How to water your garden for free (and reduce water waste)

model watering flowers with a red watering can
October 4, 2022

When you think of the costs of maintaining a garden, soil and tools tend to be the biggest budget items. But water can also be expensive — or hard to come by if you live in a drought. If you live in places like California, Arizona, or Nevada, you may be looking for ways to garden without impacting your water bill, or your local water department may not allow you to water your plants outdoors. Whether you’re trying to save money or conserve resources, we’ve got ideas to keep your garden well-watered and happy.

Rely on mother nature

In some parts of the world (including areas in the United States), you can rely 100% on mother nature to keep your garden flourishing, without any intentional watering or irrigation. This is especially the case when you are planting directly into the ground, and if you have healthy, mulched soil that retains moisture well. So, if you don’t need to water your plants in order to keep them healthy and thriving, don’t! Let mother nature do her work.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for most gardeners.

Catch rainwater

Catching rainwater and using it to water your garden later in the season is a great option for many gardeners. In the short-term, you can do this by leaving out buckets or a kiddie pool to catch the rain, but for larger scale and longer-term storage, you’ll need to create a rain harvesting strategy.

Many people use rain barrels and divert their gutters or the water running off of their roof to store for later use. Regular plastic garbage bins can be converted into rain barrels by drilling a spigot hole near the bottom, cutting a hole in the top, and using landscaping fabric to keep out debris and pests.

There are legal implications of catching rainwater in some places, so you’ll want to look into local and state regulations. You may need a permit to catch rain, or it may only be legal for certain uses and purposes.

Use grey water

The grey water from your home, including shower and bath runoff, can also be used to water your plants outdoors. This is a smart reuse of a resource that you have already paid for, for other purposes. Make sure that you only use relatively clean grey water that isn’t soapy.

Catching the water that is normally wasted while waiting for it to heat up is a great way to save water for your garden. The standard shower head uses 2.5 gallons per minute — that’s 2.5 gallons of clean water you can save for your garden while you wait for the water to heat up.

Reuse your cooking water

You have water waste any time you cook something by boiling or steaming it, and you can save that water for your thirsty plants as well! Drain your pasta water into a heat-safe bucket or bowl, and use it to water your garden.

If your town has a no watering rule due to drought, you’re looking to save money on utilities, or you simply want to conserve water because it’s healthier for the earth, there are lots of ways to recycle the water you’re already using for your home garden.

Wait, before you go!

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