Country Lore: Garden Irrigation Methods

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Using rainwater stored in barrels is cost-effective way to support garden irrigation.

Last June, we asked readers to tell us about the garden irrigation techniques that work best for them. Here is a sample of the answers. Post your own irrigation experiences in the comments section of the online article.

Because we have no outdoor spigots, we’ve had to hand-carry water from our basement out to the flower beds. After seven or eight trips with a watering can, we get a good workout. This year, hubby fastened a length of clear tubing to the outside of the window air conditioner, and now we are catching that free water in a 32-gallon plastic trash barrel. We just take off the lid, and dip out the warm water. It’s just a few feet from the garden beds, so it doesn’t take long for all the flowers to get a drink.

Lynne Thompson
Howard, Kansas

My wife and I live on a tiny Caribbean island where fresh water is scarce. We collect rainwater from our roof during the rainy season and store it in a concrete cistern under our house for the dry season. To avoid running out, we’re careful how we irrigate. Three years ago my wife and I installed drip irrigation in our garden, which has worked extremely well for us. We grow lettuce, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, okra, black-eyed peas, yard-long beans, sweet potatoes, papayas, pineapples, coffee, and occasionally cucumbers and melons.

George Works
St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles

My absolute favorite way to water my garden is to set my 8-year-old granddaughter loose with a hose and let her do it. It’s play for her, and my garden always gets a good, hearty soaking. She’s here more days than not, so until she loses interest, I’ll stick with Jadyn.

Cindy Scott Day
Granger, Texas

We use drip irrigation and have set up two rain barrels this year. We are lucky to have a good well and a separate cistern that refills overnight from an underground spring. We use a small sump pump to pump the water from the cistern. The garden is slightly downhill from the rain barrels and cistern, so gravity takes the water to the garden and through the irrigation system.

Mary Demattio
New Philadelphia, Ohio 

I have ducks in my backyard, so I have learned to keep their wading pools by my garden. Every few days I dump the pool into the garden—a double whammy because I’m also fertilizing with “duck poo” water. Sounds gross, but seems to work well.

Kelly Cline
Lawrence, Kansas

My husband and I use soaker hoses connected with sections of old “regular” hose in areas where we don’t water. We also have a system of interconnected rain barrels to offset extensive times of no rain, since our well can’t handle supplying both the house and garden.

Johna Delano
Springvale, Maine 

I do mostly container gardening, but I’ve used the same system with my regular garden and it works well. I set up an automatic waterer to a garden hose and sprinkler, and have it turn on once a day at the same time, for 20 to 25 minutes. I find this practical because we travel a lot, and I don’t have to worry about everything drying out while I’m away.

Judi Weinstein
Flemington, New Jersey