Monthly Archives: September 2017

Using Rain Barrels to Survive Droughts

If you’re a gardener that has an unlimited supply of water, consider
yourself lucky. There are many of us who live in drought zones where the
garden and lawn watering rules are very constrictive to the healthy growth
of gardens and plants. Many people just give up when they find out how few
gallons of water they are permitted to use, but some of us have just found
ways to cope with less water. There are many ways to optimize ones garden
to conserve water while still keeping it lush.

Some of the ways include drip irrigation (the use of a pipe or hose with
small holes to gradually seep into the roots of the plant), the placement
of plants in groups of equal watering needs (to prevent wasting water on
plants that don’t need it), and using compost or mulch to insulate the
water and prevent drainage.

But one of the best ways to keep your garden alive during a drought is to
take preventative measures. Occasionally a drought will be predicted far
in advanced, or those already experiencing a drought will be given a few
weeks of heavy rain. When this occurs, you should take the opportunity to
set up several rain barrels. Many people think this would be a time
consuming, silly thing to do. But it can save you many gallons of water,
and hardly requires any work.

Finding the barrels will probably be the hardest part. You can use your
own garbage cans, or head to your home improvement store to get a few 55
gallon plastic drums. These can be expensive and difficult to transport,
so keep that in mind before you go to the store. You will probably want to
cover the top of the barrel with a screen of some sort to filter out any
unwanted leaves or debris that might fall off the roof of your house.

Once you have your barrels ready, you’re faced with the decision of where
to place them. Usually during rainfall, there is one corner or segment of
the house that rain tends to pour off of. If you are taking the simple
approach to barrel placement, just place the barrel under all the places
where you see large amounts of drips. However, while this might be the
easiest way to place them, you won’t see very high volumes of rain in the
barrels.

If you want to take a more complicated approach to placing the barrels,
you should consider tweaking your gutter system a bit. If you remove each
individual segment and place it at a very slight slant so that all the
water is diverted to the nearest corner of the house, you can place a rain
barrel at each corner. So essentially your entire house acts as a catcher
for the rain, instead of just a few feet worth of shingles. This is how to
maximize the amount of water your rain barrel will catch.

After a heavy rainfall, each individual barrel probably won’t see very
much rain. If it looks like it won’t be raining more any time soon, it’s a
good idea to empty each barrel into one main central barrel. Seal it and
save it out of the way, for whenever you may need it. Then the next time
it starts to rain, you’ll be able to quickly put all your catching barrels
into place without having to lug around all the water you’ve accumulated
so far.

The use of water barrels might sound like an antiquated idea. However,
when you’re in the midst of a drought and you’re able to spare that extra
couple of gallons for your garden in addition the city allotment, you’ll
be grateful for every bit of time and money you spent on collecting all
that rain. All it takes is a few trips out in the backyard every time it
starts to sprinkle, and you’ll be a very happy gardener when water isn’t
so abundant.

Other Factors in Garden Creation

So now you’ve picked out what type of garden you will have, what the
location will be, and what kind of fertilizer you need, now is the time to
really get started in choosing your garden environment. First you’ll want
to choose what your garden barriers will be. What will separate your
garden from the rest of the world? Next you’ll want to choose the
decorations and support for your plants. Often some kind of metal mesh is
necessary to keep your plant standing up. You will also want to choose how
much soil and fertilizer to buy, and how to arrange all the plants in your
garden.

Choosing a border is actually a fairly important step in getting your
garden started. It might not actually affect the well-being of the plants,
but having a garden is a fairly aesthetic ordeal for many people anyways.
So usually you will want to choose between metal and wood. You can stack
up boards around the perimeter of your garden, and give it a rather nice
cabin look. If you’re looking for a more modern look, you can obtain some
metal lining at your local home improvement store for rather cheap, and
installation is medium difficulty.

Finding something nice-looking to support your plants can be a little bit
more challenging. Sometimes a short metal pole can work well, but often
for plants such as tomatoes you will need a wire mesh for it to pull
itself up on. You can find these at any gardening store, usually
pre-shaped in a sort of cone shape ideal for plants. The plant just grows
up through it, and usually it will last until the plant is grown enough to
support itself. After that you can take a pair of wire-cutters and just
snip it free.

Deciding how much soil to buy can be slightly easier. Look up information
on your plants and find out the ideal soil depth. Then dig out that much
from your garden, take the measurements, and find out the exact amount of
cubic feet of soil that you will need. Go to the store and buy it,
preferably adding on a few bags just so you can replenish the supply if it
compresses or runs out. If you live in an area where the ground is rough,
dry, and barren of nutrients, then you might even want to add a few inches
of depth to the original recommendation.

Arranging the plants is rather important to the success of your garden.
I’m not talking about some kind of feng-shui thing, but depending on your
watering, some plants might hog all the water and leave the other plants
high and dry. Some plants have longer roots than others, and are more
aggressive in the collection of water. If you place one of these plants
next to a plant with weaker, shorter roots, it will quickly hijack the
water supply for itself, and choke out the other plant.

