As you may know, there is a really bad drought in California. I’ve been very concerned with how I am going to water all my veggies through the Sacramento summer. When we landscaped our yard we significantly reduced the size of our lawn in order to have a low water usage yard. We kept a small patch in the front for aesthetic reasons. My next door neighbor has a huge lawn that shares the property line with ours. When designing our front yard I thought having a straight line of my neighbor’s lawn and my mulch covered front yard would be too jarring. A compromise was a small curved lawn to make the two properties blend well together. We also kept a small patch of grass in the backyard for a place for our future children to play. The rest of the property was converted into low water usage plants (lavender, rosemary, etc). Additionally we put in drip systems in order to conserve as much water as possible. We also brought in a thick layer of mulch to help conserve water as well.
I feel that our landscaping choices have significantly reduced the amount of water we use although I cannot tell you the exact amount of water we save every month because *gasp* Sacramento water is not metered… at least not at my house. The city of Sacramento is working on installing meters which includes raising funding and installing water meters on at least 80% of the city’s water service by 2025 and transitioning those customers to a metered rate as required by state law. Currently, we are in a Stage 2 Water Shortage Contingency Plan which means our watering days are restricted by address. I have seen a few city trucks drive through the neighborhood checking to see if people are complying with the water restrictions but it always annoys me to see people watering their lush green lawns in the middle of a drought. I am always happy when I see a dry brown lawn in my neighborhood. It really is a beautiful thing and I’m just trying to find a way to say, “Nice lawn,” without people thinking I am sarcastic!
I would say that I am pretty water conscience already, however when I am trying to grow as much food as I am, I do feel guilty about my water impact. I have taken a few extra steps this year to combat this guilt. All of my raised beds are on drip systems. Last year this is where I did the majority of my vegetable gardening. This year I have decided to move some edibles into other areas of my property that I have not connected to the drip systems. My goal is to water all of these vegetables, many of them squashes, melons, and tomatoes, with gray water.
We were not ready to retrofit this house into a gray water system so I am doing things the old-fashioned way.
I bought this 55 gallon rain barrel off of Amazon (and got a good discount just because I didn’t choose the Terra Cotta color!). Notice this isn’t hooked up to our rain gutters (mainly because we haven’t gotten any rain this year in Sacramento). I keep several 3 gallon buckets around my house. Two in the shower and one near the kitchen sink. We use these buckets to capture water when we are waiting for our shower water to warm (so this isn’t even considered “gray” water) or keep it to catch water from the colander while I am washing vegetables. I take these buckets and pour them into the top of the rain barrel which I keep covered with some mesh and a brick to keep out mosquitos. We save about 3-5 gallons per day which should be plenty to water my non-drip system veggies. My hope is to only water using this system and not the hose! Just last night, I gave my daughter a bath after she played in the dirt. I let her small tub fill and warm while we went to get her ready. We took a little too long and the water overflowed out of her tub and into the big tub. So instead of just letting it go down the drain, I used the 3 gallon bucket and put a few bucketfuls into the rain barrel. I felt so much better saving the water than just seeing it go down the drain and I know my plants will appreciate it!
The other thing I really like about the rain barrel is how many conversations I have had with people passing my house. I have had about a dozen conversations with people stopping to ask what the rain barrel is and I gladly show them how it works. I made the decision to put the rain barrel in the front yard because it is closer to the vegetables not hooked up to the drip system. I am glad this decision has allowed me to connect with others in my community and makes people stop and think about simple ways of saving water in this drought.
My husband bought me an Olla pot as well. An Olla pot is an unglazed clay pot that is porous so water seeps out at the root of the plants. This one can hold about 4 gallons of water at a time. I dug this into the ground where I had planted some Purple Top Turnips, Daikon and beets. It seems to be doing a pretty good job of watering the small patch. It is nice to be able to dump a bucket of water into the Olla pot and forget about watering for a bit. Although Olla pots are super awesome at their price point, I am not sure how well they would work widespread in a garden. I will see how this patch does first before introducing more into my garden.