Watering the Garden

Rain Barrel by grifray

The dry days of summer are here. Since I want flowers whether they are annuals, perennials, shrubs or trees, I have to take care of them by watering. But water is a special commodity- clean water is becoming more and more a rare commodity. Water is also becoming more and more expensive. So I try to do watering the right way.

I do not use a sprinkler system which wastes water by sprinkling indiscriminately, or loses water from evaporation as the water sprinkles in the air. I have too many flowers to use a drip system or to figure out where to best place one or many drip hoses. So I stand and water my flowers either early in the morning or after the sun goes down. Really, I water their roots. I try to water deeply enough so that the roots grow down for a stronger root system and healthier plants. Spraying water on the leaves is really not good for the plants in sunny weather, especially not for roses which can get a disease called black spot.

I also try to save all the water that I don’t use in the house. When I boil eggs, I save the water I boiled the eggs in and use it for the flowers. If I make tea, the excess water is saved. I rinse vegetables and fruit over a pan and save that water. The water doesn’t go down the drain but on plants that look thirsty and dry.

I have not attached rain barrels to my down spouts but this is something TheGardenLady plans on doing. There seems to be two systems of collecting water from the downspouts. One has the water flow directly into the barrels from the downspout and the other seems to divert the water from the downspout by “sloping a patio, sidewalk, or driveway toward a planting area or tree. The goal of these sloping methods is to slow water down allowing it to percolate into the soil. Swales (berms), French drains, and gabions (low rock dams) are other simple devices used to slow water and direct it to planting areas. “. A few sites showing the different systems are here and here.

I have a confession to make. I do NOT water my lawn. I do not have a pretty lawn. Yes, my lawn is green and kept mown so that it looks neat and lawnlike. But it is mostly filled with weeds. I do not use poison or fertilizer. I do not waste water on my lawn. The weeds have to fend for themselves. And they fend quite nicely. But grass is too labor intensive and needy for care- something I am not willing to do. No one looks at my grass or lawn anyway. The green is just background music. Everyone’s eyes are on the flowers. And right now the lilies are the drawing card.

As a child, I grew up with a thick lawn of mostly clover. I loved the clover as did the honey and other bees. So now as an older gardener, I don’t feel the need for a pristine lawn of blue or any other colored grass. Grass is a big consumer of water. I have to make a choice of what I want to emphasis. For this GardenLady, it is the flowers, herbs and a few vegetables.

I have not used water retaining gels in my soil. I would recommend that people who live in areas where they have more major droughts than I have on the East Coast should read more information about these gels to see if they might work for you. I do not know the price. They seem to say gels help make the soil more friable and last for at least 5 years. So they might be worth putting the gels into the ground if you have a special garden you want to save.  See here.  I doubt that they will help in a real drought situation.

If you live in an area that gets droughts, try to plant drought resistant plants or native plants from your area.  See here.

If you are having a serious drought, when watering you may have to choose what you are going to keep alive. With a serious drought, water your newest planted shrubs and trees first and then your trees or expensive shrubs. These are the plantings that are expensive to replace. Your annuals will die at the end of the season anyway. And many of your perennials are inexpensive to replace next year. But trees and shrubs take a long time to establish and are costly to remove if they die and costly to buy and replant.

For more information on the proper way to water, check out the U. of Illinois recommendations.


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