Saturday, March 5, 2011

Thinking Aloud; About Water

“People mistakenly assume that their thinking is done by their head; it is actually done by the heart which first dictates the conclusion, then commands the head to provide the reasoning that will defend it.”
Whenever I spend quality time in the big outdoors, either walking around my neighborhood or a local park for an hour or so, I seem to garner a sense of purpose and clarity and, inevitably this leads to a nugget of a good idea. Since I don’t walk with my iPod, I am not distracted by my favorite tunes and notice things I would otherwise “tune out.” 

Today the “Friends of Jupiter Beach” (FJB), organized a “Beach Clean Up Day,” and so my youngest son and I volunteered to pick the trash up off our local beach. Having gotten fitted out with long tongs, gloves and plastic bags, we set off on our mile trek along the beach working as a team, and within a team, to pick up plastic caps, cigarette butts, bottles and goodness knows what else other folks cannot be bothered to take home with them. 

For our efforts, the wonderful people of FJB - who have been organizing this monthly event for 16 years - hosted a great breakfast and lots of coffee. The coffee was very welcome since it was a mite chilly on the beach at 8am this morning. Here in South Florida, we are having some blustery weather (no rain unfortunately), and the sea was crashing about bringing all sorts of debris up on shore.
When I got home at 11 am, I noticed my in-ground and potted tomatoes were drooping with thirst. I had only watered them the day before yesterday! Since it is our dry season until about May, this should come as no surprise to me. My hose however is a 50 foot monster to wrestle into the vegetable garden, and I really need to get with the program and install a real water system to collect roof run-off. With the exception of my vegetables, I mostly stick with Florida friendly shrubs and perennials that don’t need 5 gallons of water daily to survive our dry spells. 
For a while now, I am in the habit of burying an inverted, plastic, pint size, drinking bottle when I plant a new pepper or tomato in a pot.  Cut the bottom out and facing up, (neck down) with only about an inch of plastic above the mulch line. When the plant gets big enough and the roots deep enough, I water it via the upturned plastic bottle, that way I don’t soak all the leaves (which can lead to leaf mold/fungus) and, I know the water is going to the roots directly; plus I can control the level of nutrient solution.
The plants in the ground are more difficult to do this for. The squirrels, critters and my dogs are always prowling around and before I know it, the upturned bottle has been either disturbed or just plain hidden with mulch, bird seed and dirt.
After I gave the in-ground tomats and peppers a good soaking I was horrified to see how much run off had leached into the surrounding soil. We don’t irrigate our lawn, it’s one of our peeves that such a prolific waste of water is used on lawns to keep them green. But there’s my environmental rant out the way and onto my idea. 
Almost out of sight
Two holes in the seam
So how to reduce water wastage, and try to give the plants enough time to absorb the water? I took a gallon milk jug and poked two holes in the crease of the bottom seam. Then I filled it up about an inch with marble rocks, but you could use old marbles, lava stones, gravel, grit or even shellrock to get the same filtering effect. I placed the jug as close as I could to the stem of the tomato and I used some bricks to keep them in place - although the rocks weighing the jug down should help. I mixed up a nutrient solution and used a funnel to pour the water/nutrients into the neck of the jug. It took about a minute for the water to disperse out of the bottom of the jug. The reasoning behind this idea, was that I am hoping the dripping effect allows the plant time to soak up more water; as opposed to most hose water running off our sandy/dusty soil. The more holes in the bottom, the quicker the dispersion. After a week or so the leaves will mostly cover the jugs so they are not so conspicuous. 
If you have any thoughts or have tried this and can improve upon it let me know!
Hanging Basket
I use this drip method but on a smaller scale for my hanging baskets, one of which is filled with Purple Petunias, Nasturtians and Giant Snowflake (Sutera cordata). See the yellow in the middle of the basket? It’s a painted, paper cup with holes in the bottom. I water the basket via the paper cup on a daily basis. The basket is lined with plenty of newspaper to help keep some moisture and the potting soil in place.
Who Needs Violets When You Can Have Lettuce?
Last but not least, I needed the potting soil space where some of my lettuces were. A lettuce root ball is only small so I moved them to jelly jars (with the soil still attached to root ball), and they are on a shelf in my sunny laundry room. I will continue to feed them egg shell water until I want to harvest them. I do not know which variety they are because they came in a pack of Burpee Organic Mix. None of the pictures online match with any of the lettuce shown here. Could be dandelion for all I know, but they are still great!
Egg-Shell Water is empty shells (not washed out), crushed and submerged in regular tap water. I pour very hot water over fresh shells before keeping in the fridge, but the lettuce don’t mind the cold, eggy shower each day!


  1. Your post is so timely for me. I've been learning a lot about how to be a more ecologically responsible gardener and I was just thinking about how I water the veggies. Yesterday I put the hose on a trickle and pushed the nozzle down into the dirt. I think I'll give the jug idea a try. Thanks!

  2. I've never heard of the eggshell water, but sounds interesting. I like your idea of burying the pop bottles in the planters to keep the water where it's supposed to be.

    BTW, my Dad was a muck farmer and traveled from Ohio in the summer to Florida in the winter to farm veggies. I always thought it was pretty ecological since they mainly farmed organically, but then I learned that the reason the dirt was so nutrient rich was that it used to be swamp land that was drained for farming. So they basically messed up the orginal habitat of the area to grow their veggies. But I still love my lettuces, celery and radishes.

  3. Kelly, thanks for trying my jug idea, let me know how it works out.

    Pam, interesting information on your family's background. Thanks for sharing. I have a book "Black Gold and Silver Sands" which is A Pictorial History of Agriculture in Palm Beach County (as it is now), written by James D. Snyder. Has hundred's of very old photos in there including some long gone Seminole Villages (for real). Fascinating stuff.


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read my blog and leave a message. Happy Gardening!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...