Friday, 23 July 2010

Water, water not everywhere ?

Since we've had a larger garden we have tried to do more with it, in terms of growing stuff we can eat, we are a little limited because we have kids so turning the garden into an allotment isn't really an option, I do keep trying to claim a bit of space now and then ;-) and we are hoping to get an allotment at some point.

 Now here's the problem, the more we grow the more water we need (I know that's really obvious) we could just use the hose all the time, but this has it's drawbacks, the cost for one, the more water we use the bigger our water bill (we have a metre) and then there's the chance that there will be a hose pipe ban.

I did actually phone the water board about using the hose for watering the food type plants, and the answer they gave me was that they didn't mind, as long as it wasn't for watering 4 acres of lawn, and just a few plants, even in a water shortage it wasn't a problem, so it may be worth you asking your water supplier, but I wouldn't count on it, I'm not convinced ours was being totally honest on that score.

So what to do about watering ? plants need water, that's kind of essential if you want nice big tomatoes.
My shed sits under the sycamore at the end of our garden, I put it there because in full sun it would be like a microwave, so under the tree seemed a good idea, it also had an advantage because the tree catches a lot of water when it rains, so I fitted gutters to each side of the shed, and bought two 220 litre water butts, one for each side, which I thought would be enough water to last when it doesn't rain, I was wrong as it turns out.
At the end of our second year in this house it became apparent that for the things we wanted to grow, and to give the garden just enough water in dry spells we would need more water, so I got a 120 litre plastic bin cheap and added it to one side of the shed as an over flow from one of the water butts, I put it on the side that seemed to over flow the most, thinking it would fill up the over flow faster (which it does) I basically got a plastic plumbing fitting and attached a piece of plastic pipe I had lying around to the larger water butt, and cut a hole in the lid of the bin and ran the pipe into it.

Like so -

Water butt overflow.

The lot cost about £2 pound, the plumbing fitting can be bought from most diy shops, as can the pipe, and probably the plastic bin, I think I got the bin from homebase for a tenner.

So with the addition of the bin that meant I could store 560 litres of rain water, loads right ? nope, it seems that as we (well me anyway, the wife is pretty good already) have got better at gardening we have grown more, and now I can use the entire water supply in a few weeks in the summer, even in England.

As an example over the last 4 weeks we have had some rain, about 5 days in the whole month, and only one of those days was a good shower, this wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the fact the average temperature has been in the mid to high 20's which has dried out the ground a lot, it's very dusty and dry as hell, and some of the things we grow are quite thirsty plants, things like tomatoes,pumpkins,courgettes, and then there's the fruit plants and trees.

We have a few fruit trees, they are quite young, but do bare fruit most of the time, we have pears this year, the biggest problem the lack of water has caused is with the cherry tree, we didn't get one cherry this year, and I got a little worried thinking the tree was dying, but as it turns out it's just lack of water that's caused the fruit not to form properly.

We are now scratching our heads as to what to do, I am thinking about adding an extra water butt to the shed array, and we have even considered adding water butts to the house guttering.
One option is the green house, it's nothing fancy, it's basically a metal frame with a plastic sheet over it the plan I have been pondering is that the sheet doesn't last long and instead of buying a new cover I've decided I will use the frame and cover it with rigid plastic (polycarbonate type stuff) if I do I can then add guttering to it and more water butts, at least that's the plan, we shall see what happens.

Thanks for reading.

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