Garderners can conserve water

Each time the temperatures soar, the employees in municipal water departments cringe as water consumption increases.

Each time the temperatures soar, the employees in municipal water departments cringe as water consumption increases.

Municipalities have their own way of dealing with water consumption issues: water bans, odd and even water days or increasing the cost of water.

Gardeners can do their part to conserve water, with the most obvious being collecting rainwater.

Rain barrels can be purchased or made from large drums that are cleaned and have spouts added.

Either way, they are placed under the downspouts and fill quickly in a rainstorm.

The collected water is then used on the garden through gravity feed or hand watering.

Research has found that less water is used when gardens are watered by hand but the garden still thrives.

Watering by hand is time consuming but the water is placed on the plant roots and not between plants. Damp soil that is exposed to heat and the sun dries quicker that soil that is protected by leaves or mulch.

Watering when it is cooler outside, morning or evening, decreases the amount of moisture that evaporates. That being said, plants that are prone to mildew should be watered in the morning as cool, wet leaves are more likely to become infected.

Using a timer that hooks to the garden hose limits the amount of time that the hose can run.

Putting a rain gauge under the sprinkler will give a good indication of how much water is making it to the ground. An inch (one to two cm) is a sufficient amount of water to keep most gardens hydrated for five to seven days.

Take time to adjust sprinklers as there is little benefit in watering weeds, sidewalks and roads.

Lawns need less moisture if they are allowed to grow taller. Instead of setting the lawn mower at two inches (three cm), raise the blade an inch to three inches (four to five cm).

At this height, grass will still stay upright, look good and not go to seed.

The taller grass shades the ground and the crown of the plant.

This little bit of shade slows evaporation of moisture from the ground and transpiration of the plant; and that keeps the lawn green longer without being watered.

Lawn that is not watered will turn brown but come back green with moisture and cooler temperatures.

Flowerbeds and gardens where foliage overlaps use less moisture than ones where the ground is exposed to sunlight.

Covering exposed ground with mulch also keeps the moisture in.

Mulch need not be complicated or elaborate. It can be as simple as covering wet ground with a thick layer of peat moss or compost.

The dry layer on top of the moist soil will slow down evaporation.

In cooler weather, the layer can be mixed into the soil or it can be left on top and the worms will eventually combine the two layers.

Pots and baskets only have a limited amount of soil and water-holding capacity, which means that they need watered on a regular basis. Growers have found that 14 inch (20 cm) pots are optimum.

This size of container can hold enough plants to be attractive and enough soil to hold sufficient water for one or two days. Containers that have reservoirs in the bottom also work well, making it possible to water less often.

In some areas, water is more of a luxury than others.

Adopting habits that conserve moisture now will mean more water in the future.

Likewise, a little care and the garden will thrive in the hot weather without using excessive water.

Linda Tomlinson is a local horticulturalist who can be can contacted at

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