Saving water in the garden

Water is no longer the sustainable resource it has been in the past. In recent summers, some city councils around New Zealand imposed water restrictions on household gardens and elsewhere councils are installing household water meters.

There are ways of watering plants without excessive water loss. The two main principles are deep watering and retaining water once it is in the soil. Here are some handy ways to do this:

Up-turned drink bottle

Remove the bottom of a 1.5 litre plastic drink bottle, and bury the bottle so the neck is positioned well below ground level and angled so the neck sits below the root mass. Pour water into the upturned bottle. This deep watering encourages roots to go deeper to the water source.

Shallow depression around a plant

Heap up the soil around the plant to create a shallow saucer-like depression around the plant. Water poured into the depression will soak downwards to the plant’s roots rather than across bare ground.

Dripper and mulch

The use of carpet mulch and tubing and a dripper under the carpet is a double way of keeping the roots moist and cool. Mulching has long been used for conserving moisture in the soil. Compost, straw and carpet pieces are frequently used. The combination of carpet and a dripper placed beneath the carpet at the base of the tree will prevent moisture loss in the driest of summers.

Timers to control water flow

Timers are attached to the tap and allow the gardener to control the amount of water and the timing. Ideally they are set to water at night or in the early hours of the morning. This allows the water to soak into the soil before the sun’s rays hit the soil. The combination of irrigation systems and watering timers are the answer to watering the garden. Different types of timers are available, which can be set for specific periods.

Soaker hose

The soaker hose is made of recycled rubber. It emits water from fine holes along its entire length. Once laid, the soaker hose is covered with soil and plants are spaced in the soil above the hose. This style of watering is especially ideal for summer vegetables such as hearting lettuce, which are prone to bolt to seed if allowed to dry out. The soaker hose can also be laid in established gardens and is ideal for weaving in and out of established perennials in the flower garden.

The soaker hose sits in a trench (8-10cms deep). You can see fine sprays of water emerging from the tubing.

Drippers and tubing

There are a variety of drippers available than can dispense varying amounts of water.