I’ve been hearing from clients about new water restrictions cities are implementing to deal with California’s water crisis. In some cases, cities plan to cut homeowner’s water supply by 50%. Obviously lawns are out – if they don’t produce food or provide habitat, pollen, and nectar for wildlife, it’s time to make other choices.
Since plants don’t grow without water (and neither do we), what can we do to conserve? Let’s look at the options for use and reuse of water in your food garden.
Drip vs. Sprinklers
If you are using sprinklers, switch to drip irrigation. Overhead watering can lose 50- 90% to evaporation, whereas drip puts water right near the roots.
Mulch is Your Friend
You’re probably already implementing heavy mulching, which helps retain moisture and keep water where you put it. But if not, here’s why it’s important: A 3-4 inch layer of mulch in beds (once crops are tall enough) and pathways will keep soil cooler, less prone to evaporation, and will keep roots happier. It also prevents weeds and feed soil microbes. So it’s win-win!
Bioswales and water catchment, when we do get rain, are an important part of water conservation. We have 6 rain barrels on site (at 4 downspouts) and we’re still using the water from those for the veggies even though it hasn’t rained in awhile. Bioswales save you the labor of moving water from one place to another. Run bioswales along fruit tree lines, near perennial hedges and you won’t need to water those long after it’s rained.
Graywater is the next level, but requires professional installation in order for it to be legal in most states. Diverting shower water and laundry to your fruit trees will give you gallons of free water every time. If you aren’t already using biodegradable soaps and such, that change is required in order to avoid harming the fruit trees. We don’t recommend using gray water on veggie beds, but certainly on the fruit trees and perennial shrubs.
Those are the best methods to reduce water usage in the garden. There are a whole host of other things we can do inside our homes to reduce water use. Find useful ideas here at the top of the list. Need more ideas? Listen to our podcast with Brittany App, director of Where There Once Was Water.