I hope I’ve led you to realize that placement isn’t the only important
thing about a garden. There are many other factors that might not seem
very significant, but spending a proper amount of time considering them
could change the outcome of your garden. So if you’re working on building
a garden, use and reference you can (the library, the internet, and
magazines) to look in to some of the factors I’ve mentioned.

Using Vines to Decorate your Garden

A great way to decorate your garden is the use of vines. They are very low maintenance and look good on almost anything. If you’ve got a fence or separator that really stands out in the field of green that is your garden, then growing a vine over it can be a quick and aesthetically pleasing solution. However, there are many types of vines for different situations, whether you are trying to grow it up the side of a house, along the ground, or up a tree.

Many different ground vines are available. These types grow fast and strong, and just inch their ways along the ground. They are very easy to direct, so they can make a border around your garden, or just weave in and out of the plants. I suggest using these as a hardy ground cover if you just want some green on your dirt or mulch. Usually you can find a variety that is resistant to being stepped on. It’s like a leafy, nice alternative to grass. Even if you have kids and a dog, it should have no problems staying alive.

Another type of vine that is available is a “twining” vine. This refers to their method of climbing. Twining vines require a lattice or equally porous surface to climb up, since they are not sticky at all. They just climb by sending out small tendrils to loop around whatever is nearby. I suggest using this type of vine for climbing up trees, or any type of mesh. Usually you have to guide them a lot more during their early stages, and after that they will go wherever you want them to.

Vines not only look good on the ground or on lattices, you can blend them in to the very architecture of your house. This is usually achieved through the use of vines with small tendrils that have adhesive tips. They extend from the vine and attach themselves to almost any surface. If your garden is adjacent to your house and you want something to camouflage the big unsightly wall, it’s a great idea to start out a few vines near the base. If you have a vine like the Virginia Creeper growing, then your entire wall will be covered in a matter of months. However I have seen situations where the vine got out of control. After that, you have no choice but to watch the vine take over your entire house.

One of the vines that you would probably recognize is Ivy. You see it around a lot, generally because it is so adaptable. Out of the types I mentioned above (ground, twining, and sticky pads), Ivy can fill in for pretty much anything. It makes a great ground cover, and will grow up about any surface you put it on. Although it grows quick and strong, I wouldn’t suggest growing it up your house. This is because recently, buildings which have had ivy for many years have found that it has been deteriorating the building.

Using Xeriscaping to Save Time and Water

While having a full fledged garden is rewarding and enjoyable, lots of
people simply don’t have the time that is required to maintain it. Whether
you have too much going on at work or too many kids to take care of, you
should never try to operate a garden if you don’t think you can handle it.

For those people who are just too busy for a normal garden, I would
suggest a somewhat recent method of gardening known as Xeriscaping. This
minimal yet stylish theory first emerged in Colorado when water levels
were at an all time low. It is a great method of having a great looking
yard or garden, without having to maintain it or water it very often at
all.

Here in Colorado, many places are offering free Xeriscaping lessons in
order to encourage the conservation of water. If your area is undergoing a
drought, you should check with the water suppliers and see if they are
offering lessons. If you attend those, you will be able to get advice
specific to your region (IE types of plants to grow, how much to water
them, etc).

To some, the name Xeriscaping conjures the image of a yard that consists
of a giant rock bed. However, this is known as “zero scaping”, and it is a
considerably different concept. It focuses on reducing your yard to
nothing that requires any maintenance whatsoever. Unfortunately this is
usually just rocks. But this shouldn’t be your goal. While keeping
maintenance at a minimum, it is still possibly to retain a nice looking
yard that won’t attract the negative attention of everyone who passes by.

This might sound like it would be hard to implement without making your
yard into a hideous mess, but this is not so at all. The theory basically
involves choosing plants which are low maintenance to begin with, then
putting them each in environments that are ideal. It is usually applied by
figuring out what side of the house to place it on to get the best amount
of shade, and figuring out how to group it with plants with similar water
needs.

To get started in your Xeriscaping renovation, you first need to pick out
all the plants you will be using. They should for the most part require a
low amount of water. This doesn’t mean you can only grow cactuses in your
yard. Just cut back on the really thirsty plants that you have to water
every day to keep alive. You’ll want to stick with local plants for the
most part, and don’t go with anything too exotic as these generally
require larger amounts of water.

The second most important principle of xeriscaping is placing the plants
in ideal areas. If you place them all together with plants that require
essentially the same amount of water, then you will end up saving lots of
water. Also place the plants in areas where they will be protected from
wind or excessive sun, depending on the needs of the plants. Xeriscaping
is almost the same thing as microclimating, just with more of a focus on
adaptation to harsh conditions rather than avoiding them. So if it sounds
good to you and you’re looking to save time and water by renovating your
garden, you should look for xeriscaping lessons.