Frugal Watering
Drip Irrigation Systems (Homemade and Purchased)

• Yes, the drip irrigation system on a timer is the best money saver for a garden. It will pay you back by not wasting water and give you beautiful vegetables and flowers. You don’t forget to turn it on or turn it off and even if it rains the one or two extra doses of water won’t hurt. I would also collect water in rain barrels (covered with screening and a lid to keep out kids and debris) for any extra spot watering I need such as in planters. Otherwise a deep soaking before you leave and again when you get back if you can’t have someone take care of watering for you once or twice in between while you are gone. – Joyce B

• I travel for busines and would be gone for extended periods of time, and found drip irrigation systems worked wonderfully, but the intial cost was far from frugal. Many years later, when faced with some irrigation repairs and expense, I slowly started to redo all of my garden and landscape, selecting natural local growing varieties, and only those that would tolerate long periods of time without additional watering. Success, a lush and colorful garden, many plants divided (most frugal), I just figured as I drove around and saw many flowers and plants growing on the roadside, no one was coming by and watering them, so that is what I should have in my garden. Peter H

• I live in central Washington State which is very dry and windy. We save water and time by using drip watering systems for our trees and flower beds. We also use soaker hoses for some. I’m sure I could go into great detail but I think you can see the advantages for our area on your own. I think they would work where you are too. Sincerely, Bev W

• In Australia, with my outdoor plants and shrubs when going away and thru out Summer l fill 2lt milk containers with water (usually recycled from the bath or washing machine) l pierce the base of the containers so it works as a drip feed for the water while we are away. First try of this l made the holes to large and the water ran out before much time had passed – so it is good to try well in advance.- Regards Leanne T

• It’s not as pretty as the fancier methods, but I know in the past, I’ve filled 2 liter bottles with water, heated a needle,then used the needle to pierce a small hole in the bottom (you can test it out and see how long it lasts) and left the bottle in the pot. I have rather large plants; so I don’t know how well this might work for smaller ones. I would assume if you change the diameter of the hole it would drain more or less quickly – Susan

• I am just going through a lot of old mail that I saved to read when I had time. You talked about your dry plants when you came home from holiday. Just before reading the 7/11 issue of Frugal Life, I read another list message. Someone was talking about recycling plastic milk jugs. They place them next to the plants in their garden, upside down with the bottom cut out. They fill the jugs with water and the water slowly seeps out into the ground to help keep the plants watered during dry spells. It also keeps you from watering the dirt between plants. Good luck, Carol B

Children’s Pool / Bathtub• Regarding the question of watering plants while you are away: we put our potted outdoor plants in a small children’s plastic pool and fill with a few inches of water. they are fine when we get home – a little wet but not dead. – Susan

• I ask my neighbors to water my plants once a week for me when we go on vacation. They pick up mail and keep an eye on things anyway, so I just ask if they would mind taking care of the plants too. I live in Florida, and due to water restrictions, we’re only allowed to water once a week anyway. Drought tolerant plants are always a good bet too. That way, they don’t need that much water

When my folks used to go on vacation, my dad would get out a child’s wading pool and put an inch or two of water in it, and then would set the plants right into the pool. I don’t know if enough water was absorbed through the clay pots, or exactly how it worked, but my parents always had beautiful plants. Also, this would all be done in our basement, so it was cool and dark, which probably also lowered water need by the plants. Obviously, this was for house plants. Outside plants were also taken care of by next-door neighbors. – Beth Casey

• I have found when I am away for a period of time the best thing to do is put my plants in a few inches of water in the bathtub, it keeps them alive! Hope this helps.

• Purchase a plastic kiddy pool and put all your potted plants in that with about an inch of water.

• Water potted plants very well then slip a loose plastic bag over the top. Tuck the loose edges in around the bottom. This creates a little greenhouse that allows the water to evaporate up to the bag and then "rain" back down on the plant. This was the principle used to create the self-contained terrarium gardens that were so popular a number of years ago. Linda Foster

• I first water the plant. And then I place a clear plastic bag around each plant, allowing as much air into the bag as possible, and then seal it. The plant will take care of itself under these circumstances. – Barbara H

Miscellaneous • 1. Keep a plastic receptacle underneath downspouts on rain gutters. Use the collected water to water plants.

2. After a party or camping don’t toss the ice from your ice chest. Place cubes in soil to slowly water plants as cubes melt.

3. When you leave for a few days move potted plants into shade and make sure all potted plants have a deep water-proof saucer. Fill the saucer with water so the plant can "drink" while you’re away. For terracotta pots, soak the pot with water so it insulates pot and keeps pplant cool. Mulch even potted plants so moisture stays in and doesn’t dry out in heat.

4. Mist leaves of potted plants with a spraybottle so they can drink from outside as well as from root system. – Susan G.

• Conserving water, in Canada, and keeping a green yard is simple. I re-route the water from my washing machine into 45 gallon barrels and use that water to keep my garden and flower beds watered and as a bonus, BUG FREE! Bugs hate soap and as a result of using my washing machine water, I no longer have a bug problem in my yard. We tend to do a lot of laundry since there are five in my family so when my barrels are full, I re-route onto the lawn as well. It has rid the yard of all those annoying little flying pests as well as caused ants to move out. I used to have a real anthill problem in my lawn, now? none! – Carrie K.

• This is a great way to save water on potted plants (or you might even use it in planting holes too!): Use the filling inside diapers in the bottom of your pots! It will hold a TON of water, and slowly release it. – Pam G

• If there is water remaining in a water bottle then I pour it into a larger pitcher. I use that water to water my plants. Any "leftover" water I put in the pitcher and use it for my houseplants. – E. Miller

• Mulch mulch mulch

We heavily mulch our plants. this apparent expense isn’t really!

It keeps the ground moist and keeps weeds out [what few you get are easy to pull] , so the investment saves you money from watering and from loss of plants.

We use grass clippings, get them from all the neighbors and pile heavily, also buy bagged mulch on sale [5 bags for $10]. don’t use big "beauty bark" you want the small stuff that will break down over a couple of years and help the garden.

With porch potted plants, first we water only every other day, starting early in season, so they send down deeper roots, and we mulch so then with heat things still do well.

We get temps in 90’s to 100’s and i just harvested broccoli from pots on my porch last week.

Heavy mulching – don’t skimp – is at least 3 in thick. when we lived in Kansas I had 5 in mulch on roses and they bloomed through 3 wks of 100+ temps. – Laura A

Potential Idea
I know next to nothing about physics and am a very amateur gardener, but I will humbly share what just popped into my head and see if it holds water! You know those plastic pinwheels that people put in their gardens to scare away birds… Well, what about a V-shaped plastic "flute" (as in champagne flute), stuck in the soil beside each plant, just wide enough to capture heat and moisture out of the air, but not so wide as to cover up the plant itself. I am thinking of those survival gadgets that one can use in the desert or at sea to capture a few sips of fresh water… Not sure how you could (a) capture enough water to make a difference, (b) without taking it out of the plant itself or the ground immediately surrounding the roots, (c) and make sure that the water that was captured could be passively delivered where it was needed. But perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can take this idea and do something with it??! – Your grateful reader, KB Earle

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