As i’m sure you’ve noticed, Nova Scotia’s been a bit dry lately. Although we did receive a bit of rain yesterday it has not been enough to keep some southern Nova Scotian’s wells full. With all the water woes, our gardens are struggling as much as our water tables.
At the Dalhousie Urban Garden, we get a majority of our water from rain. Our shed has a nice slant that acts to collect the rain water and the water then passes through a gutter and into a PVC pipe that has been cut in half. This PVC pipe then feed’s into a series of barrels that store the water until we are ready to use it. So far, it has worked well, and although the rain has been few and far between, enough water is stored to keep us with water for most of the summer.
There are many other ways to irrigate your garden and save time and water! Here’s how!
As you can see in the picture above, most people set up there rain barrels to collect runoff water from the roof’s of there home. This works exceptionally well, and has served us well at the Dal Urban Garden. In the above picture, they have a angled runoff pipe, but this pipe can be connected to a series of barrels that can be used to collect and store the water for as long as possible. If each barrel has a water spigot for dispensing the water, a perfect rain water collection system can have a few barrels in tandem and store water for months.
A common problem with rain barrels is mosquito’s! There are many solutions to mosquito’s, so don’t fret! Here are a few:
- Add a tablespoon of dish soap or 1/2 cup of bleach to the barrel. This will disrupt the mosquito’s ability to breed and survive in the water, but will not poison the plants!
- Dump the rain barrel. If you get enough rain, it might be possible to simply dump the barrel when it gets too nasty. If there are too many bugs, dump it!
- Add a tight fitting lid or a tight screen. Either or will be enough to keep the mosquito’s out of the barrel.
Many people use drip irrigation as a method of consistent and water saving irrigation. It saves water by only water the area around the roots of the plants and it reduces stress on the plants because they have a consistent water level in the soil. It also allows all plants to be watered at once and reduces weed growth!
So how does it work? Well most drip irrigation systems are generally made out of PVC piping and can be modified and designed for any garden layout. Generally, main distribution lines are glued together to maintain and handle high water pressure. The lateral lines are usually not glued to allow for some flexibility in the layout, given changes in planting and garden layout every year.
Holes are drilled in the lateral lines to deliver the drip to each plant in the row. The hole numbers, size and distribution vary depending on the plants that will be watered by that lateral line.
Drip irrigation requires a bit of “learn-by-trying” mentality and a lot of planning! Ensure you have a plan for how your system will be laid out and designed before the season begins, and have the system mostly built in time for planting. I learned a lot from this website, and I think it would be a great place to start. Drip irrigation can be a great investment and save a lot of time and trouble down the road.
Holey Hoses and Other Sprinklers
This is not the best water saving option and does require access to running water or a well, but can still be effective ways to ensure your plants stay wet. A single hose can output 2-5 gallons of water per minute, which is a lot of water that can easily be wasted if not used properly.
Many different kinds of sprinklers are available, and not that many resources on good sprinklers can be found. But a few helpful tips when attempting to buy a new sprinkler:
- Don’t water with a sprinkler for too long! The ground needs time to absorb what you’ve given it, and if you leave the sprinkler on for any more than 15 minutes, most of the water you are adding will run-off the surface.
- Using a sprinkler in the morning when the sun is low and the wind is calm will ensure the water ends up where you want it to be and is absorbed by the ground and plants instead of simply evaporating away.
- Try to get a sprinkler with good distribution. Without a good spread, a sprinkler could water the same space of garden too much and neglect another section entirely.
Other options, rather than sprinklers can be holey hoses (as I call them). They are long stretches of hose with holes poked in them so that water sprays out as the tap is turned on. This method is similar to drip irrigation, but a bit less planning is required. Just roll out your holey hose and turn it on! It works great to conserve water too because it will only water where you place it, so you won’t waste water by watering the entire area – sidewalk and shed – as well!
I know water has been scarce around here lately, but that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our gardens! With careful planning and water conservation in mind, we can keep our gardens growing strong without wasting any water. Pick and choose from above and google away, there is tons of resources for water friendly gardening!
~Landon Getz, External Coordinator