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Water-Wise Gardening: Make the Most of Every Drop

Whether you’re caring for a container garden or keeping a homestead vegetable plot alive, using water efficiently and mindfully is important. In many places, water restrictions are common — especially during the summers. But even if your area isn’t experiencing drought, follow these simple steps to conserve one of our most precious resources.


Collect water inside the house

In our house, half-full glasses of water either get added to the dog’s water bowl or dumped on a parched houseplant. And on those days when I forget my water bottle in the hot car, I empty it on a plant. Even cleaning old, glacier-like ice from the icemaker is an opportunity to water the garden. On a bigger scale, keep a bucket in your shower to collect water for your plants. Let it catch precious drops as the water warms up, and even while you shower (provided you use eco-friendly, biodegradable bath products).

Water at the right time

Don’t waste time watering in the middle of the day; that’s when temperatures are warmest and water will evaporate quickly. It’s better to water the garden in the evening, or very early morning. That way the water has time to soak down to the roots, rather than evaporating up into the air.

Employ soaker hoses, self-watering containers or globes

If you’re just starting out with your garden, consider burying soaker hoses a few inches below the surface. These allow you to water deeply, right to the plants’ roots, and that means the water doesn’t have a chance to evaporate. Self-watering containers and globes that are placed in potted plants accomplish the same thing: taking the water straight to the part of the plant that needs it most.

Mulch, mulch, mulch

Not only does mulch help prevent weeds in your garden, but it also keeps moisture underground, where it’s most needed. During the hot summer, mulched containers and garden beds will remain cooler and require less watering that their un-mulched counterparts. Choose mulch made from organic compounds, which will nourish your garden’s soil as it slowly decomposes.

Harvest rainwater

If you have the space (and gutters!), consider harvesting rainwater in a rain barrel. During even a small rain, amazing amounts of precipitation can be caught in a barrel for use in the garden. If you are caring for a small patio garden, simply set out containers with each storm and use what you catch. Every drop counts!

How are you water-wise in your garden? Share your tips below!

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Barb says …

My condo complex installed one homemade rain barrel last year. I went to our property manager and asked for one next to my patio and she gladly made one and had our maintenance man install it. I've done extensive planting/remodeling of my patio garden and now use the reclaimed water out of the barrel to water. Unfortunately, I have to use my watering can because the rain barrel isn't pressurized like the faucet so trying to use the hose is useless. Oh well, more time in the great outdoors. This year I'm also going to try watering the established perennials less often. I'll "spot water" the few annuals and the containers, but hopefully won't have to continuously water the perennials.

Howard Rouser says …

I use a container to hold the cold water that runs thru my faucet while waiting for it to get warm. I get a least 2 gallons a day, which I use to water plants. When rainfall is scarce in the winter, I fill containers with well water that is usually for watering the lawn.

Quisha says …

Thanks for the great advice!

Tami Schmidt says …

What great tips! During this time of drought, these hints will help us maintain our garden and potted plants!

Bob says …

If I could leave a picture I would show my rain barrels lined up against the west outside wall. I can collect over 500 gallons of water runoff.

Nature Jack Marine says …

I leave buckets all over my garden when there's a rainy day ahead. I also put a bucket outside my kitchen door and dump water left in pots in the sink into the bucket, later using it for my garden.

Bebe says …

We use a rain cistern by the side of our house to collect run-off from the roof....it waters the garden and refills the pool. We used to have a very occasional problem w/moisture in our basement, and since we've used the cistern, all that extra moisture is diverted so it solved that problem as well.

David says …

Have a rain barrel I purchased at my Tenleytown whole foods. It is amazing how much water we get from just a small rain shower. Hope my whole foods will start selling them again. I could use a couple more. They were really good quality at a good price.

Mike says …

This is my 2nd year harvesting rainwater. I use new garbage cans to hold the rain I collect in totes and smaller buckets. Because we have had a lot of rain in NJ the past month as of today (7/7) I have collected over 150 gallons. More rain on the way. Looking like the garden hose can stay coiled a little longer. Enjoy your gardens everyone !!!