Every keen gardener wants to have a lush, green lawn, colourful flowers and thriving plants and to do this, a garden needs careful tending and water.
Therein lies the problem. Here in the UK, warmer, drier summers look set to be the norm and with drier winters reducing the amount of water stored in British reservoirs, there’s only one logical outcome – water shortages and hosepipe bans for gardeners.
Water is an essential requirement for plant growth. However, as we’ve all come to learn, it’s a limited and valuable natural resource which may become even scarcer during prolonged periods of little or no rainfall. It’s important that gardeners consider this and make economical use of water by understanding the needs of plants and taking steps to reduce the loss of water from plants and the soil.
Using recycled water
Install a water butt in the garden to collect the rain water. Not only will this mean that you’ll always have water to use instead of using fresh water from the hose but plants and flowers, after all, prefer a natural rain water source. You can also use water from the bath and used dishwater to put on the lawn area which will further conserve additional supplies.
In extremely dry periods, try to water in the evening or very early morning when it’s cooler. That way, less water will be lost through evaporation, and watering at this time will also eliminate any possibility of delicate plants getting scorched. You’ll often see some people water their garden several times a day. This is bad practice. A good, thorough soaking of the soil periodically is far better than little and often. In fact, watering little but often can actually make matters worse because you will simply moisten just the surface of the soil encouraging shallow rooting which might make the plants more susceptible to drought later on.
It’s also important to do some background reading on plants as not all of them need water to survive so you shouldn’t just wastefully sprinkle it over the whole garden.
Using mulch on the garden reduces the amount of water plants need to survive. You can buy a composter container and mulch from all good gardening stores and you can even put food waste into a composter. This, too, will reduce the amount of water you use.
Also, keep your garden free of weeds as they, too, are great water guzzlers.
Hosepipes and sprinklers
You should ensure that hosepipes and sprinklers are connected up to the water source correctly. Leaking or dripping taps can quickly waste gallons of water. Don’t leave hosepipes running when not in use and buy the type that has a trigger nozzle to prevent leakage and dripping. Use recycled rain water in a watering can to water things like smaller potted plants and hanging baskets.
It’s amazing how some people seem to think that, in hot weather, their lawn needs watering every day. That’s not the case. Lawns are far more adaptable than even plants and flowers and, even in hot weather, they do quite nicely if they’re given a thorough soaking just once a week and, once again, it’s best to do that in the early morning or late in the evening. Regular cutting of the lawn is probably just as beneficial as water if you want to keep your lawn healthy and green. In the hot months, the blades of the mower should be set a bit higher than usual.
For most normal sized household gardens, sprinklers are really an inefficient, lazy way of keeping your garden irrigated and you should stick to a hosepipe and/or watering can.
Sprinkling systems can use around 1,000 litres of water in an hour – enough for a family of six for a whole day which will give you an indication of how wasteful they are. Not only that, in smaller gardens, you tend to find that they end up not only watering the garden but also the fences and the path or patio area so you should only consider a sprinkler system if you have a huge garden area to cover and then still use it sparingly. The ones that sprinkle in circular motions are the best and most cost effective.
Think of the environment
Most people are becoming far more aware about water conservation but if you’re in doubt, consider this. During hot summer months, around 70% of our total water supply in the UK on average is used on watering gardens. This kind of surge in demand would obviously not be sustainable for long periods and could lead to water companies being forced to deplete groundwater and streams which can cause serious environmental harm.
A well manicured, tended garden is lovely to look at and to spend time in and it is important to keep it watered in drier periods but, hopefully, the information here will enable people to see how they can use water more sparingly and it’s beneficial to check out your local water company’s website for useful tips and to find out about any restrictions.