Even though 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water, only 2.5 percent of this supply is considered fresh water. Of that, most is locked up in glaciers and ice caps or in the form of clouds, and humidity in the soil. This leaves us with (drum roll please) less than 1 percent of fresh water accessible in the form of lakes, rivers and streams. This spring, as you plan or redesign your garden consider these water preserving techniques.
1. Watering Basics
Remember, all plants need water initially to effectively establish themselves. After that, you can water less frequently if you insure that the water soaks down deep to the root level, especially during the beginning planting phases. This will allow for a better developed and sustained root system as well as prevent potential fungal and bacteria buildup on the plant, which is common with over-watering. Make it a habit to check your soil moisture by sticking a finger into the ground. If the top 2-3 inches are dry and it’s moist below that, you’re doing a good job. Last, water early or late in the day, the direct sun can consume a good portion of your midday watering.
2. Use Drought Tolerant Plants
The number one thing you can do to reduce your water usage (and your water bill) is to plant drought tolerant perennial plants, such as yarrow, a soil erosion combating beauty, and shrubs, such as rosemary, a very fragrant and useful kitchen herb.
The best way to promote the success and happiness of your new plant is to follow the nursery's directions for planting perennials. Because, if you plant an herb that needs ‘partial sun,’ in full sun, (we’ve all done it) its water needs have now changed significantly, leaving you at risk of wasting water or killing the plants (we’ve all done that too).
One trick to increase your chances of finding adaptive and tolerable plants is to choose native plants. Local nurseries and garden clubs almost always carry indigenous, beautiful, yet practical plants.
3. Collect Water
Rain gardens, designed to temporarily trap rainwater runoff, are comprised of perennials and shrubs planted tightly in a bed of mulch or rocks, ideally, in a naturally sloping depression. According to The Groundwater Foundation, “Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground.”
A rain garden generally only holds water during and following a rainfall. It is not a pond, water garden or wetland and typically drains within 12-48 hours, preventing the breeding of mosquitoes and the creation of standing water pools, which are bad for roots.
Before you begin buiding a rain garden, the Groundwater Foundation recommends you conduct a soil test and an infiltration test - both of which you can do yourself - which will give you a better idea of how your specific soil absorbs or repels water.
Now, imagine gardening without water - at all. Impossible, right? Well, there will be water of course, but just not provided by you. (Stay with me.)
To Soil Less founder Richard Campbell explains his organization's intriguing findings, after testing both water added to gravel gardens and those left unwatered. Campbell states that the gravel gardens managed to generate their own water, “It seems that moisture was created by what could be referred to as a 'condensation effect,' between the rock cooking at 100+ degrees on the outside and the Earth cooling the base of the enclosed gravel.”
This drought-resistant asset of gravel gardening, which uses sand and gravel as the primary growing medium, is an exciting new development in agriculture you can experimentwith at home this spring.
Water for Thought
As your brain (comprised of approximately 75 percent, undrinkable, salty water) considers ways to implement these simple techniques to increase your ability to capture water, be sure to dip into the ocean of online research and resources, as there are many factors in whether a specific plant will thrive in your environment. And remember, no matter how innovative we humans get, we can not make more water. Period. But, what we can do is be aware of its natural cycles and be responsible for how we use this finite resource as we go about our lives, producing and consuming atop this organic and green water world.
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Image: Christopher Craig