When my husband and I moved here some 30+ years ago, neighbors were few and far between. Now, not only this area (El Rito/Latir) but New Mexico in general has become a favored destination for those who want to beat the noise and chaos of big city living and enjoy more freedom of expression for their chosen style of living.
Many of the homes that are out and away from the utilities of local townships, in this case water districts, are on wells and some are on rainwater catch systems. In view of the growing population in recent times, there are more “straws in the water,” meaning increased water usage. This is not something that people who are used to the convenience of turning on the faucet and always getting water are accustomed to. Our water comes from a well and every time I turn a faucet on, I am aware that the guy downstream from me is depending on the same water.
Now we are in a serious drought period and many of us who want to eat healthy and grow some of our own food need to understand how we can efficiently supply water needed for our plants.
We have come up with one solution at our home that with no waste of water running off away from the plants. This system is used for our outdoor plants—some food producing and some not—we call these are our “bottle babies.” Over the years we have collected gallon jugs from apple juice: we drill two holes in the lid and fill the jugs from the water catchment system from our roof. We load up our “gorilla wagon” with our gallon jugs and cart them to each plant where we tip the jug at the base of the plant. There it does a slow, direct, no-waste watering.
Here are some helpful hints to conserve water during this drought but still provide water to our plants:
- Collect rain/snow water from roofs. Snow melt has filled our tanks every year that we have had them and have proven a great help to lessen the use of well water.
- Place a small tub in the kitchen sink to catch water used for rinsing dishes. This is safe for plants.
- Use bath water or capture shower water and use it for watering.
- Water in the early morning or the evening. Midday sun will evaporate the water too quickly.
- Make sure soil is rich in organic matter, as this will help retain water. Kitchen scraps, garden waste, or animal manure are good sources of living organisms to make your own nutrient-rich compost.
- Mulch will help retain moisture. Some useful materials for mulching are: straw, grass clippings, corn cobs, river stones, pea gravel, bark chips, leaves, peat moss, seaweed, wood ashes, and sawdust.
- Provide a windbreak for plants to keep them from drying out.
- Weeding is important, as unwanted plants use up water that could be used by plants we do want. Don’t water anywhere except the plants you intend to water. Weeds sprout out where there is a leak in your hose!
I’m always learning something new about how to grow food in this dry climate and high altitude and quite a few times I have not been successful at meeting the challenge. Now the challenge is greater and there is an increased need to be vigilantly aware of not only our needs, but the needs of our neighbors. Be wise with the use of the precious element of water, for it is a life blood to us all.