How to conserve water in the garden

Large ceramic container with rainwater collecting in it

For those of us with a monthly water bill – or those who want to conserve water for environmental reasons – water isn’t an unlimited resource. Add to that the fact that plants require a lot more water in summer, and you’ll find yourself looking for ways to minimize water usage in your garden. Here are some ways in which you can do it:

Watch the weather

Go through the weekly weather forecast, and if there’s going to be heavy rain, sunny weather, or cloudy weather, factor that into your watering schedule. Don’t water for a few days before a heavy rainfall, unless dry don’t water during cloudy weather, and DO water the day before a particularly sunny one (so your plants get a chance to drink up before the sun dries the soil surface).

Harvest rainwater

If you have a large garden and/or greenhouse, you can also try harvesting rainwater. Of course, it’ll require a setup and therefore have an initial cost, but it’s very efficient and requires little maintenance, so it’ll pay off in the long run. Generally, greenhouse, shed and residential roofs are used as collection surfaces, and the water is then stored underground. It is drawn up using a small motor, and used via hosepipes or watering cans.

Re-use water

This is a simple, but startlingly effective method. We throw out an unbelievably large amount of water daily that can be used for watering plants. Water used for boiling or soaking food, dishwashing water, and bath water can all be used in the garden. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the water has as little soap as possible – or switch to environmentally friendly soap. Water used for soaking veggies and for boiling, however, can be used as is, as soon as it’s cool enough.

Mulch or groundcover

If the soil surface is exposed, it’ll dry out much faster. To prevent that, either lay down a mulch (wood chips, grass clippings, manure, or compost) every few months, or plant some groundcover – such as petunia, creeping plants, or vegetables such as squash, rhubarb or watermelon, which like to spread and shade large areas. Make sure you don’t plant invasive plants, so this decision doesn’t come back to bite you in the future.

Have a schedule

Instead of watering whenever you get the chance, create a schedule. Different plants and containers have different water requirements, and if you diligently meet them (erring on the side of dryness – if you must), you’ll keep your plants happy, and save some water in the long run. I use a diary, and note down when I water my plants, and when they’re next due for watering – based on past experience and weather conditions.

Have good soil

I know, that sounds like spectacularly useless advice, but what I mean is, steer your soil towards being water-retentive yet fluffy, so it can hold water instead of repelling or draining it, while also not flooding your plants. Having good soil goes a long way in increasing water efficiency, as it’ll be able to feed your plants, while maintaining a balance between dryness and sogginess.



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