into food gardening space.
- Build healthy soil that retains moisture and nourishes plants. If you’re not sure what the makeup of your soil is, get it tested so you can amend it accordingly. Clay soils are more likely to hold water, while sandy soils have good drainage but don’t retain moisture well. Mixing in organic material like coco-peat (regular peat moss is not a renewable resource) and compost can help improve your soil’s water retention.
- Use mulch – usually an organic material like straw or bark – on top of your soil in the garden to help keep soil moist, prevent erosion and keep weeds at bay.
- Group plants with similar water needs together. Thirsty plants can be planted near each other for efficient watering, and plants that prefer dryer conditions won’t have to be over watered. Start thinking of this when you set out to plan your garden.
- Choose native plants and those that grow well naturally in your climate. Some plants, once established, need very little water, such as some herbs, evergreens, and succulents.
- Learn about xeriscaping, or water conservation through creative landscaping. Xeriscaping principles should guide the design of your entire landscape. And xeriscaping is much more visually interesting than a boring lawn!
- Use water saving irrigation methods. Even after taking conservation measures, a garden will inevitably need to be watered. There are many watering techniques that reduce water use: soaker hoses, watering wands for more targeted hand watering, and most efficient of all, drip irrigation systems. A drip irrigation system is controlled by a timer and delivers water through a series of tubes directly to each plant. Avoid sprinklers and hoses that aren’t very targeted or efficient.
- Water in the cooler hours of the day. When the sun is high, water evaporates more easily, so avoid watering in midday. It’s best to water early in the morning or just before sunset so plants have time to absorb the water before it evaporates in the heat of the day.
Being conscious of the water we use, especially in the yard and garden, will mean healthier plants, a healthier planet, and more water to go around for everyone. Know of other water saving garden tips? Please share by leaving a comment!
Stay tuned for more organic gardening tips here on Eat Drink Better. Happy gardening!