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FeaturesThe Urban Gardener

Rain barrels and soakers aid in water conservation

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Rain barrels are a smart way to conserve water and to use as an irrigation system for your garden.

Your urban horticulturist recommends watering your garden plants slowly and deeply in the morning hours to keep plants hydrated throughout the day. Morning watering is not only the optimum time for plants to drink, but also conserves precious water resources.

Did you know that only 1 percent of the water found on Earth is drinkable fresh water?

Next time you cut into a papaya, try this demonstration for keiki: Slice the papaya into four equal parts. Put one slice aside; this represents land. The other three slices represent all water on the planet. Explain that although three-fourths of the Earth is covered with water, most of it is salt water. To show how small the amount of fresh water is compared with salt water, remove one-eighth of one of the slices. This small piece of papaya represents fresh water.

Next, cut this small piece into three equal parts. Two of these small pieces represent frozen water, unavailable for us to use. Only one of these small pieces represents the fresh water that is available for us to live. Conserving water is very important because without fresh water, living things could not survive.

At the University of Hawaii’s Urban Garden Center in Pearl City, UH master gardeners are learning about saving rain water from Honolulu Board of Water Supply watershed specialists. The agency estimates that 50 percent of water use occurs outdoors. Rain barrels, constructed from recycled food-grade barrels and several ingenious plumbing components, capture rainwater for use in irrigating trees and shrubs in the home garden.

In addition, your rain barrel can be outfitted with a soaker hose. Spacing the soaker hose 3 to 4 inches from the base of plants encourages new root systems to grow toward the drip line. Three inches of mulch applied on top on the soaker hose and around the base of the plants prevents water from evaporating.

Planting a native plant, laying soaker hoses that drip water and applying a thick layer of mulch are the key ingredients we use to practice water-wise gardening.

Although classes are available through the Board of Water Supply where you can purchase a barrel pre-constructed for you, UH Master Gardeners are teaching a class on how to construct your own, from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Urban Garden Center, part of the UH Cooperative Extension Service. Please come early to sign up at the classroom; there will be activities starting at 9 a.m. and running until noon throughout the center as we host our monthly "Second Saturday at the Garden" program.

Visit www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/ougc for more information or call the UH Master Gardener Plant help line at 453-6055.

Jayme Grzebik is an urban horticulturist with the University of Hawaii’s Cooperative Extension Service, part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Reach her at grzebik@hawaii.edu.


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