I love growing my own food! Not only does it taste better, but I know that it is safe to eat because I know I didn’t put any chemicals in the soil. Water is a most precious natural resource, necessary to sustain life and necessary to a good yield in the garden. There seems to be a limitless amount of fresh water – all we need to do is turn on our water faucet. Yet, the ability to enjoy fresh water on demand in some areas has led to the lowering of the water table. Out here in Western Kansas where agriculture is our livelihood and drought often a reality, responsible water use is of utmost importance. I think you will find that a few simple and strategic changes in the way you use water to irrigate your garden will reap many benefits for water conservation.
Top Ten Ways to Improve Water Use in the Garden
1. Water deeply but no more deeply than the root zone of the plant. More than that is unnecessary.
2. Water slowly – turn down the flow. Too heavy of a flow of water will result in run-off and wasted water.
3. Water infrequently but thoroughly. Adjust the droplets to a larger size to minimize evaporation. Frequent shallow watering causes plants to concentrate their root system close to the surface resulting in plants that are more sensitive to water fluctuations.
4. Loosen the soil. Compacted soil results in water wasted by run-off.
5. Mulch, mulch, mulch! Adequate mulching conserves water by helping keep the soil loose and reducing evaporation. Coarse mulches need to be applied in a thicker layer (3-4 inches) for maximum effectiveness while finer mulches can be applied 1-2 inches deep.
6. Make sure to keep your garden well weeded to reduce competition for precious moisture. Also consider removing surplus plants for the same reason. This will give you plants to share!
7. In the vegetable garden, use wide rows and plant crops closer together. This strategy will allow your plants to have plenty of needed sun for growth and fruitfulness but still provide extra shade by the base to help reduce evaporation.
8. Avoid watering during windy weather! Wind is a huge moisture stealer.
9. Water early in the morning when humidity is the highest to reduce evaporation.
10. Consider using soaker hoses and timers rather than sprinklers. This way you can strategically concentrate the exact right amount of precious water at the base of the plants in order to use less water but still achieve good deep irrigation. Also, consider collecting rainwater using rain barrels (a fancy name for a covered trash can) under your downspouts. Just make sure they are covered to keep curious kids and animals from falling in and drowning.
As you can see, small investments in time and planning when watering the garden can reap large benefits in water conservation.
Happy Gardening! Mary Ellen
Photo via Flicker.
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