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Water Tips for Gardening

Other Water Sources for Your Garden

Using a garden hose is one way to water your garden. Alternative sources are available, however, that are often more economical and better for your plants. Read on to learn about them.

Capture downspout runoff by placing a container at the bottom of the downspout.
Capture downspout runoff by
placing a container at the
bottom of the downspout.

  • 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. However, avoid water contaminated with water-softener salts, harsh detergents, fats, oils, or other extras that would harm plants.

    Gray water has been used successfully in arid parts of the United States and is well worth taking advantage of 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.
  • Redirect runoff from downspouts into flower beds or lawn areas to give plants extra water every time it rains. Flexible tubing could 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 could 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 causes plants to rot.

  • 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.

As you can see, watering your garden is often not as simple as just turning on a hose or pulling out a watering can. The tips in this article will save you time and money and, most important, give your plants the water they need.

Moisture-Loving Plants
These plants thrive when given lots and lots of water:

Want more gardening tips? Try:

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  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.