When you live in a city with a seemingly endless supply of fresh water, it's easy to feel like there’s no need to limit how much water gets used outdoors, but there are a couple of good reasons why I have embraced water conservation. You do save money by using less water if you are on a water meter. Perhaps not as much as reducing electricity or natural gas, but it does add up. Also, our city water is chlorinated, which plants don’t really like, so using as much rain water as I can for gardening has its benefits. Here are my two favorite ways to save water, and make gardening a little easier.
First, I don’t leave soil bare. As soon as I have bedding plants in the ground or my seeds have come up, I put on some mulch! I save my leaves in big clear garbage bags and keep them in the garage. As well as using them in our compost over the winter, I put the rest around the perennials and vegetable garden as mulch. This helps prevent the water I do add from evaporating. I even leave the purslane weed mostly alone in my garden as I find it also makes a good ground cover (and it is tasty!).
Second, I use as much rain water as possible. My husband and I built a couple of rain barrels from blue plastic barrels that originally had food-grade oil in them. We use the rain water to fill watering cans to water our potted plants, and run a hose to our fish pond and top it up with rain water when needed. If you are interested in making your own, there are lots of plans online. I like the looks of this one.
I also do my watering just before bed. This way, the water has the cool humid evening to soak in and be distributed in the soil. Less water is needed, since less will evaporate at night as opposed to during the day.
In the future, I would like to set up a drip irrigation system for our garden that works off of rain barrel water, which will further decrease the amount of city water we use in our yard.
How about you? Do you use mulch in your garden or have a rain barrel? Do you have other methods to keep your water use to a minimum?