This year International Water Day falls on the 22nd March. So, it is a good time to think about how to water the garden without wasting water. We have three water buts in our garden and with all the rain we had over the winter there have been occasions where they over flowed. on a warm Sunday we will take them apart and give them a good wash out and reset them up. We have had a few dry days this week so I am using it to water the pots I have got going already and just making sure the potatoes are not too dry.
After the very long wet winter we have just had it is hard to remember, but summer does occasionally make an appearance in the UK. Your garden can still flourish and look beautiful during warmer weather conditions with a little planning and careful maintenance.
(A huge thank you to my NVQ learners who work in the local garden centres and have helped put this guide together.)
Here are our top tips for conserving water and using water responsibly while caring for your garden in the summer.
What you plant can influence how well your garden survives dry conditions. Choose wisely and your garden will be able to better withstand droughts and hosepipe bans.
· Choose plants that are suited to your soil.
· Where possible, buy the larger sized plants with well-established root systems that will
withstand a little hardship. Also buy with care – plants that have been grown and cared for
well will fare better in dry conditions.
· Summer bedding plants will need extra care if the weather is very dry, so consider planting
varieties that are more tolerant of drought. Pelargoniums (Geraniums) and Begonias are
two plants that will tolerate dry conditions as are many of the half hardy perennials, such as
Verbena, Diascia and Bacopa (Sutera), popular in containers and baskets.
· When planting a border, consider using plants with silvery, glossy, hairy, narrow or fleshy
leaves – these are usually much more drought tolerant.
How you plant can also have an effect on your garden during a drought. Give your plants the best chance by following these few simple tips:
· Plant early. Try to avoid carrying out major planting schemes through late spring or
summer, when the weather is likely to be drier. Aim to plant in autumn or early spring; the
plants can establish while the soil is still warm and before water is in short supply.
· Poorly drained soils can prevent food being absorbed. Dig in composted bark, or in severe
cases, grit, to improve.
· Apply sufficient fertiliser – plants use water most efficiently when nutrient levels are
adequate. But don’t apply too much as this will encourage too much lush growth (which will
require more water to remain healthy).
· When planting out vegetables such as brassicas, beans and squashes, ‘puddle’ them in.
Take out a small planting hole, large enough to take the root ball, and water the base well.
Put the well-watered plants in and back fill the hole with the dry soil. The moisture will stay
around the roots of the plants and evaporate more slowly. Again, water thoroughly a couple
of times a week rather than every night.
· Consider planting in containers or baskets. They require less water to thrive (especially
when using water-retaining gels and mulch). Be careful though, as they have smaller roots
and can dry out quicker. If a basket or container looks overly dry (the compost is pale and
shrunk from the sides) stand in a bucket or pan to revive.
Rather than relying on what’s coming out of the tap, we recommend using what nature gives you and using rain water to look after your garden. The earlier you start collecting water the better! Take advantage of spring downpours and early summer showers, storing as much rain as you can. A well-positioned water butt (with a tap) will soon fill up with rain water and makes it easy to use what you’ve accumulated. Be sure to add water-purifying tablets to stop water from stagnating.
When you water, water wisely and make the best use of every available drop by watering only those plants which are really in need. These include young plants, containers, vegetables and fruit.
· Water well a couple of times a week; one good soak directed to the root ball will keep
plants alive through severely dry weather.
· Don’t water too forcefully. Avoid directing a jet of water at the base of a plant as this will
wash away the soil and expose the roots. Use a watering can rather than a hose if
possible. If you can’t, make a hollow around the base of the plant and fill with water.
· Water in the evening so that less water will evaporate. Watering during a hot day can also
scorch delicate plants.
· Water shrubs, trees and other permanent or established planting only when absolutely
necessary (when leaves on the plants begin to curl and drop). Dropping leaves are part of
a plant’s mechanism to prevent water loss and they will recover quickly once it rains or they
Watering Your Lawn
Use a sprinkler if you must water your lawn and avoid overwatering by placing a jar next to the sprinkler and move it once it has 2.5cm of water in it. If a hosepipe ban is introduced, don’t panic – a brown lawn will recover in autumn.
If your lawn is very dry, give it a helping hand with an aerator or fork. You can also raise the blades of your mower and reduce the frequency of cutting to reduce evaporation and help to keep the grass roots moist and cool.
If you’re going to be away from your garden over the summer months, you can still care for your garden, even if you’re not at home to do the job yourself. If you can, ask a friend or neighbour to do the watering for you.
Ensure your plants have the moisture they need - if you flood water your plants before you head away and cover with a mulch or compost, it will seal as much moisture in from evaporation and the water will saturate further down into the soil. This will encourage the plant roots to grow deeper and as the soil dries out from the top down will still find the moisture they need.
For potted plants and trays, you can use Capillary Matting although this is normally used for tray inserts, it can also be used to absorb water from a bucket or the sink to water the plants. The matting absorbs and holds the water, which is in turn drawn up by soil in pot plants positioned on the matting it to keep them moist as long as your silage permits.
Give Your Plants Some Shade
While you’re away, move containers into the shade to stop them scorching on any exceptionally hot days (even if you’re not away in the height of summer). Keeping them out of direct sunlight will also stop them from drying out as quickly.
Try an Automatic Self-Watering System
You can opt for a self-watering-system. Once you have set up dripping pipes to your favourite hanging baskets, pots through beds and planters, simply attach it to a timer which will switch the water on however frequently you require. If you don’t need to water plants and pots you can also use a timer on a standard hose to top up bird baths, ponds or just get the sprinkler on the lawn. Don’t forget water at night to prevent scorching and evaporation of water.