With 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.