By Larraine Rouston:
For the past several years, we all have become aware that climate change is causing droughts. Yet, just last week while walking in the woods, I picked up a disposable plastic bottle half filled with water. Water is a limited resource; less than 1% of it is usable fresh water that we use on a daily basis. For those with a garden, it’s becoming a concern as to how much of this liquid gold can be spared for landscaping.
To keep your garden healthy, use water efficiently and choose water-saving devices. Install rain gardens, which are simply man-made depressions usually filled with plants, to collect water in your yard. The Rain Garden Network advocates that rain gardens not only reduce the breeding of mosquitos, but also increase the number of beneficial garden insects.
You can harvest water by installing a rain barrel or rainwater tank to collect roof runoff.
Water early morning or evening to reduce evaporation. In dry weather, soak plants once or twice a week rather than daily. An inverted plastic pop bottle with a perforated bottom, filled with water, will slowly provide moisture to the roots. When using a watering can, aim at the roots rather than the leaves.
If possible, redirect the grey water from washing machines and dishwashers. Have a kitchen pail handy to accumulate unwanted tea, coffee, vegetable broth and leftover ice cubes. The water from boiling eggs will contain calcium from the eggshells, which is beneficial for plants. Running tap water until your desired temperature into a container can also be added. If you wash dishes by hand, you have both a bowl of rinse water and dishpan water to use. Bath and shower water, as well, can be collected. When using grey water with biodegradable soaps, pour it at ground level rather than splashing the leaves. As well, there is an opportunity to gather water when you change a fish tank or a dog’s drinking bowl, for example.
A thick layer of compost or mulch around plants will ensure that a maximum amount of moisture is retained. In addition, valuable nutrients are derived from compost, thus preventing weeds from growing and drawing water from the soil.
Manage your lawn by allowing the grass to grow longer to maximize water retention. Leave grass clippings on your lawn to provide a natural fertilizer. Your grass will not die if you allow it to turn brown in the summer. In fact, less water will encourage the roots to reach deeper in search of moisture and other nutrients. Less watering will be required by choosing hardy grass varieties that are native to your climate.
Reduce watering by choosing native plants. Some indications of plants that have low water needs are small or narrow leaves; grey or silver foliage; and fuzzy, hairy or leathery leaves. Opt for ground coverings over grass. Your local garden supplier will help you make water saving decisions.
The use of a moisture meter allows you to test various parts of your garden to determine which areas require more or less water. Between 30 – 70% moisture will indicate that your soil does not need watering. In general, landscape in such a way as to help recharge the level of our water table by using water conserving methods.
Imagine the year to be 2030. If a gold bracelet and a bottle of water were found together in the forest, which do you think might be the more valuable?
Larraine authors children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating www.castlecompost.com