Gardening is not only one of the healthiest hobbies you can have – both in terms of physical productivity and the “fruits” of your labour – but also one of the most sustainable. Still, depending on your practices (as well as your location), it can seem to be an ironically large waste of water, particularly here in Australia.
So what can you do to make sure your efforts for sustainability and health don’t take up more resources than they save? The next time you think about gardening, think about these 5 creative solutions to water waste that help you maintain your garden without blowing too much water in the process.
Minor Alterations to Your Sink (Greywater)
This one’s a bit on the technical side, but nothing the average handyman/handywoman can’t handle.
Ever notice how much perfectly good water just drains right down your sink, never to be used again after merely pouring over a dish or cleansing your hands? Instead of letting all that liquid disappear down the pipe, try disconnecting the drainage pipe in the sink cabinet and then using a large container to collect the water instead.
It seems like a lot of effort, but it’s well worth it. The vast majority of the water that you use in your sink is perfectly suitable for sustaining plants, so try collecting it instead of wasting the water that you’re already using anyway. Just make sure you don’t forget about it, or it’ll overflow!
Use Your Gutters
Ever notice how much water your gutters divert to the street? Put them to use rather than letting them waste perfectly good rainwater using the same concept as a rain barrel or greywater system by modifying the down-spout of your gutter into a barrel.
Often this can be done by a simple matter of unscrewing the fixture and then simply placing the barrel under the opening, but if necessary you can trim with wire cutter. From there, either use your own extra piping to divert the water to the barrel if you can’t place the barrel directly underneath the opening, or purchase a downspout redirector that connects to the opening.
Don’t have gutters? Look for places where rain streams down most heavily from your roof and simply place a barrel underneath to catch it.
For more efficient rain collection, however, there are specially designed rainwater tanks you can purchase that are infinitely more effective and convenient, provided you have the budget for them.
A Rain Barrel Trick
Rain barrels aren’t terribly expensive and ensure that the water nature provides you doesn’t simply turn to mud on the ground. These big plastic barrels are simple staples for the conservationist, but they can be improved and repurposed by an easy modification.
Rather than just hooking these up to gutters (you can use a separate barrel for that), you can also collect actual rainfall over time. Since barrels’ openings are relatively small, the amount of rain they can collect is limited and it can take a long time to fill them from rainfall alone. So why not double the area they cover? By sawing a rain barrel in half (through its “waist”), you create two smaller rain barrels that are open at their widest points, doubling the water collection.
Of course this can only be done with a barrel that’s able to be sealed on both ends, and this shouldn’t be substituted for collecting water from your gutter. It makes an effective addition, though.
Substitute a Bath Now and Then
You don’t have to do it regularly, but if you’re noticing rainfall has been sleight, or that you’re starting to have to water your garden from a hose more often than you’d like, try bathing and then reusing that water rather than showering.
Keep in mind that his can be a tricky solution that’s best for dire times. Harsh chemicals and anti-bacterial soaps that remain in the water can be harmful for plants and especially shouldn’t be applied to food crops, particularly in seedling stages. However, if you’re okay with primarily water-bathing occasionally or using natural scrubs rather than anti-bacterial or chemical-ridden soap/shampoo, this can be a great water saver.
Getting the water from the tub to the garden is a bit tricky, though. If you have an extra barrel and a dolly, wheel the barrel in and then fill it with another bucket. Or, simply fill a bucket and take it outside to fill a larger barrel with for later use. If you don’t have a barrel, then you can at least fill a bucket or watering can.
Dew Water Trays
Even if there’s not a tremendous amount of rain, dew water trays are great for making the most of all the available water nature has to offer. Dew water trays attach to your garden or specific plants and act like a funnel, collecting dew water overnight and trailing it down to the roots of the plant. If you’ve never seen them, they look sort of like the wide plastic neck braces people put on injured dogs.
Whether you purchase them online (generally they’re inexpensive) or make them yourself from plastic bags or recyclable plastic you have around the house, you can easily water plants with no more effort on your part than installing them.
Article by Graham Garvie, CEO of Ri-Industries, South Australia’s leading innovators in precast concrete and septic systems.