As a gardener, water supply is one of the first marks on my checklist for success. When planning the layout for any new gardening adventure—and yes, gardening is an adventure!—you need to incorporate several key components. Sunny location. Check. Well-drained organic soil. Check. Nearby water supply. Check.
These are the necessities for plant life. And while Mother Nature is usually cooperative when it comes to providing plants the basics they need, she can sometimes skimp on the goodies. Now I’m not one to complain when she pulls the drawstrings on her environment a little tighter. I understand this is a give and take partnership between us. Besides, I have access to technology. I can use grow lights when the sun won’t shine. I can “make” my own dirt by tossing kitchen scraps into a pile along with garden debris. But water?
That’s a bit more tricky. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t learned the secret to creating water. But I have learned how to conserve it for my garden, beginning the old-fashioned way. When it rains, I collect, and save it for an “unrainy” day!
Photo by Dianne Venetta
Harvesting the rain that Mother Nature showers upon us is the first way to conserve water. Simply put, you need a method for redirecting the rain to a collection bin. Now this can be as simple as using the gutter around your roof to collect the rain, then direct it into a downspout funneling the water into a barrel. Add a spigot at the bottom of your barrel and you’re in business.
Simple, right? One crafty inventor by the name of Bas van der Veer took it a step further adding his own elegant flair to the basic model by creating the Raindrop. This fancy version of a cistern incorporates a watering can into the downspout, allowing for the collection of rainwater with the convenience of a built-in watering can. It’s lovely enough to showcase on your patio. Genius!
Photo by Dianne Venetta
As an avid recycler, I try and reuse everything. Literally. From the coffee grounds leftover from brewing my morning cup of java to the leftover water from my kids’ school lunches, I reuse it all. The first feeds, the second waters my houseplants. Waste not, want not, is my motto. And while we strive to reduce our usage of plastic bottles, invariably there is always one or two lurking about.
Solution? Take it to the garden! Now I’ll admit there are numerous ways to utilize those plastic bottles in the garden, like for mixing your organic pesticide or fish emulsion, but have you ever used one as mini-cistern?
That’s right. Simply poke holes in the sides of your plastic bottle, bury it next to your plant, and ta-da! You have a root watering system—very important for tomato and potato plants. Both hate water on their leaves because it can lead to fungus, and these plants hate fungus. Include squash and cucumber in that fungus-hating category. Come to think of it, include me. I hate fungus, too!
Speaking of recyclables and water conservation, when starting sprouts, why not build your own mini-greenhouse at home? I like to mimic the store-bought seed-starter trays by grabbing one of the plastic takeout containers dished out by restaurants, washing it well, then filling it with organic potting mix. Next, I dot the soil with seeds, cover with the lid and voilá—I have a mini-greenhouse complete with a condensation-building cover that will keep the soil consistently moist, providing seeds with the perfect conditions for germination. Oh, how I do love a multi-tasker!
No takeout? Use leftover eggshells for housing those sprouts. (The kids always love this one.)
Photo by Dianne Venetta
For nature lovers, my number one go-to natural resource for water conservation in the garden is mulch. It comes in all forms—hay, straw, paper, leaves, bark, even newspaper. Basically, mulch provides a groundcover around your plants that will keep the sun from drying out your soil. A good companion for water-saving mulch is the soaker hose. Rather than installing sprinklers and spritzing your mulch with a wonderfully cool mist, not to mention the neighborhood-at-large, using a soaker hose or drip line can efficiently deliver water to the plant’s roots, the only place they really need it. Happy gardening!
Award-winning author D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.