Drought Busting!

Last time we discussed how to deal with drought by picking the correct plants and using best practices to keep your garden healthy.

Today we are going to look at ways to work with around a drought by using pre-existing water, so to speak.  The two main ways to go around using the hose is through the use of rain barrels and using gray water.

Rain Barrel

rain-barrel[1]A rain barrel is exactly what its name is, a barrel that collects rain water.  People had used them for years as a way to have viable water available before there was city water.   They were usually used to supplement well water.  Basically you stick a barrel in the yard and when it rains the barrel fills up.  As home design improved and gutters were added homeowners would place the barrel under a down spout so the water would be directed into the barrel increasing the amount of water caught.

And this is how it is done today.  You can purchase a premade barrel or a do-it-yourself kit from most home improvement or hardware stores.  The cost starts at about $50.00 and go up from them depending on the sophistication of the system.   The Virginia Extension Office also offers workshops to help you make your own.

Not only will this cut your water bill the water has not been chemically treated so it is better for your garden and for washing your car.  Another side benefit is the barrel cuts down on run off so our streams and bays stay cleaner!  It is definitely a win-win!

Grey Water

This is a more complicated way to save water and has been somewhat controversial.  Grey water is water that has been previously used in the home and is being reused.   It differs from Black water, which is sewage water.  Grey water can come from the shower, the washing machine or even the dish washer.   In a very simplistic form people put a bucket in the shower will the water is heating up and then use that to flush the toilet.  Even that saves some water.

More often, however, it is the washing machine that is the source of grey water.  The machine is hooked to a drip irrigation system and is used to water the landscape. Because the washing machine hose is not hooked directly into the homes plumbing it can be more easily re-routed.    It usually requires a permit and professional installation and a commitment to use environmentally friendly detergent but in a high drought area the use of grey water can be very beneficial for both the homeowner and the community.



Xeriscaping: How your landscape can survive drought

And other drought busting ideas!


The best way to describe xerscaping is if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  The idea of xerscpaing is using plant life that is indigenous to the area.  We at YLS, Inc. have always promoted this idea, but now it is becoming even more critical.  Plants will thrive in the conditions they were meant to be in.  When plants are in stress one way they cope is to take in more water.  Yes you can plant tropical plants in Hampton Roads but they will require large amounts of water.  And what happens when we have a wetter than normal year?  Well maybe that plant will be happy but what about the dessert plants that are at the front of the house?  It creates a very complex environment that is hard to maintain.

Although water seems relatively inexpensive it can add up when you are trying to save a garden in a drought year.  Take the word of the experts, plant local.  Our Master Gardener has the knowledge of plants to give you the look you want without the harm you are putting on the water supply and your finances.xerscape


Another great way to survive a drought year is through proper irrigation.  It does cost a bit up front but the benefits are outstanding.  Hand watering is very wasteful and fairly inaccurate.  The next best practice is a sprinkler but that can be wasteful also is not properly positioned.  Untold gallons of water are wasted every year as water rains down on sidewalks and driveways.  And again it is not just wasted water but also the money you pay for it.

The best way to water is either through drip irrigation or an installed sprinkler system with well positioned sprinkler heads.  With all systems you need to measure how long it takes for a certain amount of water to be delivered.  This will vary on where you live, your soil, and what plant life, lawn, etc you have.  But let say you want an inch of water to be delivered each time you water.  Then the first time you need to have a rain gauge and watch the clock until you get one inch of water.  This holds true no matter what method you use, even hand held.  You may realize that is takes 20 minutes to get a “good” watering and maybe you don’t want to stand there several times a week and that is another reason to have an automatic system.

For the truly dedicated:

Stay tuned as we will look at other drought busting ideas including Rain Barrels and Grey Water!