Reducing Water Use… Again

We need to make further water economies at home.

On the bright side the rainwater tank is just over half full, so that’s enough water for three people for four weeks sparing household use, but if we do this none can be used for gardening. The sewage system provides about 330 – 350l of recycled water from household use now there’s three people.

This is sufficient to:
a. regularly water three out of eight vegetable beds well, but abandon all of the fruit trees and potted plants to natural rainfall, or
b. keep the fruit trees, potted plants and two out of the eight vegetable beds watered sparingly after culling stock further;

I expect that the rainwater tank will reach half full later this week if the two ‘possible storms’ don’t occur, so I must look at:

i. further culling of vegetables and potted plants. I culled the black-eyed beans this weekend, composted seven potted plants, gave away more potted crotons and have ceased watering the culinary ginger and arrowroot since July;
ii. planting out potted stock, including street trees;
iii. abandoning the cocoyam/ celery-stem taro bed (to the south of the house) to natural rainfall. So far this new planting has been watered once fortnightly;
iv. deferring replacing the nature strip (I want to replace the turf with golden sweet potato) at the front of the house;
v. deferring lifting and dividing the cardamom for the back fenceline. I’ve only been watering the cardamom to stop them from dying since July;
vi. harvesting the mangelwurzels (pictured) – which are still doing really well – and storing some in the fridge so I reduce watering;
vii. showering and washing clothes as little as tolerable. George would have loved this idea!

Jeff asked how we could save water in the garden and save on heating energy for cooking. Basically he wanted a list of drought-resistant crops you can eat raw. This simple question is harder to answer than he thought, so here’s a list of crops that I would consider growing, when I would grow them in SE Qld and if they need cooking – or can be eaten raw:

Vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices

i. Sow or plant all year round in Brisbane

Thirsty crops which require watering well at least once a day, depending on evaporation rates
Beetroot, medium to heavy watering; cook, juice or eat raw;
Bok Choi, heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Pak Choi, heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Choi Sum, heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Silverbeet, medium to heavy watering; cook or steam;
Radish, medium to heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Carrot, heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Choko, medium to heavy watering; cook, steam or eat raw;
Lettuce, Endive; heavy watering; eat raw;

Moderately thirsty crops which can require daily watering
Jerusalem Artichoke; slow to crop, medium watering, cook;
Mustard; medium watering; cook or eat raw;
Rocket; medium watering; cook or eat raw;

Drought-tolerant crops which require weekly watering
Garlic Chives; medium watering, slow to crop; raw or cook;
Pawpaw; medium watering; cook or eat raw;
Passionfruit; medium watering; eat raw;
Cardamom, weekly watering; cook;
Lesser Galangal, weekly watering; cook;
Turmeric; weekly watering when in leaf; cook;
Ginger, medium watering, slow, cook;
Lemongrass; slow, low watering; cook;

Crops to sow or plant during the cool seasons
Thirsty crops which need checking for watering daily
Onion and Garlic; heavy watering, slow to crop; use raw or cook. I do not grow these because they occupy too much space, use too much water and labour for the return;
Chinese Celery; medium to heavy watering; cook or steam;
Broad Bean, medium to heavy watering, cook;
Mangelwurzel, medium to heavy watering; cook root or steam leaves;
Cabbage, medium to heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Kale, medium to heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Kohl Rabi, medium to heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Florence Fennel and culinary Fennel; heavy watering; cook or steam or eat raw;
Tomato; heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Pea and Snow Pea; medium to heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Chinese Cabbage; medium to heavy watering, cook, steam or eat raw;

Crops that may need daily watering
Nasturtium; medium watering, cook, steam or eat raw;
Parsley; medium watering; cook, steam or eat raw;
Potato, medium watering, cook;

1.ii.Warm Season Crops
Thirsty crops which require watering well at least once a day, depending on evaporation rates
Adzuki bean, Black-eyed Bean, Haricot Bean, Lima Bean, Kidney Bean; medium to heavy watering; cook;
Edible Amaranth, Amaranthus cruentus; medium to heavy watering, cook or steam;
Peanut; heavy watering, slow to crop, raw or cook;
Eggplant/ Aubergine, medium to heavy watering, cook;
Chickpea, heavy watering; cook;
Taro, slow, heavy watering, cook;
Cucumber, heavy watering, eat raw;
Capsicum, medium to heavy watering, cook or eat raw;
Okra, medium to heavy watering; cook or steam;
Luffa; slow, medium to heavy watering; cook;
Sweetcorn; heavy watering; cook;
Watermelon, Melon, heavy watering; eat raw;
Pumpkin, Squash, medium to heavy watering; cook;
Zucchini, Marrow, medium to heavy watering; cook or eat zucchini raw;

Daily watering
Ceylon Spinach, medium watering, cook or eat raw;
Snake Bean, medium to heavy watering; cook or eat raw;
Lentils, medium watering; cook;
Chilli; slow, medium watering; cook or eat raw;
Warrigal Greens (New Zealand Spinach), medium watering, steam or cook;

Watering alternate days
Huauzontle; medium watering; cook or steam;
Orach; medium watering; cook or steam;
Fat Hen; medium watering; cook or steam;

Drought-tolerant crops
Note that watering frequency and volume determines texture and crop yield of plants listed:
Bamboo shoots, slow to crop, cook;
Cassava, low to medium watering; cook;
Cocoyam, slow, medium watering; cook;
Celery Stem Taro, slow, medium watering; cook;
Sweet Potato, slow to yield, medium to low watering; cook;
Yam, low watering, slow; cook;

Back to Jeff’s question – our garden currently grows chilli, parsley, zucchini (watered daily), garlic chives and soon we’ll have Ceylon spinach that are watered alternate days. These are all we grow that can be eaten uncooked, saving fuel and use modest amounts of water.

And dealing with the ultimate issue – available drinking/ washing water – if we don’t get rain in the next two weeks I’m going to cull even more vegetables so we grow what can survive on recycled water alone.

SE Qld is facing losing drinking water – survival water – so growing food at home may soon become a secondary priority…

Jerry Coleby-Williams
26th November 2006