7 Simple and Effective Ways to Conserve Water in Home Gardening

7 Simple and Effective Ways to Conserve Water in Home Gardening

Water conservation is a crucial practice in home gardening, not only for environmental sustainability but also to reduce water bills and promote efficient plant growth. According to the Pew Research Center, “Over 2 billion people already lack access to safe drinking water at home, and by 2025 over half of the world’s population will reside in water-stressed areas. These numbers will increase significantly if climate change and population growth follow or exceed predicted trajectories.”

At Trellis for Tomorrow, we prioritize water conservation in all our garden sites, utilizing drip tape irrigation across all sites. In this blog post, we will discuss seven effective ways homeowners can water their gardens wisely by incorporating some water-saving techniques.

Install a Rainwater Collection System

One of the most effective ways to conserve water is by collecting rainwater. Set up a rain barrel or cistern to capture rainwater from your roof’s downspouts. We recommend using a mesh screen to filter debris and prevent mosquito breeding. You can then use this stored rainwater to irrigate your garden during dry spells, reducing reliance on potable water sources. You can find DIY instructions online or purchase ready-to-go rain barrels at a local garden supply center. Check out this locally made version that you can find at Colonial Gardens in Phoenixville or stop into the Eco Store on Bridge Street.

Embrace Drip Tape Irrigation

Drip tape irrigation is a highly efficient method that delivers water directly to the plants’ root zones, minimizing evaporation and runoff. Trellis for Tomorrow utilizes drip tape irrigation in all our garden sites, and homeowners can implement it too. Simply lay the drip tape along your garden rows and connect it to a water source. Drip tape conserves water by providing a slow and steady supply, ensuring plants receive precisely the amount they need. Check out this resource from Rain-Flo Irrigation.

Water Early in the Morning

To minimize water loss through evaporation, it’s best to water your garden early in the morning. By doing so, the water has time to soak into the soil before the sun’s heat intensifies, reducing waste and promoting efficient plant absorption. Watering in the evening can lead to prolonged leaf wetness, increasing the risk of disease.

Utilize Mulch

Mulching around your plants provides several benefits, including water conservation. A layer of mulch helps retain soil moisture, reduces weed growth, and insulates the soil, preventing evaporation. We recommend using organic and undyed mulch such as wood chips, straw, or shredded leaves. Apply a 2–3-inch layer around your plants, leaving a small space near the stem to prevent rot.

Practice Smart Watering

Avoid overwatering your plants by practicing smart watering techniques. Before watering, check the soil moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. If it feels damp an inch below the surface, you can delay watering. Additionally, water deeply and infrequently encourages deeper root growth and drought tolerance. Shallow, frequent watering can lead to shallow roots and plant stress.

Group Plants by Water Needs

Efficiently manage water usage by grouping plants with similar water requirements together. Some plants require less water, while others, like leafy greens, need more. By arranging plants with similar water needs in the same area, you can avoid over or underwatering certain plants, ensuring optimal growth for all.

Capture and Reuse Household Water

In addition to rainwater collection, consider reusing household water to irrigate your garden. Collect water from abandoned cups and activities such as rinsing fruits and vegetables. This water can be used for watering plants or for irrigating with drip tape systems. Ensure the water does not contain harmful chemicals or contaminants.

Conserving water in home gardening is a responsibility we all share. By implementing these seven effective strategies, homeowners can contribute to a sustainable and efficient water management system. Trellis recommends using rainwater collection systems, drip tape irrigation, and other water-saving techniques to protect our environment and promote healthy, thriving gardens. Together we can make water conservation an integral part of gardening practices and pave the way for a greener future.

The Incredible Power of Composting

The Incredible Power of Composting

With climate change becoming an increasingly more urgent issue, it’s crucial for us to adopt sustainable practices that can make a real difference. One practice that packs a punch is composting. It’s simple, effective, and has a range of environmental benefits. In this blog post, we’ll dive into:

  • How composting can help fight climate change.
  • Share some easy tips for homeowners to start their composting journey.
  • Share how we’re maximizing the benefits of composting across all 26 garden sites at Trellis for Tomorrow.

Feel free to join the conversation and ask questions in the comments or on social media!

Composting: A Climate Change Ally

With the world rapidly burning its remaining carbon, we need all the climate change solutions possible.  You may be surprised that composting can be a game-changer in the fight against climate change. When you compost, you’re diverting organic waste from landfills, which is a big deal. Why? One reason is that when organic waste breaks down in landfills, it releases methane—a very powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to our warming climate. When waste is composted instead of added to a landfill, it can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, by as much as 50%.

But the advantages don’t end there.

Benefits Galore!

Composting is like a superhero for the environment. Here are a few more reasons why it’s awesome:

Carbon Capture: Composting helps us combat climate change by reducing harmful emissions. At home, you’re ensuring that organic waste breaks down in a controlled, aerobic environment, rather than a landfill. This means less methane, a potent greenhouse gas, being released into the atmosphere.

Soil, Oh Soil: Compost is like a magic potion for your soil. It enriches it with nutrients, improves its structure, and boosts its water-holding capacity. Plus, when you use compost in your garden or on your lawn, it helps capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, effectively reducing its concentration and mitigating climate change. Isn’t that amazing?

Less Chemicals, More Nature: Compost is a natural fertilizer, chock-full of essential nutrients for plants. By using compost, you can cut back on synthetic fertilizers, which require a lot of energy to produce. And less energy means fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a win-win situation for both your garden and the environment.

