Ten Great Water-Saving Gardening Ideas

picture of a dripping sink in a garden

In these times of drought, we all need to be smart about keeping our plants healthy – and not waste water at the same time. A thriving garden doesn’t require tons of water. It simply needs a smart gardener armed with practical ideas and frugal techniques.

 

To retain water, add compost to your soil

Organic composting helps amend your garden soil with nutrients so it can be fertile. It also traps moisture to help plants take root. Composting can be done even without an expensive bin. As an example, you can collect food scraps from your kitchen and take them straight into a compost pile.

 

Apply mulch to your soil

Mulch provides a protective layer that can prevent up to 70% of moisture from evaporating, especially on a hot day. After composting, apply an adequate layer of mulch to avoid water runoff. Mulching also keeps weeds from taking over precious soil space and vying for water and nutrients, which your growing plants badly need.

picture of brown rubber mulch

Have a strict AM and PM watering schedule

Keeping to a fixed routine can help you save water while optimizing root and plant growth. Gardens are best watered from early morning up until temperature begins to rise before noon because there is less evaporation then. If your plants are in pots and containers, they tend to dry out quickly so water them at noon and into the early afternoon.
Avoid watering at night – this can cause fungal growth because there is no sun to help evaporate excess moisture.

watering plants when there's sunlight

Know which plants to water at specific times

Of course, observing your plants for any sign of drought stress means you have to customize your watering schedule specifically around it. Knowing the types of plants and their developmental stages can also help you incrementally reduce watering. For instance, squash, melons, cucumbers, and other vine crops only need ample watering during their flowering and fruiting stages. Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants also do not need excess watering as they love the heat, and tend to bear more fruit in warmer weather.

 peppers

Avoid “thirsty” plants

If you’re starting a garden from scratch, it’s wise to go for plants that don’t “guzzle” water and require a lot of maintenance. Low-maintenance plants like succulents are ideal because they thrive in drought-like conditions, such as in deserts. Go for small plants and those with narrow leaves instead (ferns are a good example).

If your garden already has established plants that are slow-growing, fret not because those don’t require a lot of watering, either. Thirsty plants include big-leafed ones, ones that need constant fertilizing, and those that grow at a rapid rate or are newly-planted.  

 

Save kitchen and fish tank water

After boiling vegetables, don’t throw away the water in your pot. Let it cool before using it to water your plants. There are added vitamins and minerals in this water that can help nourish your plants. The same goes for water from your fish tank- it’s rich in phosphorous and nitrogen that can aid plant growth.

water in a pot

Choose drought-tolerant plants

In times of drought, think small. This means the smaller the produce, the bigger its chance of surviving hot weather. Think miniature bell peppers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, and other vegetables that are tiny yet rich in nutrients, and actually flourish in heat.

someone holding cherry tomatoes

Other tried-and-tested drought-resistant produce include okra, Swiss chard, legumes like chickpea, lima beans and cow beans, mature rhubarb, chiles, cantaloupe, and herbs such as rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, and lavender.

 

Collect rainwater in your garden

You can harvest water when it rains by using a plastic or metal barrel to collect roof runoff. You can place the barrel directly beneath a downspout so it collects most of the water and fills up quickly. Use a dipper to water the plants with, and keep the barrel covered to prevent insects and debris from getting into it. Doing these can significantly reduce your water bill, as opposed to relying on a garden hose for regular watering.

rain barrels collecting water

Select practical plant containers

The kind of pot or container you put your plant into can have a great effect on its growth and your gardening habits. Avoid metal containers because they will just take away the moisture from the soil in the container and create an overheated environment. Use them as decorative outer containers, instead.

 

Go for glazed pots. If you choose unglazed terra cotta ones, chances are the soil will dry faster in them because they’re porous. If you need to transplant seeds and starts outdoors, you buy coconut husk pots that decay when roots start taking hold, or biodegradable plant pots that allow you to bury them whole into the ground without replanting.

