Saturday, May 7, 2011

Water Wise Ways

Living in southern California has it's advantages. We have mild to warm winters and very hot summers. It isn't unusual to have peppers until late December, and tomatoes most of the year. With our Mediterranean  temperatures we can have home grown produce year round. What could be better than fresh picked tomatoes with winter greens?  The downside of this semi arrid climate is our lack of rainfall. With a season average of around 16" and with 3 of the last 4 years below that, drought is always a serious concern.  I try to save and conserve water everywhere that I can, and I'd love to share some of the ways I have a lush green garden while using less water.
Inside my house I leave buckets under the downspouts.  Large ones in the tubs, watering cans and smaller buckets in the sinks.

When heating water for showers or dishwashing, fill the buckets and use on plants, or use the water for flushing toilets.
To harvest rainwater I have 3 rain barrels set below my downspouts.  Actually they are heavy duty trash cans that I convert to potting soil containers in the summer.  The rain gutters are cut at  the correct height for the barrels, and I surround these barrels with 5 gallon buckets waiting to handle the overflow. 

If we are hit with a few hours of serious rainfall the buckets will be full. At this point you would see me scrambling around (soaking wet) trying to find more containers.  All this running around nets me a week or more worth of free water for the raised beds and container plants.
Hanging plants conveniently drain on to potted plants placed underneath.

Our patio drained onto the lawn, which was a waste of water in my opinion, so we placed a plastic drain on the end of  pvc pipe and buried the pipe under the soil.

The water drains into the vegetable garden.
Having a lawn can be pretty, but the water use can be hard to justify.  Warm weather grasses (like St. Augustine) can tolerate more heat and less water.  I try and get by with one day of watering a week through all but the hottest of summer months.  By placing raised garden beds on my front lawn, I grow 3 seasons of crops a year.  The beds cut down on the lawn mowing and watering, and I am rewarded with local organic produce.

My back yard isn't used for pets or children so I reused the lawn space as a mini orchard.  I placed 7 potted  fruit trees (semi dwarf) and a raised bed right in the middle of it.

 Now when I water, much of it is used on fruit trees and edible plants.  Lawn cutting and edging also takes less time.  By saving water where I can (lawn and ornamentals) and using it where I need it most (potted plants and edibles) I keep my water bill below the average for our area.  As a gardener and environmentalist I call that a job well done.

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