Getting Started with Composting at Home

Now that we’ve piqued your interest, let’s talk about how you can kickstart your composting journey. It’s easier than you might think! Here’s what you need to do:

Choose Your Style: First, decide on the composting method that suits your needs and space. Whether it’s a traditional backyard compost pile, a worm-powered vermicomposting setup, or an indoor composting bin, pick the one that works best for you.

Bin There, Done That: Find or purchase a composting bin that allows for proper airflow and moisture control. Don’t worry if you can’t find one—creating a compost pile in a designated area of your yard works just fine.

Toss and Turn: When it comes to what you can compost, kitchen scraps like fruit and veggie peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells are all fair game. Yard waste, such as leaves, grass clippings, and small branches, can join the party too. Just remember to avoid meat, dairy, and oily foods, as they can attract pests.

Mix It Up: Layer your composting materials, alternating between wet (kitchen scraps) and dry (leaves or shredded newspaper) components. Give it a good mix every few weeks to add oxygen and speed up the decomposition process. Think of it as giving your compost a little workout!

Patience and Love: Composting takes time, usually several months to a year, depending on factors like temperature and the materials you use. So be patient and keep an eye on the moisture levels. Give your compost pile some love by turning it every now and then. It’ll pay off, we promise!

Trellis for Tomorrow’s Composting Systems

At Trellis for Tomorrow, our agricultural staff and volunteers are doing some fantastic work managing composting systems across our 26 garden sites. These composting systems efficiently transform garden waste into nutrient-rich compost. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also enriches the soil, making those gardens thrive. Talk about a win for the planet and our communities!

Join the Conversation

We hope this blog post has sparked your interest in composting and its potential to combat climate change. If you have any questions or want to share your composting journey, connect with us on social media or through our website. Let’s work together to create a greener, more sustainable future!

When to Start your Seeds for a Thriving Garden

When to Start your Seeds for a Thriving Garden

By February, gardeners are itching to get their hands back in the soil. Our muscles are well-rested after some hibernation, the days are beginning to lengthen, and a few warm days here and there tease that spring is around the corner. I’ll be honest; we’ve had such a mild winter that I never really stopped wanting to be out in the garden!

As our excitement builds, we can meet that eagerness with a well-thought-out plan for how to ensure we have a successful growing season. It can be tempting to jump right into starting all our seeds at once – the more the merrier, right? Well, sort of.

While we want our gardens to be teeming with diversity, we need to draw up a solid plan for how to guarantee that those plants are happy and healthy. The key to a well-designed garden plan (and a thriving garden) is timing.

In the short term, sowing all your seeds in the first couple weeks of February may bring joy – seeing the tiny tomatoes, eggplants, and other summer seedlings on your windowsill, foretelling the warm summer months to come. However, you’ll want to wait until the end of February or early March to sow crops that thrive in the height of summer. This is because, after eight weeks of living in their seedling pots, seedlings will be ready to be transplanted into their seasonal homes; but the weather may not be well suited for this step. So, unless you have a warm greenhouse to transplant them into, hold off for a few more weeks.

Tips for Spring Planting

Generally speaking, you can look at when a crop is recommended for transplantation into the ground, then count backwards six to eight weeks to determine when to start your seed indoors. At Trellis for Tomorrow, we’re planning our spring plantings to begin the week of March 27th. Using the 8-week rule, we will start our first round of seedlings in the first week of February. This year, we’ll be sowing broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, collards, kale, and lettuce.  Then, when these crops are ready to be transplanted into the garden come late March/early April, you’ll have healthy six-to-eight-week-old seedlings that are eager to spread their roots.

If you’re a member of Trellis for Tomorrow’s GREEN |SPACE| and received our annual Gardening Guide, flip to the end where you’ll find a handy checklist of crops well suited for your spring, summer, and fall plantings. Become a member with a monthly donation of $10 or more. Have questions? Contact us. 

Crops that are well-suited for spring are cold-hardy, meaning they can withstand light frost. Not only are they able to survive cold nights, but they thrive in the unpredictable spring weather. Nights that dip below freezing actually bring out some of their best flavors – lettuce sweetens, kale becomes nice and tender, broccoli and cauliflower form more flavorful heads.

Tips for Summer Planting

For those of you who love summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, and cucumbers – fear not! You don’t have much longer to wait before starting your seed germination process. Trellis for Tomorrow’s summer plantings begin in early/mid May, which means we’ll be starting our summer seeding in early March.

Zucchini and cucumbers are an exception to the 8-week rule. Instead of counting backwards eight weeks, you only need to count back three to four weeks. This is due to the speed at which these crops grow – they will not be happy if they are confined to their pots for much longer than a few weeks.

For tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, you may want to “pot up” your seedlings once they are about four weeks old. To do this, you’ll start your seeds in a seed germination pot in early March. Then, after about three to four weeks, you’ll gently remove the seedling from its pot, place it into a larger pot size, and fill the empty space with soil. This promotes root growth and allows the plant to gain vigor.

We’ll update this post with a section on fall planning. For now, us gardeners have enough on our plates for the spring and summer! Hopefully, this post is useful for helping you map out your seeding schedule and gets you as excited for the upcoming growing season as we are!

Luke Carneal is the Agricultural Program Manager at Trellis for Tomorrow. He comes to us with over ten years of experience in organic farm management. When he’s not out ensuring that all of our network gardens are thriving, you can find him exploring hydroponic growing and roughhousing with his dog.