Water-Saving Garden Irrigation

Published on August 1st, 2009 | by

Watering your garden effectively is all about knowing its needs. Over-watering is as harmful for plants as providing too little water.

Although on average plants need one inch of water per week, there is a great deal of variation depending on the specific plant, climate, soil, and a host of other factors.

Luckily there are a variety of techniques to reduce your water usage and still enjoy a thriving garden.

photo by Christopher CraigUsing a watering can in the garden can conserve water
Using a watering can in the garden can conserve water

The Basics

To keep all plants at their optimum soil moisture, those needing similar amounts of water should be placed together. Add manure or compost to the soil—richer soils trap water more effectively.

Always water your plants in the early morning when the cooler temperatures and lack of direct sunlight decreases evaporation. Midday sun evaporates leftover water collected on the foliage preventing mold or other diseases.

Remember, 40% of water used during the summer is used outdoors. By being aware of weather conditions and making a few simple changes, you can conserve previous resources and water your garden effectively.

Watering Techniques

Not everyone will be able to commit to the same level of money or responsibility to improve water efficiency, so choose the technique that is right for you. Hoses and sprinklers, two of the most common ways to water a garden are also two of the least efficient. If you choose to employ a hose, use a spray attachment to help prevent soil erosion and overwatering. If you’re using sprinklers, make sure each one is connected to a timer.

To maximize water saving, try one of the following techniques:

  • Watering Can:  Although old-fashioned, watering each plant by hand allows you to effectively target and evaluate individual patches of soil and the spout ensures the water goes straight to the roots.
  • Soaker Hose:  Soaker hoses are a great and inexpensive alternative for gardens. Made from recycled tires, they “sweat” water through millions of pores along the entire length of the hose. They allow almost no evaporation, can be hooked up to a timer, are easily buried under mulch, and require relatively little upkeep.
  • Drip Irrigation:  With over 90% efficiency, drip irrigation is the most effective of all watering systems. Drip irrigation consists of tubes with a release point next to each plant. If a plant no longer needs water for the rest of the season, a goof plug can be inserted to stop water flow to that area. This system can be set on a timer, uses a battery to regulate flow, and a backflow prevention device blocks the water from contaminating potable water.

Collecting Rainwater

Gutters make harvesting the rainfall simple. The larger your roof catchment area (the surface area of your roof), the more water you will collect. For every inch of rain on a 1,000 square foot rain catchment, you will collect 600 gallons of rainwater!

Simply attach a diverter onto your downspout to feeding into a collection container. Rain chains are also an easy way to capture and direct rainfall into a barrel or underground holding tank. Copper rain chains offer the benefits of being entirely recyclable and adding aesthetic value to your home.

Precautionary safety measures require that the container be covered at all times, and that water is harvested within 10 days of collection or mosquitoes will begin to breed. A rain barrel can easily feed your watering can, soaker hose, or drip irrigation as long as the barrel is higher than the ground to which it will travel.

Container Gardens

For those who do not have the time or land for a full garden, container gardens, which can be made out of almost any material, are a wonderful option. By far the most water efficient is the self-watering container garden.

With self-watering containers, a small recessed trough sits at the bottom and as the soil dries, water is drawn upwards, feeding the plant. The gardener need only ensure that the trough is filled and the plant will always have readily available water. Herbs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers all thrive in container gardens.

Remember, 40% of water used during the summer is used outdoors. By being aware of weather conditions and making a few simple changes, you can conserve previous resources and water your garden effectively.


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