Photo by Getty Images/Mike Harrington
1. Water Selectively: Only water if your plants really need it. Dig a small hole with a trowel (or just poke your finger in) to check for soil moisture at root level.
2. Time Your Watering: Water early in the morning to give crops time to absorb the moisture before it evaporates in the heat of the day. This also allows any water that gets on the foliage time to dry off before nightfall, helping to minimize problems with slugs and fungal diseases. Watering heavily now and then will encourage a more extensive root system than watering little and often.
3. Take Careful Aim: When watering by hand, aim at the base of plants where it’s needed. This will also keep foliage dry.
4. Trap Water: Sink plastic pots or upturned bottles with the cap removed and the bottom cut off up to the rim next to thirsty plants such as squash. Water into the pot; the water will reach the roots instead of running off the soil surface.
5. Irrigate Efficiently: Automatic drip irrigation or leaky hoses are less wasteful than sprinklers. Override the timer if there has been rain or if rain is due.
6. Choose Pots Carefully: Clay pots, such as terracotta pots, wick moisture out of the potting soil because they are porous, and metal pots heat up very quickly, which speeds up evaporation. Choose plastic or glazed pots instead. You can disguise ugly pots within a more decorative metal or terracotta outer pot if you wish. Group pots together to cast shade at root level and slow evaporation.
7. Add Organic Matter: Soils rich in organic matter absorb and retain moisture better. Add thin layers in summer so you can fork it in and replant, then add thicker layers over winter.
8. Mulch Regularly: Landscape fabrics can be used as mulch, or pebbles and stones on pots, but the best mulches are of well-rotted, organic matter such as compost. Apply 2-inch thick layers of organic mulch to moist soil. Keep mulches topped up throughout summer.
9. Collect Rainwater: Collect water off your roof, greenhouse, and shed into water barrels close to where you’ll most need the water. Multiple barrels can be linked together for greater water storage capacity. Check local rules on rainwater harvesting first.
10. Remove Weeds: Weeds compete with your plants for soil moisture. Hoe off annual weeds and leave them on the soil surface, but make sure to dig out the roots of more pernicious perennials.
Learn more about wise watering techniques in this video.
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