Water: Making the Most of It

Waterwise gardeningWith water restrictions now in place in Christchurch, I figure it’s time think about how waterwise I’m being in my garden – and I’d love some tips. I’ll start the ball rolling with some of my water-saving tricks – what are yours?

I’m a big fan of mulch and use it wherever I can (which is just about everywhere except where I’m sowing seeds direct). Pea straw is great – it even breaks down for extra organic matter! The only drawbacks I’ve noticed are that it’s a bit of a slug habitat and (I guess because of that) the blackbirds love chucking it about.

Utilising rainwater is a great way to take the pressure off our mains supply and there are a few ways to do this, from store-bought tanks to cheap and cheerful DIY water-barrels. (Building a couple of these, based on the designs in DIY Projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner, is my Labour Weekend project.) If you’ve really caught the water saving bug you can also look at greywater systems.

My favourite waterwise idea, though, involves the ubiquitous plastic soft drink bottle. Poke some tiny holes in the base of a soft drink bottle so that it leaks very slowly. Bury it upright to the neck, next to your newly-planted tomato, courgette, pepper plant etc (one per plant) and then just fill the bottle every 2-4 days. We lose a lot of water to evaporation when we water the soil surface, so the idea with this is to get the water down to the roots of the plant where it does the most good and minimises soil evaporation.

I tried this last year and my plants thrived! Apparently it encourages your plants to put down deeper roots, making them better able to resist drought. I think I got less mildew problems too, as the leaves weren’t getting wet. The only modification I made to the original plan was to keep the lids loosely on the bottles between waterings – otherwise they (sadly) became bumble-bee traps!

So, what tips and tricks do you have to make your garden a more waterwise place? If you’re stuck for inspiration the library has a good range of waterwise garden books, and our huge range of garden magazines is also a treasure-trove of ideas. You can also drop in to the Waterwise Gardening Workshop at the Botanic Gardens on Sunday 30 October for some great advice – I know I’ll be checking it out.

Pick ‘n’ mix: Lies, it’s all lies

Cover of Born LiarsIs House right? Do we all lie? According to some recent books we not only do it, it is now the norm in our society. Personally I’m a bit sceptical that it’s a new thing, but here’s what they have to say.

The Post-truth Era argues that “Deception has become commonplace at all levels of contemporary life” and that in this world “borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and non-fiction.” Oprah might agree with the last bit after her stoush with the author of A Million Little Pieces, a memoir that turned out to be fictional and which the author defended as being “subjective truth”. He’s not the first one though, his is just one in long list of fictional memoirs, some of which made their authors a lot of money.

Born liars described by the BBC as being ‘erudite’ looks at lying as an evolutionary necessity, part of our need to deal with social interaction. I noted when watching Robert Winston’s series A Child of Our Time that he chose the ability to tell a white lie as a marker of pre-school child development. Therein perhaps lies the room for confusion, because a white lie both upholds the social system and apparently contravenes the same system’s rules regarding honesty. Where do white lies start and finish? Is lying on your CV now considered a white lie? Does that matter?

CoverWriting a review of the book for The New Republic Online, Gregg Easterbrook suggested that “whether something is believed has become more important than whether it’s true.” Possibly, but is that a new concept? – politicians has been at it for a long time.

In one of my favourite detective novels The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey uses her detective to expose the highly misleading bad name given to Richard the Third by the political lies of the Tudors. All history is lies, as they say.

In the end the point made by Dorothy Rowe in Why We Lie seems the most pertinent to me – that it is ourselves we hurt the most when we lie – a theme already endlessly explored through fiction over the ages.