During the warmer months, it seems like all we gardeners do is water – pots, vegetables, shrub and flower borders, and yes, even the little bit of lawn we have left. It seems that as soon as everything’s been watered, it’s time to start the whole rotation again.
And while the chore of watering can’t be eliminated completely (unless you don’t want green lawn or any plants, that is!), there are some ways to save water and make it easier for you, your plants, and the environment because these tips actually use less water than overhead or hand watering everything.
The five ways to save water and time in your garden that I’m sharing with you are my absolute favorites – I have used them for years and I can attest to the fact that if you don’t have an automated sprinkling or drip system, these easy tips are the next best thing to cut down on the chore of watering – whether it’s flower borders, vegetables, or keeping your flower pots watered while on a vacation.
1. Lay soaker hoses in beds, borders, and garden rows.
How: Simply hook a soaker to your main hose and let it soak the ground for two to four hours every 5 to 7 days, depending on the bed’s location (for example, beds under trees will need more moisture), the weather, and your home’s water pressure. To know how long for your garden, use your finger to see if the soil is moist 1-inch down (about to your first knuckle) – if it is, then the bed has received enough water.
Why: Less frequent, deep watering creates healthy, established roots that can withstand dry spells easier.
Extra tip: Invest in “quick connect” hose ends (that’s my Amazon affiliate link – and it’s a good deal, by the way!) that make hooking the main hose up to the soakers a snap – literally.
2. Lay down newspaper (or cardboard) and mulch.
How: Cover bare, moist ground with 5-8 layers of newspaper (or 1 layer of cardboard), top with soaker hoses, and then with a layer of dark-colored mulch. In the vegetable garden, lay paper (or plastic mulch like red for tomatoes and black for peppers) between the plants and on the paths before covering with straw or grass clippings.
Why: This tip makes the soaker hoses even more efficient by helping to regulate soil moisture and not dry out as fast. It’s especially helpful in the vegetable garden, as some plants will become stressed with uneven soil moisture (example: blossom end rot on tomatoes is caused by this as well as low calcium in the soil).
Extra tip: This is also the secret to a weed-free garden, which I’ve written about a lot because gardening became SO much easier after I started implementing this in all my garden areas!
3. Use only large pots for flowers.
How: Use pots at least 12 inches in diameter, but aim for 16 to 24-inch (or larger) pots and keep them close to your house for the easiest access.
Why: Larger pots hold more soil and require less frequent watering.
Extra Tip: Unglazed, terra cotta pots lose moisture incredibly fast – invest in glazed or unbreakable, ceramic-look pots.
4. Add water absorbing crystals to your pots.
How: Each pot needs just a teaspoon to a tablespoon, depending on the size, mixed into the soil at planting time. The crystals look like rock salt, but they absorb water becoming 10-20 times larger and then slowly release it back into the soil.
Why: The crystals help keep the water at the plants roots longer. This is really my number-one tip to lush pots even in the hot heat of summer.
Extra Tip: These are sometimes hard to find, but are in most nursery centers in the potting section (here’s a link to the brand pictured on Amazon).
5. Use a kiddie pool for vacation watering instead of paying your neighbors (or imposing on your family!).
How: Place all your smaller (but of course, not that small, if you’re using tip #3!) pots into a basic plastic kiddie pool and fill about halfway with water. The water will last 4-5 days, even at the height of summer, before needing to be refilled. But it’s much easier to ask people to refill one container than a bunch of pots, isn’t it?
Why: Your pots will take the water up from the bottom and stay hydrated for about five days.
Extra Tip: If your vacation is longer (like a full week) the pots may become waterlogged and show some browning, but they should bounce back once removed from the pool (unlike if they are burned from drought). The optimum amount of time is really three to five days, though I have used this successfully for week-long vacations.
So that’s my five awesome watering tips – what about you? Do you have some favorite tips you use to save water and time in the garden?