The dog days of summer usually don’t make our plants very happy if they are too thirsty. Find out how to conserve water while still keeping your plants happy and healthy. You don’t have to water all day!
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7 Guaranteed Hacks to Conserve Water in the Garden
It’s easy to have flourishing gardens in the spring when water is plenty. But what about the middle of summer, when it seems so many areas have a dry spell?
It’s still possible to have beautiful flower gardens and a bounty of vegetables to harvest. Don’t worry about the water usage, though, as it’s possible to cut that down by 20-50% with just a couple of easy changes. Check out the 7 ways I conserve water and keep my gardens lush!
1. Water deeply
It’s tempting to grab the hose or watering can and sprinkle a little water throughout your gardens on those hot, dry days. Especially if you have a lot of them.
But this has the opposite effect and will cause your roots to start growing up to reach that surface water.
By watering deeply, you not only give the roots a good soak, but they will continue to grow deeply, which will only improve the health and endurance of your plants.
I also suggest using a soaker hose over a sprinkler if you don’t want to stand there and water by hand.
A sprinkler lightly drops water over a large area, not doing much more than providing a shower. While a soaker hose drips water right where it’s needed, at the base of the plant. This allows the water to soak deep into the roots, allowing the plant to get about 90% of its water.
This makes a plant much healthier, and you conserve water greatly by not watering a whole area that doesn’t need it.
2. Use mulch
I’ll have to admit that I never used mulch until about three years ago. And what a huge, gigantic difference it has made!
Not only do I conserve water by not having to water as often, but my plants conserve water from the protection of the mulch. The sun doesn’t directly hit the soil as harshly, evaporating all of the water, and the mulch holds moisture. Win-win!
Your best bet is organic mulch in the form of natural wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, or evergreen needles. The bonus to these choices is that they will naturally decompose year after year, adding natural, free fertilizer and nutrients to your soil. Just make sure that your choice of mulch is free from any weed killers, pesticides, etc.
Having a nice, thick layer of mulch also keeps the weeds to a minimum. This is such a fantastic bonus for me! I no longer have to spend half of my summer pulling weeds!
3. Collect rainwater
This is so easy to do and so healthy for our plants. It’s also a huge way to conserve water! A 1,000 square foot roof will collect approximately 313 gallons of water from just a half inch of rain!
All I have to do is put a bucket under certain seams of my eaves troughs and wait for some rain. The bucket is full in no time, and there is my rainwater to water not only my outdoor plants but also my indoor ones.
If you have more than one bucket (I use 5-gallon pails, but you can use whatever works for you!), you can change it out and have extra.
I’ve seen some really nice looking barrels as well, some with spouts in them. Some people use those old-fashioned, pretty barrels and collect that way.
You’ll want to keep your eyes open for two things, though.
I check my rainwater often for mosquito larvae. They look like tiny tadpoles. If I see them, I just use it all to water some plants or pour it out. I know they have little discs you can buy that supposedly keep that from happening, but I don’t want any chemicals whatsoever on my plants or gardens, so I opt out of that.
You might also want to place a piece of mesh or screen over your rainwater bucket, especially if you use a barrel. If you don’t, you could have some drowned animals in there.
My dad has found chipmunks, and someone else I know found a kitten. So very sad and very preventable.
Rainwater is the best kind of water for your plants, though!
4. Improve your soil
Improving your soil will greatly help it conserve water by giving the water something to hold on to!
Think of how fast water flows through sand, as opposed to thick mud filled with organic material. Quite the difference!
A great rule of thumb is to add an inch of organic material each year. This could be composted manure, chopped leaves, your naturally decomposing wood chips, or compost.
These additions to your soil will increase the soil’s water-holding capacity, increasing your plant health.
This means fewer garden pests, diseases, and more flowers or vegetables. Another win-win!
5. Read your plants’ care tags
If you buy a beautiful, lush hosta and plant it directly in the area that gets 8 full hours of hot sun a day, it probably won’t do as well. You’ll also find yourself watering this poor hosta nearly every day. As well as dealing with diseases and such.
By reading your plants’ care tags and taking it to heart where they will grow best, you will conserve water and prevent problems.
Also, if you have an area that seems to get extra dry, consider planting some drought-tolerant plants in that area. This will naturally conserve water, as you won’t have to water them as much.
One thing to note is that native plants to your area will usually do better than non-natives.
6. Keep it weeded
Naturally conserve water by removing the competition in your gardens!
By keeping your gardens weeded, you allow your plants to keep all of the nutrients for themselves.
Many weeds indeed have deeper root systems. Plus, most weeds are native, so they are quick in using that rainwater and anything else they need because they have adapted.
Weeding your gardens doesn’t include the removal of beneficial weeds. I believe they have a place as well. I give the ones I want an allotted spot and don’t let them crowd my other flowers.
Planning for a couple of days a week to stay on top of weeding will cause you to have healthier plants, and you’ll have to water them less.
This time also includes thinning or pruning whatever it is that may need it. But by removing those weeds, you will greatly conserve water because you won’t be watering them too!
7. Know your grounds
By understanding the different areas on your property, you’ll know what to plant where.
We go back to drought-resistant plants. If you have a dry area, but plant a water-loving plant there, it won’t do as well or stay as healthy as it would in an area that gets a lot of rain or is a low spot.
Which areas get the most wind? The most shade or sun? Where are your low spots or the areas the deer seem to go through the most?
By selecting plants and flowers that match that area, you’ll have more time to actually enjoy your flowers and your vegetable bounty. You won’t be stuck watering all summer long or treating diseases or garden pests that are attacking weak plants.
By planting accordingly, you will most definitely conserve water. You will also have more time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love sitting on the deck or under my Maple tree in the evenings. Watching all of the beauty and busyness of nature in my beautiful flowers and plants makes me happy!
Do you have other ways you conserve water in your gardens? Please drop me a comment below and let me know! 🙂