Water-saving options for home gardeners

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By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

We’ve been looking at the parched parts of the yard and garden, and thinking about water, that precious commodity that’s been elusive in parts of the Southwest and over-abundant in the Northeast this year. You just can’t control rainfall. But you can capture it; direct it and supplement it with conservative watering strategies.

Here are some new (or newly revised) water-saving products for eco-minded veggie and flower gardeners.

  • The Weed -Free Garden Watering Blanket by Evo Organic. This product performs as promised by providing a “blanket” that prevents weeds from overtaking your vegetable garden. We tried it out this spring and found that is was, indeed, a delight to not have to yank weeds. More importantly, an
    embedded drip irrigation hose sewn into the blanket served as a built-in watering system that kept watering to a minimum and helped prevent water loss to evaporation. This was the ingenious part, major water savings. Now for the downside: Rainfall hit the plants but ran off the blanket or remained on the surface of the blanket. So nature’s watering system was not as effective. The plants got a drink when it rained, via wet leaves, but the ground could not get a good soaking. Did some of the rain get through the blanket? We think so, but not to the degree we would have liked. The organic fertilizer that came with blanket kit ($69.95 MSRP) seemed to work just fine. The blanket and hose seemed durable enough for a few seasons. Still, those considering this product will have to decide how much relief they want from weed-pulling versus how much they want or need  their region’s natural rainfall.
  • Here’s another drip line device, the generically named Green Vegetable Watering Kit as its called on the
    Home Depot website. You fill this device ahead of time and it releases the water very slowly, drip-watering a row of vegetables or herbs. It’s a neat idea, perfect for people on vacation or so busy they only want to think about watering the garden periodically. We’re not sure how this would hold up in a garden visited by aggressive little creatures or baked by a hot summer sun, and no one has reviewed it yet. It does look a little like something you could almost make yourself (except then it would certainly leak.) The price is reasonable enough ($19.99) to persuade some people to give it a try, people who’d rather come home to a garden salad than a garden demanding attention.
  • We got prett
    y excited about this Waterstone Rain Barrel when we realized it could be used in places where neighbors might quibble with a big black plastic rain barrel (like the one we bought because its a recycled food container but had to hide behind a bush). Here is a device that exists to blend in. A spokesman for Emsco, the company that makes it, says sales are growing daily. Emsco offers other faux rock rain barrels as part of its “Rain Rescue” line, some in bigger sizes, as well as rocks for various garden uses. We like this one because it has a clear purpose, comes equipped with a diverter and hose, is made with 25 percent recycled resins and holds 40 gallons of rainwater — not bad for a rock. It’s also available at Home Depot ($99).

  • We also were happy to find Algreen’s 81002 Agua Rain Water Collection and Storage System (who names these things?) This rain barrel looks like a large, nicely designed clay pot, something you might actually put out on the patio as decor. But it’s made of plastic, so it can hold rainwater. This one removes any aesthetic arguments against using a rain barrel that cranky neighbors might level at you. Now we’re past blending in, into standing out; but the functionality remains. This one also holds 50 gallons of rainwater and comes reasonably priced at Amazon (where it was $123 today). Amazon buyers give this this pot/barrel good reviews and vouch for it’s clay look “especially from a distance.” Some buyers did not like the “cheap hose” that came attached, and it doesn’t boast any recycled plastic (we’re also not sure how you get flowers to grow on top — maybe those are plastic too?). Still when you’ve got good looks…
  • Even with the market bursting with all these innovative rain barrel reconfigurations, it’s nice to know you can still get a traditional-looking barrel. This Rain Wizard Rain Barrel (see, the names don’t seem
    to match the products at all) mimics a whiskey barrel and might look quite good with certain rustic architecture. It comes in four colors including a black that’s made from recycled plastic or a neighbor-pleasing oak or terra cotta. Sold by eco-retailer Abundant Earth, it holds 50 gallons, shimmies up against the foundation and has a screened top where the rain gutter is attached. (Letting the water get a little air can be a good thing.)

If it happens that a faux whiskey barrel doesn’t meld well with your modern suburban stucco home, there are a gazillion other new looks in rain barrels, as well as specially designed water collectors (collapsible, made to fit in a corner, flat-backed, brightly colored, not brightly colored). You can see a full range by The Find shopping search engine.

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