Here are some of the coolest low-tech water recycling ideas I’ve come across that will save you time, money and effort. I hope you’ll be just as inspired to put them into action as I was.
You’re not a proper Urban Grower until you’ve successfully completed your Right of Passage by uttering this timeless 5 word koan.
Shit! The pot is dry.
If it breaks your heart as much as it does mine to see your plant drooping pitifully in a dry pot due to lack of water, this post could be the permanent solution to your woes. So please; bookmark it now! It’s constantly being updated with new ideas.
I don’t know about you, but when I see one of my plants droopy and dry, I feel so guilty knowing that after defying great odds to grow true and come out on top in the battle of genetics & geography, the simple act of not getting enough water could be my plant’s sad, sorry downfall. I feel guilty because when that happens, I know it’s my fault.
It’s reassuring for me to hear then that I’m not the only one and every good Urban Grower worth his Epsom salt has forgotten to water his pots now and then (some more regularly than others – oops).
What seems to set the truly remarkable urban growers and homesteaders apart however from those of us who just forget to water every now and then is their astounding ability to continuously innovate with new ways to preserve, retain and re-use what little resources they do have. Including, of course, water.
All growers need water but as an urban grower particularly, growing more than 80% of your harvest in pots, bins, bags, boxes, kettles or whatever else you can upcycle to do the job, water seems to be even more of a commodity. That’s because you’re always running to the tap to top up.
Pots & containers simply do not retain water as well as soil in the ground. It’s a matter of physics, as far as I can tell, and the lower total volume of soil in pots combined with the surface area of the container the grow medium (soil, sand, coco coir, vermiculite, dust – whatever) is in is more susceptible to wind and sun and therefore causes retained water to evaporate more quickly.
The savvy urban grower knows this and does cool things to preserve that water once it’s in the pot as best he can.
Now, I don’t particularly like a lot of unnecessary work, and that means I tend to get drawn to the time-saving, sustainable, natural solutions that these savvy urban growers implement. Like these low-tech water recycling ideas, for instance, that are perfect for urban growers like us.
Ideas like these shouldn’t be filed away in my head or confined to my garden, or even lost in the backwaters of the web never to be seen again.
Instead, I believe that resilient ideas like these, that have the potential to inspire sustainability within local communities should be shared with the world as wide as possible. If you believe the same, you can help spread the word by clicking the icon of your favourite sharing platform to the left or bottom of the post to get it moving. Every share helps, no matter when or where.
This open knowledge philosophy is exactly why I created this website and why I’ll be continuously updating this list with new, cool, low-tech water recycling ideas that everyone can access as soon as I find them. They will help you save time, money and effort.
Water Recycling Ideas: A Continuously Updated List
This list of water recycling ideas for the small space urban grower will be updated whenever I come across something new. It’s my hope the list will grow with time and inspire you to take action in your own garden – and that your neighbours will see what you’re doing and how useful and practical it is and copy you!
#1. Barrow Watering
I love this. It’s so simple, but so useful. Put your pots into your wheelbarrow and then water liberally. The barrow catches all the drainage and you can then re-pour that back into your watering can.
The simple system at play here is one of Drain & Store. Water from the can (source) drains from the pots into the base of the barrow (storage location).
There is a labour cost here in lifting the pots into the barrow but you could make this concept effortless. In any garden or backyard, you’ll probably have a few distinct drainage points. If you could build a storage system into your drainage points you could replicate this system on a much larger scale – and reduce the effort required to lift pots into the barrow and be able to water all your pots wherever they stand and re-use the run-off.
#2. The Self Watering Pot
This is another brilliant low-tech idea that re-uses old plastic drinks bottles to keep containers watered. There are some arguments against using plastic bottles for watering your veg, but given that most of us plant into plastic containers and pots (and probably drink most of our drinks from plastic bottles anyway), I’m more inclined to go with the advantages of this method over the perceived disadvantages.
If you have access to any research that supports either side of this argument, I’d love to have a read. Feel free to send me an email or tweet if you have.
To make the self-watering container work, you need to pierce the bottle with several holes depending on how fast you want water to drip out. It’s important you pierce the bottom of the bottle to prevent any water stagnating at the bottom.
Once the bottle has holes in, you need to ‘plant’ it at the same time as you pot up your veg, leaving just the bottle neck out of the growing medium (soil).
You will need to top-up with water or organic fertiliser like compost tea, seaweed tea and such as and when required.
As water slowly drips out of the bottom of the bottle, the soil, via capillary action, “wicks” up the moisture. At the same time, the plant tries to reach down to the moist soil, creating a healthier, stronger root.
Of course, you should also add a mulch to the top of the pot for extra water retention properties.
#3. Used Cooking Water
This is one of those “why didn’t I think of that earlier” things. If you’re a particularly savvy grower, you’re probably already doing this but if you’re a bit ad hoc (like me), sometimes it helps to be reminded of things.
The next time you boil your freshly picked veg from your garden, save the water instead of pouring it down the drain. Let it cool and then pour it onto your plants when they next need it. Keep this method strictly to outside plants so that natural microorganisms work their magic on the water and help aerate it properly (avoiding smells).
You could combine this with the principles of #1 for a double whammy watering sesh.
Found this useful? Interesting? Want to read more like it?
This is just a tiny snapshot of the small-space solutions and resilient ideas I’m researching. If you sign up to my email list, I’ll send you all of them in one handy, accessible completely free Urban Grower’s Handbook (pdf format) for quick reference.
It’s my goal to keep the Urban Grower’s Handbook updated with all the latest solutions that will make your life as an Urban Grower more efficient, cost-effective and productive.