Five Watering Solutions for your Home Garden
The reality is, if you have a garden, you’re going to need to water it. BUT, not all watering methods are created equal. In fact, some are absolutely awesome, some are so-so, and one is just awful.
Let’s get started.
Sprinklers are a No-no
Unless you’re a toddler playing in a sprinkler on a hot day, you shouldn’t be using a sprinkler. Period. The end.
Yes, I know, you see sprinklers everywhere. But, have you noticed they’re often watering the sidewalk, the road, passing cars, almost never what they’re actually supposed to be watering? And even better, they’re watering IN THE RAIN????!!!!
So, you may have figured out my first argument against sprinklers: They’re incredibly, frustratingly and ridiculously wasteful. If you’ve been around awhile and read my post on Creating a More Sustainable Home, you know how I feel about wasting water. Suffice to say, I’m not a fan.
Even if you have the sprinkler aimed correctly and only water when the garden is actually dry, you’ll lose up to 50% of the water to wind, evaporation and runoff. 50%! (See Water Sense website for more info).
Let’s break this down. My well produces approximately 8 gallons of water per minute when the faucet is open full-force. So, let’s pretend we’re letting our sprinkler run for 2 hours on a normal, sunny, somewhat breezy day. Assuming we’re losing 50% of the water that’s running through the sprinkler, that’s almost 500 GALLONS OF WATER WASTED in just 2 hours! Multiply that by one week, even if you only water for 2 hours a day, and you’re talking 3500 gallons wasted. That’s a whole lot of water.
Ok, so maybe you really don’t care about the wasted water. **gasp** Now that I’ve picked myself up off the floor, here’s my next argument: Sprinklers cause disease in the garden.
No, the sprinklers themselves don’t carry or cause diseases. However, sprinklers water from overhead, wetting the leaves and plants. If you have plants like zucchini or squash that are very susceptible to fungus, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.
You can’t do anything about the rain, but rain tends to come and go, allowing leaves to dry rather rapidly. If you’re watering every day with a sprinkler, your leaves are getting wet a lot and aren’t going to dry out well in between, inviting lots of fun fungal diseases to come in and have a go at your plants.
Systems that water from underneath are much better, so let’s get to those.
Do you need some help keeping track of when and what you water? Well, I have just the freebie for you! Check it out here. And remember, it’s totally free, and you’ll also get access to tons of other FREE and useful resources to help you on your gardening journey.
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Hand Watering ~ Watering Can or Hose
If you have a small garden, or one entirely in containers, hand watering might be a viable option for you. You can use either a watering can or a hose.
Again, as we discussed with the sprinkler, be sure to keep the water right down at the surface of the soil. Try as best you can not to wet the leaves.
The major disadvantage to this method is that it’s time-consuming and can be physically tiring, especially if you have a lot of garden to cover.
If you need a watering can, here’s an entire page of them for you to check out. If you need a hose, you’ll find one here.
Just a thought: Right now, you might think watering your entire garden by hand is no big deal. The weather is nice, it’s raining fairly often so you don’t have to water that much, you’re enjoying being outside after a long winter.
Yup, OK. Now, let’s fast forward to the end of July. It’s 95+, it hasn’t rained in 3 weeks and your plants need water every day (if they’re in containers, it might be more like twice a day). The sun is blazing, you’re boiling, and you’re really tempted to skip watering today.
And that’s precisely why hand watering isn’t ideal either.
Buried Pots (Olla Irrigation)
I have this as #3 on the list, but actually think it might turn out to be the best of the lot, I just haven’t tried it yet so can’t be sure.
Basically, you take an unglazed clay pot, bury it almost up to the rim in the soil beside (or within a ring of) plants and fill it with water, then cover the pot with either a lid or a saucer to keep the water from evaporating. Because the clay isn’t glazed, the water seeps from within the pot based on how dry the soil outside the pot is, and the plant gets watered.
I love this idea for a number of reasons. One, it’s fairly cheap, as long as you plan properly. (You can find a small olla pot here and a couple of other options here). If you can find a source of unglazed clay pots (a local garden center maybe?) you can likely do it very inexpensively.
