The Basics by Michael Kelly Tips for Conserving Water

The Basics – Tips for Conserving Water


Generally speaking, we don’t need to water much if at all outside in the veg patch in a typical Irish summer.  But in these heatwave conditions, watering is indeed necessary and conserving water becomes a significant challenge.  Here are our top tips:


  • Water properly – getting water down to the root zone takes much longer than people think. If you just water the top layer of soil, chances are it will evaporate off before it can benefit the plant.  A good, heavy watering is better than an occasional light one.  If in doubt, stick your finger down in to the soil to check.  A heavy watering is 20 litres (or about 2 standard watering cans) per square yard.
  • Water when it’s cool - either first thing in the morning or last thing at night to reduce evaporation and to get the most from your water.
  • Having as much organic matter as possible in the soil will help to increase the water holding capacity of the soil.
  • Keep the surface of soil around plants mulched to prevent evaporation. Mulch after watering to retain the wet conditions for longer.  Mulching can reduce a plant’s water needs by up to 50%.  Straw and newspaper are both good mulches.
  • Get rid of weeds – weeds compete with plants for water.
  • It’s too late in a dry period, but a rain butt to collect water from a shed or greenhouse roof will provide significant volumes of water for later use. They are a sinch to install, simply diverting water from the drainpipe in to the butt. It’s estimated that you could collect 24,000 litres of water a year from a standard roof.  Whether you’d need that much water is another matter.
  • Drip irrigation or seep hoses are efficient and can be buried under soil to reduce evaporation.
  • Focus water where it’s needed most - the leafy veg like brassicas, spinach etc; celery and celeriac; fruiting vegetables at flowering stage (but not too much when fruiting)
  • Focus water when it’s most needed – typically when seedlings are young and have not developed a mature root system, right after transplanting and during flowering and fruiting.
  • Reuse water used in cooking when it’s cooled down and grey water from baths, showers etc for watering plants (but don’t use water that has detergent or disinfectants in it)

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  • Gemma Hensey on

    Great suggestions. I wish the authorities and others could be doling out useful and practical advice. It is essential for all of us to conserve water. Perhaps a water levy is the practical solution!

  • Robert Hill on

    I have 3 waterbuts connected to downpipes from the roof of my house ; They store app 700 litrs of water ,they are cheap ,and as we are told a " cinch " to install " go and buy one/two and stress less.


  • Jill Breivik on

    This is all great advice but I have one small quibble. I hand wash dishes in dry times and fling the washing up water on the la – grass. The detergent doesn’t seem to do any harm and the grass looks happier for it. All other used water is put on the veg and the small bay hedge I planted earlier in the year.

    Secondly, (that was firstly), I’m dismayed by the number of shiny cars around. Mine is wearing it’s dust and bird droppings with pride! Garages may be free to use water for car washing but that doesn’t mean we have to take advantage.

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