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Tree guard

Water saving tips

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Penny Woodward looks at simple smalll scale tricks for efficient water use.

We all know that the best place to store water is in the soil so it’s essential to add lots of organic matter. Also, that drip irrigation is typically the most efficient watering method, that installing a water tank (or two) is a must, and that we should be planting more drought tolerant plants. But these all take time to implement and are not much help if you want to cut your water use fast. So let’s look at some quick-action ideas that bring immediate results.

Don’t over water

Use the finger test to see if established plants need water. Push your finger into the soil to just above the second knuckle, if it feels moist, then don’t water.

Use a soft spray

Using a soft spray may take a little longer, but means the water falls gently on the soil and is more likely to soak in, rather than running off the surface and being wasted.

Water low and deeply

Always direct your hose close to the soil, and the plants you actually want to water, rather than just waving it around. This means water goes directly to the roots, instead of splashing over leaves. Water deeply, make sure that the water is getting to the roots, not just staying in the surface soil.

Use a trigger nozzle

When hand watering, use a water-saving trigger nozzle. The trigger automatically switches off the water if you need to stop to pull out a few weeds, get distracted in some other way or just want to walk to the tap to turn it off.

Collect and reuse water

Use a bowl in the kitchen sink when you are washing vegies or rinsing crockery and use this water to keep nearby pot plants watered. Or, keep a bucket in the shower to collect water and use this water to keep non-edible plants alive.

Directing water

When planting out seedlings or some bigger plants, place a pot or other container with the bottom cut out around each seedling, by watering into this, water is directed straight to the roots. Mulch the rest of the soil.

Tree guards and bladders

Once a tree is planted, you can use a water-filled tree guard that drips water into the soil, or a water bladder that goes around the tree on the ground. The latter keeps the soil cool and reduces evaporation, while dripping water into the soil. Guards and bladders both need occasional refilling, but are otherwise set and forget. Once the trees are growing well and the weather is cooling, or rainfall becomes more reliable, you can remove the bladders or guards and store for re-use.

For more gardening tips and ideas get the latest issue of ABC Organic Gardener Magazine here.