Tips to conserve water in your home garden
Rain barrel collecting water
With water being such a limited and precious resource in Palms West, conserving water means saving money on your water bill and helping the environment. You can reduce your home garden’s monthly water use in many ways. Here are seven:
1. Create an irrigation ditch: When garden plants are thirsty from the heat and dry wind, irrigation ditches can be useful. When your garden is fairly level, and you have at least three rows of plants, make shallow trenches on at least one row. Drop your hose into the ditch when plants need a good watering session. Continue with your other gardening tasks, then take the hose out of the ditch after 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Add mulch as a barrier: Mulch or a mulch-compost mix can be applied to all beds. Mulch your garden with thick layers. Doing so will help conserve water because the mulch will stay moist longer than the compost alone. Consider adding grass clippings and leaves to help the soil retain water.
3. Install rain barrels for stormy days: Rain barrels allow you to direct rainwater from your roof to your garden. They should be at least 1 foot higher than the garden so that gravity can transfer the water to your crops. Depending on the layout of your garden, you might be able to connect your gutter downspouts with a temporary plastic pipe fitting (available at hardware and gardening stores). You then could direct roof runoff to flow right into your garden.
4. Build in-ground reservoirs: An in-ground reservoir provides an excellent way to water crops in large beds. It can deliver water to the root zones of the plants, approximately 4 to 9 inches below the soil’s surface. You also can place large, porous jugs (ollas) in the ground. Be sure to keep only the mouth of the jar above ground. The ollas seep water into the roots of plants once they’re filled.
5. Make use of old sunken beds: Plant and vegetable yields can improve in dry times if they are grown in a sunken bed that retains or catches whatever rain falls. If you build ridges from excavated soil, the ridges can channel rainwater into the beds and offer much-needed shade and wind protection to the crops.
6. Watch out for weeds: Weeds are a nuisance in any home or co-op garden. Not only do they suck nutrients and sunlight away from your plants and shrubs, but they also deplete water supplies. Keep the area between plant rows and shrubs free from weeds. Weeds can grow overnight, so keeping a watchful eye for them is essential. If not, your garden could be overrun within weeks.
7. Plant in blocks instead of rows: Organizing your plants in long blocks instead of rows makes watering easier and helps prevent spillage onto areas and plants you do not want to water at that moment. This is especially true when you’re watering by hand. Consider installing semitransparent shade covers and windbreakers over the garden. You can use old window screens or buy screens from a garden nursery. The shades help keep the soil from drying out on sunny days.
To determine the best method of water conservation for you, consider the size of your garden and the type of plants.