 

Group plants with similar water needs

In a drought, it’s no longer practical to plant in rows. It makes better sense to do block and grouped planting. The logic behind this is that the plants provide much-needed shade and nutrients for each other without competing for moisture and nourishment. A water-efficient garden layout can have blocks of similar-needs produce like cucumbers, squash, and zucchini – these vegetables require the same amount of watering. It may be tempting to add some cauliflower or broccoli into the mix, but as they need more room and are thirsty plants, they will create a problem with watering and nourishment.

 

Container Gardening for Dummies

 

gardening with containers

Container Gardening for Dummies

“Necessity is the mother of all invention”. With the rise of smaller spaces for urban dwellers, container gardening is probably one of the most creative alternative the modern gardener has come up with. It is flexible, portable, and can work with whatever space you have available. You can grow both ornamental and edible plants. One of the perks of container gardening include not having to do tedious preparations and weeding that the traditional garden calls for. Sounds interesting? Here are a few fail-safe suggestions on how to start and maintain your very own container garden:

flowers planted in containers

Tools for Your Garden

Since you will not be tilling the land and will not buse a lot of space, container gardening does not require a lot of tools. Most of the time, a trowel, a hand fork and some gloves will be all you need. When you get bigger plants that need pruning, this is when you’ll need a pair of sharp shears, for smaller plants that need trimming, a pair of sharp kitchen scissors can do the trick. You will also need potting mix. You need something that is already premixed instead of just soil as your plants will need all the nutrients it can get.

trowel for gardening

How to choose container garden pots

The fun part about container gardening is that it can be very affordable. You can use empty plastic bottles, you just need to poke holes in it for drainage. Or you can purchase specialty containers that can match your home’s interior design, your balcony or patio. Containers come in all shapes and sizes, what you need to put into consideration is the size of the plant as it grows and transfer to bigger pots when necessary.

How to choose your location

Sunlight is an important factor in gardening–even for container gardening. Find a suitable area in your home the gets an adequate amount of sunlight. The amount and strength of sunlight you can find available will determine what kind of plants can thrive in your environment. Spend a day in your home observing which areas get full afternoon sun, which ones get partial sun and areas with very little to none. If you find that you may have inadequate sunlight to properly grow plants, try looking into artificial light to substitute natural sunlight.

potted plants receiving sunlight

How to choose your plants

One of the most popular choices for container gardening are potted herbs. They’re compact, easy to grow, can be a good ornament to your kitchen, and are very aromatic..Some of the easiest herb to grow include basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme. Lettuces, tomatoes, and cucumbers are also a popular choice when you have a little more space to spare. It is also possible to grow dwarf varieties of trees such as apples, pear, and fig.

potted herbs

How to fertilize

As your plants are isolated from a big body of soil, your plants will need more consistent fertilizing. Start with a slow release fertilizer in your potting soil to ensure your plants are not starved. To complement this, you can add a fish emulsion or a diluted liquid fertilizer every few weeks. It is also wise to add a kind of mulch on top of your plants to prevent erosion.

Container gardening is not only for the urban gardener, it is also a good option when soil in your area can be problematic or have been exposed to diseases.  When in doubt, consult your local nursery or gardening shop on what seeds/seedlings they have available for your garden that can thrive in your area.

Raised Bed Gardens

Picture of a Raised Bed GardenHow to create a Raised Bed Garden

A raised garden bed is a must have for the advanced gardener. In a nutshell, a raised garden bed is like a huge plant box that offers a lot of benefits to the gardener by creating a controlled environment designed to provide a plant’s needs to grow better and yield more produce.

Ready to start creating a raised bed garden? Here’s how:

4×8 is an Ideal Size

After picking a free spot in your garden that gets plenty of sunlight, it’s time to measure your raised bed dimensions. 4 feet wide by 8 feet long is usually a good size because most lumber are sold in 4-feet or 8-feet increments. You don’t want to make your raised bed garden too big so you can plant a variety of plants that thrive in different soil mixes while avoiding spread of diseases. If you are planning on using a bigger part of your garden, consider creating multiple raised beds.

