Thursday, 29 May 2014

Saving Water in the Garden

 Bring On The Rain
Water butts and hose to pond
     I used to work in an office surrounded by a small wood. In winter, there was quite a substantial pond among the nearby trees  but in the summer, even if it rained, the water would slowly subside until it completely disappeared. This left a colony of disappointed looking frogs (ever seen a disappointed frog?) scratching their heads and no doubt ruminating about how the moon exerts a strong tidal pull in Manchester. The correct explanation, of course, was that, as soon as the trees put on their leafy summer dresses, they started taking in water and exuding much of it into the atmosphere in the process of transpiration. The amount they disposed of in a relatively short period of time was quite staggering and leads me to draw a bit of a parallel with my garden pond:

      We recently went on a water meter. This led me to look at the water consumption related to the garden and I realised that a large part of this could be put down to topping up the pond. Even with the best construction there is a loss to the atmosphere due to simple evaporation and transpiration from plants. This was a bit different to my woodland scenario, because tree roots have no effect through a pond liner. However there are plenty of marginal plants sitting in the shallows, happily breathing out water vapour and creating the same result. The lowered water level leads to the visibility of artificial liner and a general unattractive torpidity. So I regularly top up.
Full pond
      Unfortunately, tap water is rich in nutrients required by the algi which frequently destroys the clarity of a pond. Apart from considerations of cost, this is the equivalent of whitewashing the TV screen: the programmes are still there, playing invisibly, but what's the point? I suppose the answer to this is the fact that our pond is probably still providing habitat for more life forms than the rest of the garden put together. However, part of the attraction is being able to watch them and it's a bit frustrating being blindfolded. If we were to add nutrient - free rainwater instead, this would put a few algi on the breadline.

      At about the time we made the change to metered water, I saw Aldi's special offer of 100 litre water butts advertised for ten pounds, complete with kit for attaching to drainpipes. We have a flat roof which covers part of the living room and kitchen, so I invested in two butts, thinking this may be a useful source of run-off. Then I set the barrels up to catch what was available. The result was amazing - both barrels filled during the first heavy downpour and I found myself with a free source of water. The problem with this lay in the fact that to transport the water to the pond would require a half day of carrying buckets along about sixty foot of garden and a resumption of my hernia.
The greenhouse - a further source of water
      It didn't take a genius to come up with the idea of fixing a hose from butt to pond: one barrel is now used for watering purposes and  the other one constantly overflows into the pond. A minor snag with this is that the hose has to run across the path before disappearing into the obscurity of the back of the border and eventually reaching the pond. A hose across the path is seen as a challenge by my wife: she has to catch her foot in it and thoughtlessly damage my carefully laid paving by crashing down on it, so the attachment is only made when it is raining and she is safe indoors. The rest of the time I leave it coiled out of sight and awaiting action under an obliging Fatsia.

For more on ponds see water fern,
water lilies
marginal plants
making a waterfall
pondside plants

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