- Author: Melissa Holmes Snyder
As we move into August, with its typical dog days of summer, we always need to make sure that the plants in our gardens, edible or ornamental, get the water they need. After back-to-back years of winter droughts in much of the west, it is more problematic this summer. Most California water districts, including EBMUD, have asked everyone to cut back on residential water use by at least 10%.
There are several things that a gardener can do that are fairly painless, and most are not too expensive, to help keep your plants, and your local water district, happy till the hoped-for rains begin later this Fall.
Saving Shower Water
Most home improvement/hardware stores carry five-gallon paint buckets. These work well when placed at the bottom of the shower, for collecting water as it is heating up for your shower.
- Bucket: You will likely go through the captured water in day or two, so you may not need more than a couple of buckets for storage.
- Trash Cans: For storing larger quantities of water, a clean 32-gallon trash with lid, is a good vessel for this. The lid is important because you don't want mosquitos to use your saved "still" water for laying larvae, and without that lid, they will. A new 32-gallon can with lid is available at home improvement stores for under $20.
- Wine Barrels: For more attractive water storage, though more expensive, buy a used wine barrel, which holds 55 gallons. You can by one on the internet or contact local wineries to purchase a barrel that they are "retiring". The wineries will usually sell a used barrel for around $40. You will need to get a plug for the bung hole, the big hole at the belly of the barrel which they use to fill and taste the wine (in the picture to the right you can see the bung hole on the right-side of the barrel). Alternatively you could make a lid out of one end if you cut the top of the barrel off. To make it even fancier, you could add a spigot near the bottom. Or put the barrel on its side, and use the bung hole to fill and syphon water, just keep the plug in to prevent mosquitos.
Drip Irrigation, particularly a with "Smart" Controller is ideal for conserving water for vegetable gardens, perennials, shrubs and young trees. But if the smart controller proves too costly, you can create a drip system that you use manually.
Fertilizers and Mulch
- Use organic fertilizers rather then synthetic fertilizer. It improves the quality of the soil, enabling the water to better move through it to the plants where it is needed.
- Adding mulch around shrubs and trees will help prevent evaporation of water from the soil, requiring less frequent watering.