Keeping your garden hydrated during a hot spell can be a time consuming challenge. It can also be an expensive undertaking if you have a water meter fitted.
But the need to save water during the warmer summer months is actually driven by factors that extend far beyond our own back yard. The uncomfortable truth is that during hot weather 70% of our water is poured directly onto our gardens. To keep up with demand, suppliers are then forced to ‘top up’ from groundwater and streams – at the expense of our environment and wildlife.
With time, money and environmental well-being at stake, there is every reason to cut back on the water we use in our gardens.
Thankfully, there are some simple measures you can take to reduce your H20 footprint.
Here are our water saving tips:
1. Recycle at every opportunity
With the amount of lakes, reservoirs and wet weekends we have in the UK, it’s easy to fall into a false sense of security that we have an infinite supply of water. The truth is, however, useable water is actually a very scarce resource.
Collecting water from your bath or your laundry has the potential to save litres of water that would otherwise go straight down the drain.
Did you know that, as a nation, we use around 2bn litres of water per year in the shower alone? Collecting just a fraction of this grey water and using it on the garden has the potential to make a huge impact in preserving our water supply.
Furthermore, using water that you’ve used to cook with is a great way to hydrate your garden as it’s full of nutrients and, when cooled, makes a great fertiliser for your garden. The same goes with the water from you fish tank, which is full of nitrogen and phosphorus.
2. Rain it in
A well-positioned water butt or tank that collects rain water running from greenhouse, porch or shed roofs will also help you save water when it’s most plentiful and then reuse it when it’s most needed. A typical domestic size water butt holds between 100 – 200 litres and will quickly fill up over the wetter months. It’s a must-have if you want to enjoy your vegetables, flowers and shrubs during those dryer summer months without having to turn on the tap.
3. Mulch in spring
Mulching involves covering the soil’s surface with a protective layer and has the effect of trapping in moisture and keeping the ground cooler. It also helps keep thirsty weeds at bay so that more water is available for your much loved plants and flowers.
Mulching should take place in either autumn or spring when the soil is moist and warm.
You can use a broad range of materials to mulch your garden including plastic sheets or mesh; or degradable materials such as straw, bark, shredded leaves, wood chips and sawdust; or even freshly cut grass clippings.
4. Choose drought-tolerant plants
The types of plants you choose for your garden will dictate the amount of water your garden requires for it to stay looking fresh and healthy throughout the summer.
Yet drought-proofing your garden is unfortunately more complicated than simply planting exotic varieties from hot climates. Even though some plants are classed as drought tolerant, they may also be high water users that quickly soak up water reserves whenever water becomes available.
Varieties with foliage that is waxy, succulent, hairy, sticky, small, needle-like or silver in colour are more likely to withstand dry conditions. So try lavender, sage, iris, persicaria affinis, eucalyptis gunni or hydrangea arborescens. They are all equipped to survive our British climate come rain or shine – and stand a good chance of withstanding the colder winter weather too.
5. Get the right tools for the job
As a general rule, it’s best to water plants in early mornings or the evenings when the temperatures have cooled, to avoid moisture in the soil evaporating.
When it comes to watering, it’s worth noting that the average hosepipe uses around 1000 litres of water per hour, so it’s wise to avoid using one if you can.
If you are worried about lifting heavy, water filled vessels, use a smaller watering can to hydrate containers and plants that are positioned closest to your water source.
By avoiding using a hose pipe for even a few minutes you’ll help to cut back on a lot of the water you use.
You may also want to consider fitting a trigger nozzle onto your hosepipe. This will save water because you’ll have far better control over your water flow and the supply will automatically shut off when not required.
Similarly, fitting a timer to sprinklers and directing them away from patios and decking will prevent you wasting water when hydrating your lawn. Even better; ask yourself if it’s really necessary to water your lawn at all? A 10’ by 10’ lawn requires over 62 gallons of water to stay hydrated per week, yet will quickly recover back to its former green self even if it’s left for weeks without water.
6. Plan ahead
It pays for homeowners and gardeners to plan ahead for hot summers. Young or newly planted plants and flowers require more water than those that have had time to mature. So it’s best to get your planting done early, to give enough time for roots to become established.
Also, prevent water deficit by watering the garden before drought sets in, as a way of maintaining moisture.
It’s impossible to know if the long summers we are experiencing in the South East are to become a permanent seasonal phenomenon. Yet, we live in an area where demand for water is always high, thanks to low levels of rain that falls on areas of high population density.
So, if you want to know more about drought tolerant plants; how to create a gorgeous garden that is robust enough to survive a hot spell; or if you want to find out about water systems that will help you hydrate your garden with less, then please call Thames Valley Landscapes.
We’d be delighted to help you on your quest to become ‘water wise’!