How to Water Your Garden Frugally

Anybody who tells you that gardening is a cheap hobby is telling you a big fib. Of course, growing your own and keeping an allotment is the height of fashion at the moment. Everybody you meet has Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fever and long may it continue. A friend of mine recently gave up his allotment because the sheer popularity of it in his area meant the council gave him a terrible plot that was full of roots and impossible to work. It turned out that it had never been an actual allotment at all, but used to be one of the hedgerows around it! Councils all over the UK are busy trying to extend the allotments available to cater for the craze.

But the truth is that, despite what you might read in the papers, gardening isn’t a frugal activity unless you make an special effort to ensure it’s the case. And the extraordinary hot weather we’re having at the moment underlines something that DJ and I learned to our cost last year – keeping your garden well watered can be an expensive business unless you make an effort to reuse as much H20 as you can. Last year when DJ first made a real go of the vegetable garden, introducing several new plots, we enjoyed some great produce all year round. But when our half-yearly water bill dropped through the door I was in shock. It was no less than 50 per cent higher than in the previous year. I was horrified.

So this year we have made some changes. We’ve got some water butts in place now in the back garden to harness rain water. Plus we’ll be using more of the household ‘grey’ water to keep our flowers hydrated. Unfortunately you can’t use grey water to water vegetables. We’ll also be much more selective about if and when we use our trigger hose pipe.  

Here are some tips on how to water your garden frugally which we are introducing into our garden:

– Invest in some water butts – whether purchased from a DIY store, borrowed from friends or obtained gratis from Freecycle. Some water companies and councils offer good deals on them too. Install them outside so that they can take rainwater from your roof and guttering. Don’t forget that if you have a greenhouse you can install them around it too to collect even more water.

– Be careful, though. Don’t use the recycled rainwater to water young seedlings as the bacteria in it can be harmful to fledgling plants.

– The most economical times to water plants are first thing in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler and the water takes longer to evaporate from the surface. Give the plants a good long soak rather a sprinkle and you shouldn’t have to water them as often.

– Add mulch (wood chippings etc.) around plants and shrubs to help maintain moisture levels.

– It’s not always practical if you don’t have much space (we have lots of tomatoes in grow bags at the moment), but plant veg in the ground or raised beds if you can, rather than in containers. This way the plant can use its root system to gather moisture from a wider range. Containers dry out much more quickly.

– Using a watering can uses less water than a hosepipe, but if you have a hosepipe, attach a trigger to it to control the flow.

– Household grey water can be used to water non-edible plants and flowers but don’t use it to water veg.

– Investigate drought-loving plants and introduce them into your garden to save on the water bill.

– Don’t forget to save water around the home too, by showering instead of bathing and not leaving the tap running, to save on your overall bill.

Got any more tips on saving water in the garden or around the home? Leave a comment and let me know.

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7 Responses to How to Water Your Garden Frugally

  1. Rik says:

    One thing that never ceases to surprise me is how well plants do when you move them out of a greenhouse and they get their first rain. They seem to shoot up over night which must say something of the water "quality" in the taps! (Yes I did used to work for a water company and shouldn\’t say that but….). Try a bag (not plastic obviously) of manure floating in your water tub, liquid compost!Still not finished the book by the way, excellent though it is, I\’ve been busy (when the aches allow it) trying to get to grips with one of the plastic "part time" greenhouses. Can\’t say I\’d recommend them, on the strength (or lack of) of ours at least, don\’t see it lasting the summer. It ripped near the door the first time it was used and rips more pretty much daily!

  2. Bill says:

    Hi there, piper!Back in the dim & distant `50\’s, we always used to save the used laundry & bath water for irrigation purposes. It also serves as a fantastic pesticide, repelling insects such as cabbage fly, as also sending snails, slugs etc. a timely message. They are extremely quick learners.

  3. Christine says:

    My parents also used to use soapy water from washing up and such like to deter cabbage fly, green fly and other merry little pests who thought our food was their food – as did my grandparents. If running a tap for hot water, save the cold water that runs from the tap to water plants.There\’s a whole variety of water saving advice here – http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Environmentandgreenerliving/Energyandwatersaving/Energyandwaterefficiencyinyourhome/DG_064370 – everything from washing machines and dishwashers to keeping a jug of water in the fridge for when you want a drink of cold water. There\’s some lovely ideas for the garden amongst other things in this alphabet of water saving ways – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/2945018.stm

  4. Christine says:

    Gardening can be very frugal if you want it to be. Many gardeners keep records of the cost of seeds, compost, tools and sundries bought each year in one column and a list of produce by weight costed against what you would have paid in the supermarket to see how efficient it is to plant different crops. They also sometimes go so far as to factor in hours spent working in the garden or allotment – usually factored at the minimum wage. You would be doing something else with the time if you were not in the garden (watching telly, going down the pub, being social, running the computer so it\’s fair enough to cost in your time). It\’s an interesting exercise and usually you find that you are in pocket after the first two years which require input in tools, water butts, greenhouses, sheds and cold frames, timber for beds, long term investment like strawberries and raspberry canes, fruit trees and similar, reference books (come in Dr Hessayon\’s Expert books) for learning and gaining of experience. I reckon that I make a profit of £10 a week all year on my gardening with what the family takes out of the plot now.

  5. Tattyhousehastings says:

    Good morning Piper!Glad to see you are still at frugal living! We\’ve been meaning to get a water butt for ages, but I have a slightly irrational fear of children jumping in to them and drowning. And I know they have lids etc…just another \’mad \’ fear. But tip of saving cold water from tap is great – as is what I try and do and open the back door and tip the ends of glasses of water on to our garden. Must use \’grey\’ water on flowers too if we get a hot summer.We never use the hose, being both too lazy to get it our, and too worried about our water bills.Bev

  6. piper says:

    Hello Bev. How are you doing? Nice to hear from you. Our butts are pretty high up on a stand so kids would have to be contortionists to get in them! Good idea re saving water from the tap.

  7. Tattyhousehastings says:

    Yes, it is very unlikely they could manage to get in a normal barrel anyway…must look in to it, and get one.And we\’re fine thanks! Have four students staying with us at the moment, which really is extreme but kind of fun, kind of..

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