Organic Gardening Goal 4: To practice the responsible use of water, and the protection of water resources.
Garden water use. Although not as sexy as getting your hands on the latest organic fertilizer, taking the time to properly water your garden is one of the most important things you can do for its health.
Not enough water in the garden is devastating and very common. Too much water is also common, or more often too frequent, shallow watering (e.g. daily for 20 minutes) that encourages your roots to stay comfortably along the surface of the soil instead of searching further and deeper, which is vital for a sustainable healthy garden.
Unfortunately, we’re kind of running out of water, so it’s a good time for us organic gardeners to be thinking about garden water use.
Aquifers around the world are drying up, including the US and Canada. I have read that the big Ogallala aquifer, which gives the US about 30% of its irrigation water, is being used at 10 times the rate it is being recharged and may be dry in as little as 25 years.
Half of the wetlands around the world have been lost since 1990. At least a third of rivers and streams in the US are so polluted that fish are inedible and swimming is not safe. Lakes are worse off.
Farming accounts for about half of this. The majority of wells have pesticides and even more have pharmaceuticals and other waste water products.
What does this mean for us and our garden water use?
We might want to begin thinking about protecting our existing water supply and using it responsibly. Rather than giving the usual ideas of conserving water, I’ve tried to give some unique organic gardening perspectives here:
- Don’t use pesticides or chemical fertilizers. You already know that, I’m sure.
- Use products that are not genetically modified (no corn gluten, soybean meal, feather meal, canola seed meal, cotton seed meal). GM products are making their way into our water and this could have far-reaching consequences.
- Establishing a garden that is teeming with plant and microbial life in order to clean up toxins and pollutants is a crucial garden water use strategy. There are certain microbes who specialize in doing just that.
Use it responsibly.
- Use a broom instead of a hose to clean the sidewalk and driveway.
- Maintain a constant layer of organic matter (leaves, straw, lots of plants) in your gardens to decrease evaporation and to be broken down into humus in the soil, which holds a huge amount of water.
- I know organic gardening is about conserving water, but don’t use drip irrigation. It saves water initially which is good for garden water use, but over time forms a soil that is dry and dead and therefore cannot hold water. It’s short term thinking with negative long term consequences.
- Catch it off your roof and from your shower and sinks and store it in a cistern, pond, or in the soil itself. The small rain barrels that most gardeners have don’t even make a dent in the water that can be stored. If you can increase the water-holding capacity of your soil, you can store the water right there in the ground.
I hope that some of these tips are new to you. I think that most of us have a hard time believing that water is a serious issue because it comes out of our faucet every time we want it. Take a trip to much of the third world and it will hit home. You’ll never go to Las Vegas again.
For now, just start organic gardening in your backyard which these garden water use tips. Be the change, as they say…