Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb with plenty of planting and growing experience under your belt or a gardening newbie, you can benefit from getting ahead of the game when it comes to water management and your garden.
A good, steady supply of water is crucial for healthy growth of flowers, fruit and vegetables. While we can control the quality of the soil, seeds and plants, and sunlight is generally free and reliable, when it comes to rainfall we’re pretty powerless. The rain surprises us—it often brings too much water (or not enough) at all the wrong times. Getting your watering needs taken care of before a dry spell can help you avoid the unpredictability of rainfall and ensure the success of your plantings.
Roll Out The Rain Barrels
No matter where you live, you can experience drought conditions. When you’re faced with a drought situation, careful water collecting is critical.
Capturing rainfall in a water barrel is like money in the bank. When you need it the water is there and free to use. Most rain barrels hold 40 to 60 gallons and can be placed near any gutter downspout. They can also be linked together to capture more water. Screening at the inlets keeps out insects and debris. Some rain barrels include a built-in spigot so you can easily attach a hose or fill up watering cans. Be sure to have a level, solid foundation for your rain barrel, as it can weigh over 400 lbs. when full. Not only can captured rainwater be used to water your garden and yard, you can also use it to water indoor plants and wash your car.
And don’t let the name fool you—rain barrels aren’t always fashioned in a typical barrel design. You can now find “barrels” that look like rocks and log racks. Some have even been built in the shape of a beautiful urn with a spot to place a plant on top.
Tools Of The Trade
Good gadgets are a must for every gardener.
Start with a hose—the essential garden tool. There’s no greater time waster and watering frustration than a leaky, broken hose. Be sure to test your hoses and faucets in the spring to make sure all are in working order and will be ready when you need them. Look for a hose that’s lightweight, easy to store and durable.
A simple rain gauge will let you know just how much water your garden received so you can plan additional watering accordingly (and accurately). You can use a rain gauge when watering with a sprinkler to measure how much water the ground is receiving. Most garden vegetation will thrive on about one inch of water per week.
Shrubs and trees are highly sensitive to drought and will die quickly if not watered. A steady supply of water is critical for newly planted shrubs and trees to get their roots firmly established.
Watering bladders are a great solution. They fit around the base of the plant and water it automatically, providing drip irrigation to keep the water flowing constantly and steadily to the plant over a period of time.
Watering bladders normally hold 15 to 40 gallons and are ideal for not only trees and shrubs but also vegetables like tomatoes.
Place a water timer at your faucet to provide a measured supply of water to your plants. Water timers are inexpensive insurance against forgetting to turn the water off and running the well dry or over watering.
Make The Most Of Your H2O
You can easily increase the quality of the soil around your plantings by adding compost, which also helps maximize water use. High-quality soil, rich in humus, compost and earthworms will retain water longer and make it available for plant roots. Roots can also spread through the loose friable soil more easily.
Mulch around flowerbeds and vegetables will decrease the evaporation rate of water at the surface and help keep soil moist. Mulching also cuts into the weed population, which will keep the water supply where it needs to be—with your garden plants. You can choose from a wide variety of mulches to retain moisture. Mulch made from recycled tire rubber is incredibly low maintenance and looks remarkably like natural bark mulch. Because of its makeup, it lasts for years. Organic mulches made of things like leaves, shells, sawdust, woodchips, shredded newspaper or bark are also great options. Mulch can also be made from rock and gravel or plastic.
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