Multiple Raised Garden Beds

 

Prepare the Area
There are a couple of ways to prepare the area for your raised garden bed. The traditional method is called Double dig. It involves removing top soil and loosening the subsoil while replacing the top soil with organic matter. This can be quite labor-intensive but provides excellent irrigation, traps warmth in the soil, and allows deeper rooting for your plants. The minimum depth of your bed is around 6-12 inches

picture of someone double digging garden beds

 

Building your Bed
The bed can be made of timber and other types of woods like cedar, blocks, bricks or even plastic (faux) timber. Assemble the construction materials using screws or galvanized nails.

Woman assembling a garden bed

 

A Good Potting Mix is a Good Start
Some produce thrive better on acidic conditions, while others like a more alkaline environment. This is where you can make sure the plants get exactly what they need to thrive. Add your potting mix and start planting or transplanting your greens!

 

Plant in potting mix

 

Raised bed gardening allows the gardener to give their plants the environment it needs to thrive. It’s also a great option for areas that have problematic soil that are prone to pests, frost, nutrient-deficiency, and compacting.

 

Basic Gardening Tools

woman with basic gardening tools

Gardening can be beneficial in a number of ways. It’s therapeutic, meditative and brings us closer to Mother Nature. Some studies even show that getting your hands in the dirt can help boost the immune system.

 

The daunting part comes when you start getting the tools and products you need. “Will it be expensive?”, “What if I don’t have all the tools?” are some of the questions that make many soon-to-be-gardeners a little apprehensive. Some of us may have a limited amount of budget and that’s not a bad thing. Look at it this way, you can focus on the basics and build your way from there. With a limited budget in mind, here are 4 basic gardening tools that can help you get started.

Gardening Trowel

gardening trowel

One of the best multi-purpose tools that your garden can have. Usually a made with a forged blade with a wooden handle, this tool can be used to dig hard, rocky soil. The good thing about a good garden trowel is that it can double up as a shovel for small gardens, a weeder, and as a substitute for soil knives.  Look for pointy, scoop-shaped stainless steel blades that is sharp enough to function as a soil knife that is shaped well to sweep and gather soil properly.  

Gloves

 

Gardening without the proper equipment can leave you susceptible to allergens, bacteria and cuts from sharp rocks, thorns, or pointy foreign objects that may be in the soil. This makes a good pair of gardening gloves a good investment to keep your green hands safe. Look for a pair that is well knitted and lightweight. Leather is also a good material to look for as it helps provide a good grip.

gardening glovesFork

 

Another multi-purpose tool for the newbie gardener. A fork can work as an aerator and a soil cultivator. This also works great for mixing compost, wood chips, organic mulch and rubber mulch, wood chips, and manure. A smaller fork works best for small shrubs and flowerbeds. Looked for forged steel as they are stronger and more suitable for digging through compacted soil and hard rocks. This works hand in hand with your garden trowel.

Garden Shears

From pruning, trimming vines, cutting herbs, and even grass – just make sure to keep it clean in between uses. A good, lightweight pair of garden shears can go a long way. Sharp is the best trait your pruning shears can have. Sharp enough to create clean cut stems or vines to prevent diseases from infecting your plants. If you are suffering from arthritis, carpal tunnel or other physical ailments, many garden shears are designed with adjustable tensions and ergonomic grip to make the task easier.

 

Watering Can

watering can

A portable container with a spout is your best bet to make sure you water you plants deeply and evenly. The best part? You don’t necessary need to spend with this tool. All you need is some creativity to upcycle items that can be found at your home. You can piece hole on a used plastic bottle or recycle an old can and you’re set

That didn’t sound so expensive right? From there you can start building your tool collection as your garden grows. Looking for more tips to save on gardening? Here are 10 gardening hacks that can help without creating a huge dent on your wallet.