pleasures of hand-watering

It’s not a proper graywater system, but we’ve gotten used to showering with a bucket below us, both to catch the water before it gets warm enough to use and to catch whatever water splashes into the bucket. We still lose usable water down the drain, but we’re putting what we save to good use in the garden.


With only a small part of the yard on automatic watering, I’ve always done a lot of watering by hand. Now I’ve been doing it a lot more using reclaimed water.

Most of it’s been spot-watering. Not everything in the garden needs the same amount of water, so why not water only the things that need water? This is a tiny buckwheat seedling I’ve been encouraging to get established.

It’s a great way to get to know your plants better. At the same time you learn a lot about the soil they’re growing in, with some areas of the yard accepting a lot of water, while others just pool up and drain slowly.


Another water-conserving thing I’ve been doing is to let the facial fuzz go a few more days than I used to–Good thing facial hair is in these days. More fuzz = less water needed to take it off. (Don’t let the color of the hair get you off-subject. Remember that I’m talking about graywater, not gray hair…)

But back to graywater: One concern I have with using water from the shower is what happens when bath products get dumped in the garden. I’m working on finding out more, but in the meantime I’m only watering the ornamentals with the graywater. A local blog Linda turned me on to, Angel with Dirty Finger Nails, did an introduction to the subject. The post made some recommendations for laundry detergents and linked to a list of a few things to avoid.

Sure, watering by hand is more labor-intensive than turning on the sprinklers. But I think I’ve mentioned it before that I count myself among the gardeners who enjoy gardening, not just gardens. Watering by hand is one of those great pleasures that only gardeners like us will understand.

9 thoughts on “pleasures of hand-watering”

  1. Good morning LL,
    I also handwater, and fill buckets while waiting for hot water from the tap! I’m planning to write about the process of creating a hand-watered garden, and share some tips that have developed over the years of gardening in California. A graywater system would be great. Hopefully one day in the not too distant future, it will be an integral part when building or renovating. For now, it’s incredible costly to install in an older home, as I understand it. Alice
    aka BayAreaTendrils

  2. Watering has always been real pleasure to many people. Modern water saving technique in drip system is good, but the pleasure is gone….

    The place i live, Putrajaya, water is in abundance.

    Happy watering,
    ~ bangchik

  3. Ha! The gray hair is the word of the day, lots of it here too. I think it great to water by hand-you need some patience and time though, both in short supply in the heat of the day, but occasionally.

  4. I agree – a lovely activity for slowing a person down. Water absorption is not to be hurried. I love seeing the humming birds hover and dive across the stream of water – I usually water with a hose.

  5. Alice, I’m looking forward to your piece on watering by hand. It’s a rich subject that could easily become a book. Graywater systems are so slow getting online, but fortunately there’s movement locally where people may soon be able to make modifications without special permits.

    Bangchik, for us, the drip systems are a better choice for many plants in that they can use less water. But it’s still an automated system that separates you from the plants.

    Tina, watering in the heat of summer might get a tad unpleasant. You’d almost need to water the gardener at the same time just to stay cool.

    Country Mouse, I haven’t been dive bombed by hummingbirds while watering, but birds of every kind seem to congregate around a dripping water feature we have in the back yard. Even recycled city water is better than nothing during these dry months.

  6. We’ve always handwatered, and when it’s summer bathwater is saved specially. We use biodegradable soaps so it’s fine to put on the garden and none of our plants appear to have suffered. And I’ll tell you one good thing about using watering cans… it does wonders for upper body strength! Why pay money to go to the gym when you can get a healthy colour, bond with your seedlings and work out in the sunshine?

  7. I also handwater because my garden is too small for automatic watering… I never tried gray water, I heard using them over an extended period can damage the soil structure and maybe damage the plants. I will check the posts you mentioned.

  8. I have been using grey water for a few years now. I always have a bucket by the sink when I wash dishes and have purchased plant-safe, biodegradeable detergents. I catch wash and rinse water and water the garden with it. It makes me water the plants that like lots of water a lot more which is better for them. I haven’t worked out a shower or laundry system yet, but have been thinking about it!

  9. Bird and Sylvana, I’m glad to hear of your successes with the biodegradable soaps and detergents.

    Bird, my current proper watering can is more of a one-quart little dinky thing that delivers water slowly and weighs next to nothing. Not much of an upper body workout hefting it around…

    Fountains, it stands to reason that the soaps in water could affect moisture retention and soil structure. I’ll be curious to see how the garden takes to more recycled water. The water out of the tap is gross enough. I suspect some plants will be thrilled with the extra water. Others will probably complain at the quality of the water.

    Sylvana, I’m bothered whenever I dump a pot full of pasta water down the sink. It seems like such a waste. I should follow your example and keep a bucket in the kitchen.

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