At the moment, I can’t use this method effectively for my tomatoes as they’re planted in fairly widely spaced rows and I’d need too many pots. BUT, my peppers, zucchini and honeynut squash are planted in raised boxes, and I could easily add 2 good-sized pots to each box to water the entire box. In fact, I may do just that. Stay tuned for my results!
Two, watering this way is EASY! (Have I mentioned I’m lazy?) According to this website (which has great, detailed information on using this watering method, check it out!), the pots may only have to be filled once a week, depending on the size of the pot, how dry your environment is, and the size and water needs of your plants.
Three (my favorite reason!), there’s no wasted water. The water passes from the pot into the soil, giving it no opportunity to evaporate or otherwise get wasted in its journey to the plant.
I’m so excited to have found this method and can’t wait to give it a try! How about you? If you try it, or you have in the past, please comment and let me know how it went for you. Any suggestions would be appreciated too!
This is my method of choice (although the Olla pots may change that in the future!). If you’re looking for some for your own garden, you can find a 50 foot one here. If you have a larger garden and need a longer hose, there’s a 100 foot one here.
One advantage of soaker hoses is that they’re very flexible and can be put just where you need them close to your plants. You can place a 100 foot hose in just a few minutes and be ready to water just that quickly.
I do find that the hoses can be difficult to handle, especially when new. One thing that helps is to run water through them before you try to work with them. This relaxes the hoses a bit and makes them more flexible. I also use garden staples to secure the hoses where I want them (you can find a pack of those here). Just be sure not to stab the hose itself!
Another nice thing about soaker hoses is that they’re quite inexpensive. They come in lots of different lengths so you can customize them as needed, and can be connected in series if you need a longer length. Because my garden is 75 feet from the outside faucet, I run a regular hose over to the garden, then attach the soaker hose to that so I don’t waste water.
As with the other good watering methods, soaker hoses put the water right where needed, just at the base of the plant, so the leaves don’t get wet and water isn’t wasted. As the water comes out so gradually, it has time to soak in and be used efficiently.
One big disadvantage I’ve found with soaker hoses is that, if you happen to turn the water on too hard, the pressure will put a larger-than-desirable hole in the hose and it will spray everywhere.
Yup, I know this from experience. Brand new hose, big hole. **sigh** Gorilla tape to the rescue!
If you have very poor water pressure, you may also find that the hose won’t get wet all the way to the end. You’ll want to monitor to make sure everything is being watered like it’s supposed to.
Pro tip: Soaker hoses need to run for a couple of hours in order to do a thorough watering job. Unless you have a memory like an elephant, set a timer! I have a Fitbit with a timer application, so I immediately set it when turning the hose on. That way, I never forget it and leave it on overnight (….not that I’ve ever <ahem> done that….)
Arguably, probably the best watering solution, but also the most expensive and requires the most upkeep. An improperly maintained drip irrigation system is going to waste more water even than a sprinkler, so if you’re not going to maintain it, don’t use it!
Drip irrigation is typically a system of valves and pipes, and usually includes some type of filter to keep the system from getting clogged. There is also drip tape, although this isn’t as durable as PVC or other types of pipe.
Again, as with the other non-overhead methods, the advantages are increased watering efficiency and decreased chances of disease caused by wet leaves. There isn’t a lot of labor involved, especially if automatic timers are used, and the system can last for years. It also can be used in a system with lower water pressure than some of the other methods.
However, drip irrigation systems can be expensive, as mentioned, and must be maintained, oftentimes professionally if you don’t know what you’re doing. You MUST monitor carefully for breaks in the system, as these can cause huge water losses. I would be concerned with this method, as we’re on a well, because I’d be afraid an unnoticed break could run my well dry in just a few hours.
Additionally, you’ll have to be sure to put your plants in the proper spots to take advantage of the irrigation, versus moving hoses to accommodate the plants as you would in soaker hose irrigation.
I hope you’ve found today’s post helpful in trying to decide how best to irrigate your garden. Below, you’ll find some pinnable images. Please be sure to pin one so you can find me later!
Otherwise, smile and have a crazy organic day!
This post was shared on the Farm Fresh Tuesday blog hop. Come on over and visit!
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