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Every Little Bit Helps

March 28th, 2011

It’s that time of the year again when the watering cans come out. We typically get enough rain to keep all the in ground beds nicely watered in the spring, but the cold frame and the raised beds that are covered with plastic need to be watered occasionally. Whenever I rinse lettuce or vegetables I do it in a big bowl. Then I dump the water into a watering can I keep by the back door (sometimes the water goes right on one of the hydrangeas by the front porch). There’s always a little bit of soil in the water and I don’t want that to go down the drain.

Soil is our most valuable natural resource without it we couldn’t survive. I don’t want to waste a bit of it, even that teaspoon or two that’s on the vegetables when I bring them inside. I’m hoping to someday set up an outdoor sink that drains into a flowerbed, that way I can rinse all my homegrown veggies right outside. Until then, I’ll keep a watering can by the back door.

Do you save any gray water for your garden?


September 2nd, 2010

Everything is parched here. It’s been a dry dry summer and it was especially dry during the month of August, we got less than an inch of rain for the entire month. To make it even worse we have sandy soil which doesn’t hold water at all. Everything is crispy and some thing are badly wilted.

I have rain barrels to collect the rain water, but they’ve been empty for weeks since we haven’t had any rain. They were drained to water all the potted tomatoes, vegetables and the raised beds in the back. I don’t make it a habit of watering much, the plants usually bounce back fairly well when the fall rains come. I do have a few choice plants that get a drink every 10 days or so to make sure they survive the dry spells. Mostly these are the hydrangeas in my collection, I’d hate to have to replace any of them, which would cost far more than the water it takes to make sure they survive the dry spells. When it’s this dry I do water the front foundation gardens as they are filled with a lot of plants that I’d hate to lose. The blueberries especially would suffer with reduced yields next summer.

I enjoy watering by hand most of the time, it’s good exercise and it gives me time to monitor all the plants. Usually I’m carrying around these 3 gallons watering cans and occasionally I’ll use the watering wand if the plants need a lot of water or if I’m watering a larger area.

When it’s been this dry I water the larger garden areas with the sprinkler. It saves a ton of time to set up the sprinkler and let it do it’s job. I bought this fantastic heavy duty Gilmour metal sprinkler many years ago and I love it. I’d highly recommend it if you’re in the market for a good quality sprinkler that will last forever, I especially love that it’s easy to set, no little knobs that get stuck and won’t turn. And it’s all zinc and brass and heavy enough to take some serious water pressure. After going through a few cheap sprinklers, I invested in this and I’ve been happy with it for the last 5 years!

When I’m using the sprinkler, I use a rain gauge to monitor how much water the gardens have received and I set the timer on the stove to remind myself to check every half hour. I make sure I give everything a good inch of water so I only have to do it once or maybe twice during a really dry month like this.

No doubt my water bill will be 2-3 times the normal amount, but it’s cheaper than buying new plants. I know the more I amend and improve the soil here the better the plants will weather these long dry spells. The rain barrel system is a real money saver for us when it comes to watering the garden, but there are other things I also do to save water.

I keep a dishpan in the sink and save the water from rinsing vegetables and washing dishes for the plants. When we run the shower to warm it up we save the water in a bucket. We also have containers that fit in the bathroom sinks that we use to collect hand washing water to use for watering as well. All of these small measures really can add up to a lot of gallons saved. Some day I dream of having a gray water system in my home, until then, it’s buckets and dishpans.

How’s the rain/water situation in your area of the world? What’s your preferred method of watering when rain isn’t coming?

Fall & Winter Watering

October 24th, 2008

We had a long hot dry summer here in Ohio, as did much of the country. I watered and watered all summer long. This fall we have still been a little low on rain so I’ve been watering to make sure all my plants go into winter as healthy as possible. Many people don’t realize that watering is still important in fall and winter. Dry air, low precipitation, little soil moisture, and fluctuating temperatures are characteristics of fall and winter in many areas of the country. There often can be little or no snow cover to provide soil moisture, particularly from October through March. Trees, shrubs, perennials and lawns can be damaged if they do not receive supplemental water.

The result of long, dry periods during fall and winter is injury or death to parts of plant root systems. Affected plants may appear perfectly normal and resume growth in the spring using stored food energy. Plants may be weakened and all or parts may die in late spring or summer when temperatures rise. Weakened plants also may be subject to insect and disease problems.

Guidelines for fall & winter watering:
* Water trees, shrubs, lawns, and perennials during prolonged dry fall and winter periods to prevent root damage that affects the health of the entire plant.
* Water only when air and soil temperatures are above 40 degrees F with no snow cover. Apply water at mid-day so it will have time to soak in before possible freezing at night.
* Established large trees have a root spread equal to or greater than the height of the tree. Apply water to the most critical part of the root zone within the dripline.

It’s a good thing I installed those rain barrels because I have plenty of free water to make sure everything is fully hydrated. Here pretty soon I am going to need to drain my rain barrels for winter, so I need to use up all the water in them. What better way than to make sure everything is watered in for the winter.

Do you water in fall & winter?

Empty Barrels

August 7th, 2008

My rain barrels are empty. We haven’t had any rain here in almost 3 weeks. So how many gallons have I used in the last 3 weeks?

Each one of these hash marks represent 1 fill of my 3 gallon watering can (and there are a few more on there now since I took this photo the other day). There are 117 hash marks x 3 gallons = 351 total gallons of rain water used. I’m sure there were a few times I forgot to notch the board so I could probably add another 20 gallons or so to that number. I’m hoping we get some rain tonight so they fill up again, if not out comes the soaker hoses & the sprinkler.


July 23rd, 2008

One of the blogs I read is written by a woman in Australia. For a while now she’s been talking about the water shortages, today she didn’t have water when she tried to make her morning tea. You can read the article here.

I am an advocate of not using resources just because you have them. I grew up in South America and we didn’t get water all the time, we built a huge cistern and saved rain water for all of our water usage.

In our part of Ohio, we have plenty of water and have never had problems with shortages. I’m sure sometime in the future it will happen, but for the moment we have plenty. It always amazes me that people consume so thoughtlessly until there is a problem. We Americans probably won’t do much to curtail our water usage until we’re beyond the point of no return. I always cringe when I see sprinklers on in a rainstorm, or water from a sprinkler system running down into the storm drain. Thoughtless consumption is the American way!

What have I done personally to use less water? We just installed a rain barrel system that can hold 400 gallons of water, this will be used for gardening & car washing (more photos and info on this project to come). We also save gray water to use for gardening. I have also planted mostly drought resistant plants that do not need watering, and I let my yard get brown & crispy in the summer when it’s hot & dry.

So what are you doing to save water?

No water was wasted for the photos in this post, the glass of water was finished by yours truly and the bowl of water was used on my zucchini.


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.