Conserve Time and Water While Growing Beautiful and Productive Vegetable, Ornamental and Container Gardens This Season

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Expert gardener Melinda Myers shares time-saving and water-saving gardening techniques whether growing flowers, vegetable gardening, using raised beds or container gardening that won’t jeopardize the beauty of the landscape.

Drip irrigation systems apply the water directly to the soil which reduces water lost to overspray, evaporation and runoff.

Whether planning, planting or already harvesting produce or enjoying beautiful floral displays from the garden, gardeners can make some pretty simple changes that will have a big impact.

Make this the year to reduce the workload, increase productivity and be waterwise in the garden. "Whether planning, planting or already harvesting produce or enjoying beautiful floral displays from the garden, gardeners can make some pretty simple changes that will have a big impact," says Melinda Myers, host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. Myers suggests implementing these strategies to create a low-maintenance, waterwise landscape this season.

Invest in self-watering pots. These containers have built-in reservoirs to reduce watering frequency. Commercial and homemade self-watering devices can also reduce watering frequency. Just make sure to test their effectiveness before leaving town. Or consider a one-time investment in a drip irrigation system that’s especially designed for container gardens.

Use irrigation systems and soaker hoses. These are a great way to water in-ground plantings. Drip irrigation systems apply the water directly to the soil which reduces water lost to overspray, evaporation and runoff. They also reduce the risk and spread of disease by preventing water from settling on the leaves of the plants.

Consider a micro irrigation system for water with a high mineral content. Minerals can build up and clog soaker hoses, making micro irrigation systems a better option in areas where water has a high mineral content. These systems will experience fewer problems and the nozzles can be cleaned to prevent clogs. Because the nozzles can be clipped onto stakes, tomato towers or other supports, micro irrigation systems make it easy to deliver water right to the plants.

Raised bed gardens will also benefit from irrigation systems. Elevated gardens often dry out more quickly than their in-ground counterparts and need more frequent watering. Some, like the Raised Bed Snip-n-Drip soaker system, are easy to assemble and allow gardeners to water when needed. Gardeners can save even more time by using preformed corners with built-in spigots when constructing raised beds. Simply slide the boards into the metal corner pieces to create the raised bed. Some corner systems, like Aquacorner, have built-in spigots to make irrigation simpler yet.

Correctly installed irrigation systems can help conserve water by ensuring plants are watered properly and only when needed. Plus, using a timer and an irrigation system allows gardeners to apply water at the best time for the plants. Just set the timer for early in the morning - when less water is lost to evaporation - and the plants will be watered even if no one is home.

Always water thoroughly and only as needed. This will encourage plants to develop deep root systems that are more drought-tolerant. These plants will require less maintenance throughout the season.

Avoid high nitrogen, fast release fertilizers. This type of fertilizer promotes lush succulent growth which needs more frequent watering. Instead, opt for a slow release organic nitrogen fertilizer and apply according to the label directions at planting. Slow release fertilizers provide a constant diet that is better for the plants and less work for gardeners. Save even more time by mixing the fertilizer into the soil when incorporating the organic matter.

Group moisture-loving plants together. This will save water as well as time spent watering by providing needed water more efficiently, while preventing the overwatering of nearby drought-tolerant plants.

Mulch the garden. A thin layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter helps conserve moisture and reduces erosion. As the mulch breaks down, it helps improve the soil, while decreasing its’ water needs.

So consider taking a break from excessive watering in order to enjoy a bit more time for relaxation, while continuing to reap all the rewards of a beautiful and productive garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, http://www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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Diana Paul
Melinda Myers LLC
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