I can never believe my utilities bill when it arrives in June, chronicling all the extra water I used in May to bring my post-winter lawn back to life and feed my garden’s little seedlings. I know that water isn’t, overall, one of the most significant expenses in someone’s life, but all the same, an extra $50 in one month can pack a punch. And saving water can be especially important if you’re in a drought-prone state (like I am.) I don’t want to sacrifice the lush, green, liveliness of my yard and garden. So I often start finding creative ways to get the same amount of water to my plants without running the sprinklers or hose quite as often.
Here are some of my favorite ideas. I can’t guarantee exactly how much money you’ll save on them, but I promise, you can save a significant amount of water once they become a habit.
Install a Rain Barrel
This is one of the most significant ways that you can save water in your yard and garden. When you’re blessed with a nice spring rain, where does all that water go? Chances are that your yard is designed to channel quite a bit of it away, to run down the street into the storm drain. This is good– it’s preventing floods from happening in your basement. But if you could catch some of that rain, it’d be really welcome next week when your plants are feeling scorched from the ever-stronger summer sun. Putting a rain barrel under your rain gutter’s downspout is so simple. Just remember to cover it to prevent creating a happy habitat for mosquitoes.
Save Grey Water from the Kitchen
A lot of water flows down your kitchen sink each time you cook. For instance, the water that you use to rinse produce before eating it. There’s really nothing wrong with that water. It can easily be used again. In plumbing, there are three categories of used water. White water, grey water, and black water. Black water should never be reused, since it’s come in contact with fecal matter and possible disease-carrying elements. Grey water is used, but it’s often laced with possible household contaminants. This is usually the water you’ve used to wash your hands and dishes. You can make your grey water more plant-friendly by utilizing eco-friendly soaps. Usually, a little bit of soap won’t hurt your plants. White water, of course, has a green light for use throughout your yard. This is water used to rinse (without soap) as well as, say, the water left after you boil noodles or potatoes. Once it’s cooled down, it’s great to use on plants. I like to keep a large bowl around that will easily catch the runoff water when I use the sink.
Place Plants Thoughtfully
Xeriscaping is an important field for any gardener to learn about. It’s the practice of planning out your yard and garden to avoid water waste. There are many elements to this, but one of them is about placement. Think about the areas in your yard where water naturally puddles, and other areas that tend to get really dried out. Different plants naturally prefer different habitats. If you have a naturally thirsty plant, put it somewhere that the sun won’t evaporate so much water away. This isn’t just about who gets the shady spot under the tree. You need to factor in the elevation of your yard, as well. There are hundreds of varieties of low- water-use plants that bring color, beauty and function to the landscape. Check 37 of them out at Balcony & Garden.
Water Smarter, Not More
Amazingly, there are ways that you can water with the exact same amount of water, and allow your plants to get more out of it. First on that list is to pick the right time for watering. Don’t water in the middle of the day’s heat, when the sun will dry up a large percentage of it before any of your plants have the chance to drink it up. Water as early as possible in the AM. Secondly, know your specific plants’ needs. For example, most lawns are happiest when they’re given long increments of time between thorough soakings, rather than being kept regularly moist. This can also prime them to be more drought-hardy and establish a better root system. Water deeply for a longer period once a week versus a short water daily water. This develops better roots. For more tips on saving sprinkler water, read here.
Let Plants Join In on Water Games
Do you have kids? Well, during the summer, kids love to play in the water. And you don’t have to go to a water park. Most of us just set out the sprinklers and go crazy. Well, think twice about that water used for games. Focus on an area that needs some extra water if the kids are playing outside. If you’ve been using a wading pool, think about where you dump out the water afterwards. And if you have a pool or hot tub, or the kids need to rinse off before coming into the house, use the hose near a spot with thirsty flowers to get rid of any dirt and chlorine.
In conclusion . . .
I hope I’ve captured your imagination about ways to have “free” water for your plants!
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