Saturday, March 09, 2013

Watering in a drought

I'm hanging out for some decent rain on  my garden. A couple of days of drizzle to soften up the ground followed by a couple days of steady downpour to soak in deep would be great, thank you.  The official declaration of drought in the Waikato earlier this week was accompanied by a total ban on sprinklers which is fine by me because I have only ever hand-watered my garden.  My watering routine is time consuming, but water-conservative. 

A young lemonade tree that was mostly dead when I rescued it from a neglected pot. Planted with nasturtium and chamomile, dug up twice the the neighbour's dog and yet thriving in this dry.
I try and water all my pots and the raised bed almost every day but most of the vegetable beds are watered only every 2-3 days.  Heavy mulch seems to be keeping everything just moist enough to stay alive on this regime. I stopped watering the flowers  at all  a couple of weeks ago and they are struggling but would be winding down this late in the summer anyway. The beds I planted on top of layers of wood and half-rotted compost seems to be the best at retaining moisture- just as promised in the permaculture resources that inspired me.

The young fruit trees planted six months ago get watered once every 2-3 weeks.  They are also heavily mulched and most of them were planted on some chunks of rotten wood at the base of the hole to act as water sponges for just these kinds of dry conditions.  The trees aren't growing much in this dry, but neither are they dying.

My never-watered (and slightly weedy) succulent garden with pebble mulch and the washing machine water diversion hose running along the wall to reach the fruit trees in the front yard.
So if I don't use a sprinkler or irrigation, where do I get my garden water from? First of all I divert as much household water as I can from going down the drain.  Only when I have run out of diverted grey water do I turn on the hose and hand water the rest of my edible plants.

I start off by showering with a couple of buckets at my feet.  I can get up to half of my pot plants (tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, herbs etc) with my shower water. This water includes a little  diluted  mild vegetable soap and the baking soda and cider vinegar with which I wash my hair, it all seems fine on the garden.

Then I take kitchen rinse water outside to more of the pots. The nutrient-rich rinse water from milk cartons and soaked saucepans also seems to agree with my plants which are continuing to thrive and produce food.

Washing machine water running out on to bark mulch at the base of the young apple tree
On the rare occasion I fill my bathtub (and sometimes this summer a cool bath is what I crave more than anything at the end of a hot sticky day) I do not drain the water but ladle it out in buckets - up to 24  and slosh them onto my fruit trees and the vegetable garden.

The latest, and most sophisticated diversion, is from the washing machine. Rather than try and capture buckets of rinse water being pumped from the machine into the tub (which I have done on occasion-its even more of a hassle than emptying the bath) I now poke the hose out the laundry room cat door to flow into a bin squatting unattractively on my front steps.  A pipe inserted at the base of the bin channels the laundry water out into a hose which I can direct towards each fruit tree in turn. This means a deep soak for each tree every 2-3 weeks.

Washing machine hose diverted to a collection barrel with pipe for directing water into a garden hose.
Despite this years endless dry, I can remember last winter where it rained every day for months on end.  Our all or nothing precipitation will only become more extreme as climate change tips over into post-Arctic-melt chaos. So I am putting my mind to other, more efficient ways to capture winter rains and store them for slow release in summer droughts.  I will be setting up as many Hugelkulture-type beds and rain water collection barrels as I can manage.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this.