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How to Water Plants

Conserving Water

­Conserving water not only saves money, it saves the environment. These tips will help you in this dual endeavor.

  • Use gray water on potted plants or small gardens to reduce water use. Gray water is the leftover tap water from activities such as rinsing vegetables at the kitchen sink. Be sure to avoid water contaminated with water-softener salts, harsh detergents, fats, oils, or other extras that would harm plants.

    Moisture-Loving Plants
    The following plants will drink up as much water as you can provide! Be sure to keep them moist, and they'll do their best to thrive.

    Gray water has been used successfully in arid parts of the United States and is well worth using anywhere. It helps prevent stress on wells during drought and lowers utility bills for people with municipal water lines.
    Capture gray water in a basin stored close to the sink, where it will be handy to pull out and use. Transfer the gray water to a watering can before watering potted plants or new plantings. A little moisture in a time of need will make a big difference.

  • Catch water from a downspout into a container. This unfluoridated, unchlorinated water is ideal for watering plants. It comes at an ambient temperature, not shockingly cold from the tap, which is hard on warmth-
    loving plants. And perhaps best of all, at least from the gardener's perspective, it's free!

    The easiest way to collect downspout runoff is to put a container at the bottom of the downspout. A topless bucket or barrel with a sturdy spigot at the bottom can be set in place permanently. Simply drain the water from the spigot into your watering can. To handle larger quantities of water, look for a 30- to 50-gallon barrel or drum. It's helpful to keep a large cup or other dipper on hand for transferring the water into a watering can.

    You can tap every downspout around your house for maximum water yield or, if you prefer, just use the downspouts in the private parts of the landscape, the back and side yards. Be sure to cap containers so that birds, small mammals, and reptiles do not fall in and drown.

  • Another option is to redirect runoff from downspouts into flower beds or lawn. Flexible tubing can be connected to the end of the downspout and directed into nearby plantings around the foundation of the house or to flower or vegetable gardens. For maximum benefits, shape beds like a shallow bowl to collect the water and give it time to soak in. Or, as an alternative, the garden could be made fairly level with lower moisture-gathering saucers made around newly planted trees or shrubs or plants with high moisture needs.

    In dry climates, the tubing can be covered with soil or mulch and kept connected all the time. In climates with periods of overly wet weather, the tubing should be disconnected during soggy seasons to prevent oversaturation of the soil, which may cause plants to rot, unless you are growing water-loving plants like Siberian iris and primrose.
  • Drop the soil level in the boulevard strip, the row of grass between the sidewalk and the street, so it will collect runoff rainwater that otherwise would be lost to street sewers or roadside ditches. A small 1- to 2-inch drop in soil level will be enough to do the job. If planting sod, make the soil level even lower to account for the extra height of sod roots. In cold climates, you may have to remove sand or grit that can accumulate after winter snowplowing to maintain an appropriate height.
With these helpful watering guidelines, you can sprout your own green thumb and never have to worry about dry, brown foliage again.

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