In a perfect world, you’d plant your off-grid garden and it would rain the day after and several times during the week, says Pat Veretto of www.frugalliving.com, allowing enough time for the sun to beam good things to the plants. And then we want rain every week after that of course.
In the real world, garden seeds and seedlings usually need to be watered by us whether it’s cloudy or sunny.
The most primitive, but not necessarily the most frugal way to water the garden, is to carry buckets of water and pour on the plants or on the soil around them. It seems as if it takes less water to water by hand, than either by hose or bucket, but test the soil when you’re through and you’ll see that often the water doesn’t penetrate very far – usually an inch or so, which is a long way from plant roots where it’s needed! It takes a long time to properly water anything by hand, but it’s not an unenjoyable task for a leisurely morning.
The next step “up” is digging ditches or small furrows to carry the water from the source to the plants. Furrows take the place of garden paths, but they have advantages over hand watering.
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For one thing, you don’t have to carry anything. For another, they can wet the soil to the depth of the plant roots. One drawback is that water standing in ditches will evaporate, sending your utility money into thin air. Another is that digging ditches makes a mess of the garden and leaves little space to weed or harvest. We won’t talk about the labor involved.
Somewhere along the way, man seemed to pay attention to the way nature watered plants: Water falls from the air, wetting both plant and soil thoroughly. So he invented sprinkler systems that shoots water high into the air so that it can fall on the plants, just like it does when it rains. Some systems became very elaborate, covering large areas of farmer’s fields. Some very simple ones are still in use, like the little sprinkler heads you screw onto the end of a hose.
There are many versions between these two extremes, but they all have this one thing in common: they waste water, big time. Sprewing water into the air, especially hot summer air, will cause it to evaporate very quickly – a good part of it before it hits the garden. Sprinklers also make it difficult to control exactly where the water goes, so you often wind up watering weeds, walkways, fences and the neighbor’s yard.
Those are the negatives, and now for the positive. The best way to water a garden is with drip irrigation. You don’t have to buy fancy systems for it, either. Just get an old hose, the more holes the better (within reason), and stretch it along the area you want to water.
You won’t water the weeds or the neighbor’s lawn and the water isn’t lost to evaporation. You don’t have to haul anything around, at least after the hose has been put down. The water goes to the roots where it does the most good. It goes slowly so that it doesn’t run off. You can keep it off the garden paths. You can move it around to where you need it and NOT water the things that don’t need it.
Practically speaking, you can join several hoses to cover a fairly large area. You can buy an inexpensive splitter, which is an attachment to a faucet that has two hose fittings, so you can run two hoses at one time. Ideally, you could run two 100 foot hoses and water 200 feet of plantings all at one time.
Just stretch the hose out where you need it and go get a glass of lemonade and that book you’ve been yearning to read.
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