World Water Day

It's World Water Day today - designated every 22nd March to raise awareness of the issues concerning water supply across the world and to gain commitment from people like ourselves to reduce our own impact on this precious resource. I could write a post suggesting 5, 10 or even 50 ways you could use less water, but I'm sure you know already about turning the tap off when brushing your teeth, installing a water hippo in your loo's tank, blah, blah, blah. That's been done many times before and by people far more eloquent and persuasive than me.

However, there's a way to save water in the garden I've not seen in many places and it's one I've been using in my garden and allotment for a while now. Based on the principle 'a pint of water at the roots is worth the same as a gallon at the soil's surface', I install water pipes like the one shown in the picture whenever I plant a tree or large shrub. The pipe is cut to the length of the planting hole plus a couple of inches to stand proud of the soil, so I can easily reach it with my watering can. I try not to water the garden during periods of drought - I'm a great believer in encouraging plants to make deep roots and find their own water, but sometimes (especially the summer of 2006) my larger plants have needed a helping hand, particularly during their first year. By employing this technique I can ensure the water gets to exactly where it is needed, using a minimal amount. I 'acquired' my pipe as there was a long length of drainage pipe abandoned amongst brambles on the public land next to my house - a find from my early guerilla gardening. You may have to resort to your local builders' supplier for something similar - it won't break the bank.

I've employed the same technique for my allotment trees and grape vines. I've also adapted it for water hungry crops such as courgettes, squashes and tomatoes. For these I use plastic pop bottles donated by my neighbours. I recycle the bottle tops and the cut off bottoms of each bottle, so I'm left with what looks like a giant straight sided funnel. I 'plant' one of these alongside each thirsty plant and water once a week during dry spells (about half a watering can per plant) - you may need to do this more frequently if your soil is sandy. This method also prevents the spread of fungal diseases such as blight, which aerial watering may encourage. I can also deliver my organic liquid feeds straight to where it'll make the most difference using this method.

If you're concerned about it being a tad unsightly, well it doesn't matter on the allotment and I've put the garden ones to the side or around the back of each plant so they're tucked out of the way. Besides, a healthy looking specimen with a pipe next to it is a much better sight than a sickly looking pipe absent one :)


  1. and because you're getting water to the roots, it doesn't take long for the plant to grow and camouflage the pipes/bottles either:-D

    Added to that, using the bottles that way you are getting a second use out of them. Did you see the post somewhere, or was it here even, on the plastic bottle greenhouse?

  2. Hi VP: Though I'll answer on my own blog, I just wanted to assure you, I'd NEVER stop reading your blog--it's fun, informative, and pink doesn't bother me one iota. It loads quickly for me, too, but you're the second person to mention that site speed tool, so I'll put it up in the next post for others info.

    Personally, I don't get the GM most of the time, even though my sense of humour is very Pythonesque; (as in Monty Python). But we don't get all the British gardening personalities over here either, so that's probably why I don't get the context. But the comment on allotment bloggers irked me. It actually FASCINATES me about allotments, because until I started reading yours and a couple of others, I didn't know about them. (Ah, the joys of living where I have unlimited space--and my own really good, really powerful well, as there are springs on our clay mountain.)
    Happy Easter, spring, equinox or anything else you might be celebrating this chilly weekend.

  3. Thanks for the tip to save water, my garden is not very big and I use a water butt. I like the idea of using pipes and will try it out next time a plant a shrub.

  4. VP,
    I love your pipe idea for my veggie garden. Most of the plants in my flower gardens are perennials that require little water. Good for you for thinking about the future!

  5. Great idea. I have done the pop bottle thing, but it always ended up blowing away. Maybe I could put a small bamboo stake through the hole. I'll give it one more try.

  6. An excellent but effective idea VP. I first saw the pipe/bottle idea in the walled kitchen garden at Tatton Hall (nearest National Trust estate) probably some three years ago. I took a photo to remind me and used the principle the following year on my allotment. I could not stretch to the best terracotta as employed at Tatton but plastic bottles do the same trick. It was all rather surplus to requirements last summer but hope that they prove their worth this year :) Your post has served as a timely reminder to extend this idea to planting new shrubs which I am about to do. Thank you.

  7. dnd - absolutely spot on. It was ages before I saw this anywhere, but I'm sure I was just reinventing the wheel when I came up with the idea!

    Jodi - thanks very much for the reassurance and positive feedback (blush). As for GM, it's one of the few blogs that regularly makes me laugh, but also gets me annoyed sometimes. That's Monkeys for you. I love allotment sites too, but as with any blogging category, there's fantastic ones and there's also stinkers. At least your latest series of articles should raise the standard amongst your readers - me included. AND we all dream of the wide open spaces such as you guys have in Canada...

    Starnitesky & Dirty Knnes - glad you're going to use the idea.

    Aunt Debbi - that's a good idea. I think I'll use it up at the allotment as it gets very windy up there

    Anna - ah Tatton and proper terracota stuff. Envious sigh. Glad you'll be using the idea though!

  8. Thanks ever so much for sharing this great tip for the GGW Design Workshop, Veep. I think I'm going to give it a try in my own garden this year!

  9. Hi Nan - thanks and I hope you do use it - your plants will love it!


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