Fantastic rain barrel via Our Little Acre
To have an abundant garden you have to invest the time and energy to create a consistent and appropriate watering schedule for your plants. This will vary from garden to garden, but most plants will grow their best when provided with an average of an inch of water a week. Sometimes the rain obliges, but most of us have to help our gardens along and supplement water.
The basic watering rule of thumb:
Water deeply, water slowly and water wisely.
When you water deeply and slowly you allow the water to permeate down to deeper layers of the soil, promoting deep root growth. This creates a stronger, healthier plant with a greater resistance to stress and drought.
Watering wisely means knowing the water needs of your plants so you water enough for them to be healthy, but not so much that you are wasting water. It also means treating water with respect and making certain that you are practicing responsible water conservation. It means watering the roots of the plants, not the leaves. It usually means not using a sprinkler.
Fancy mini rain barrel by Bas van der Beer via Apartment Therapy
Watering your yard with a hose end sprinkler wastes water. Water is lost to evaporation, some parts of the garden are over watered, while others are under watered, and a large percentage of the water you use ends up running off the surface of the soil - doing your plants absolutely no good. A good test of how much water is actually reaching the soil is to place cups throughout your garden, underneath leaves and also in exposed areas. Turn your sprinkler on as you normally would and then check the cups to see how much water is in them. This is the same amount of water that is reaching the root zone of your plants.
My preferred method of watering a garden is through drip irrigation. This is a system of small hoses that is wound through the garden, around plants and under the mulch. When it turns on, it releases a slow, steady drip of water that travels deep into the soil. There is very little waste from evaporation and the roots of my plants are watered, keeping fungi encouraging water off of my plant leaves. Soaker hoses are another choice, although by the time you buy enough to take are of a large garden you have spent about as much as a DIY irrigation system.
I buy local for my irrigation supplies, but I highly recommend Irrigation Direct or The Drip Store. I have had many clients buy through both of these sites - they experienced friendly and knowledgeable customer service and great products.
I have my watering system on a timer. If the weather has been very dry and hot I will supplement water, but mostly I just set the system up once and let it do its thing. I follow the manufacturers directions regarding winter preparation and spring wake up, check the lines regularly, am careful where I dig...(learned that the hard way)...and call for help and advice when I need it.
I cannot recommend rain barrels highly enough -aren't these ones pictured gorgeous! I use my rain barrel to water my containers and house plants as well as to supplement water the gardens when needed. I absolutely love them and encourage you to try them out.
Rain barrels can be a bit pricey - here are some links for tutorials to make your own:
Here is a great idea from Michelle Kaufman - creating attractive screening for inexpensive rain barrels!
Have you tried rain barrels yet? How do you water your garden? Any tips or tricks to share - I would love to hear them!