10 ways to reduce water use in your garden.
At the time of writing, large areas of England have been declared as in drought, and it looks like Yorkshire may follow suit soon. Yorkshire water has announced a ‘hosepipe’ ban at the end of the month (26th of August). What does that mean for gardeners? And what can we do about it?
There's no doubt most gardeners have noticed their gardens drying out, lawns turning yellow, pots consistently dry and plants that don’t normally need watering, starting to wilt, or worse… This means our gardens need more water now than ever, just when as a region or country, we need to conserve our water more than normal.
It’s worth noting that whilst a ‘hosepipe’ ban precludes using hosepipes, it doesn’t ban you watering your garden. It may force you to adapt however, and we should think carefully about how efficiently we use our limited supply of precious water.
What can we do right now?
- Be lazy. Don’t water your lawn (unless it's just been laid), a healthy lawn will normally recover fine, even if it looks terrible right now. If you are worried and feel the need to; water less.
- Mulching your borders helps keep the beating sun off your soil and traps moisture below it. It also has the added benefit of keeping weeds down. Mulches like bark & woodchips can improve soil quality and add nutrients as they break down, improving future water retention as healthy soils hold more water.
- Choose the right tool. Most decent watering cans are provided with a rose to diffuse the water flow; but that doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for the job. A rose is great for watering seedlings and small plants & pots, but often watering with a rose means that less of the water goes where it is needed. So for larger plants & pots, use the spout and water directly into the base.
- Build up the water. Dry soils have a harder time holding onto water, so it’s best to add a little and leave to soak in before adding more. The second pour will have an easier time soaking in and more will stay in the soil, particularly if you're watering pots.
- Take down hanging baskets – If you can take a hanging basket down and sit it in a bowl of water for a while (a washing up bowl works well), it is a great way of; A. Making sure it is well watered and stays so longer, and B. Means that more of the water not taken up is retained. You can then take the bowl and pour it into your watering can, or straight into your pots or garden.
- Water in the morning or evening, while it’s cool. Watering in the heat of the day means that more water will evaporate before the plants can absorb it.
Use a water butt. Even when it does rain this summer, it will often be for short periods of time, and that won’t be long enough to collect much water in our reservoirs. And, just like watering dry soils above, the ground won’t be prepared to accept much of that rain either, which will inevitably create some flash flooding. We can help with both of these, by diverting that water off roofs, and into a water butt. It might not be enough to water your garden all summer, but if everyone used a water butt for some of their gardening needs it would make a big difference. Water butts also reduce energy and chemical consumption as the water in our taps has to be treated and pumped to our homes.
According to Energy Savings Trust 42% of us report having a water butt but only 60% claim to use it. Remember, an un-used water butt is no better – if not worse – than no water butt at all…
- Lots of small or extremely dry pots? Try using a flood bath. Much like the hanging basket method above, fill a tray with water, and sit your pots in it for a while until they have soaked up plenty of water.
- Move your pots – As you may move your pots to a south facing sheltered spot during winter, depending on the species, you could try moving pots out of direct sunlight and into a shadier spot to reduce evaporation.
Use a hosepipe (efficiently) – A hosepipe or sprinkler can use about 1000 litres an hour, which would use about the same as the average single persons daily use, in 10 mins. So it’s no wonder water companies ban them is it? However, there are ways to minimise water use with a hosepipe, even if you may have been, or soon will be, banned from using it. The most basic way to reduce water, is to reduce the flow (just don’t open up the tap full) and to turn it off if you’re not using it. The best thing you can do, however, is to invest in a proper controllable nozzle or gun for your hosepipe. A basic nozzle like the Gardena Classic Cleaning Nozzle will allow you to turn it on and off between each pot for example and a premium nozzle like the Gardena Premium Multi Sprayer can be adapted to the right spray type for the job at hand to minimise overspray. If you really want to get geeky, you can monitor your flow rate and water use with something like the Gardena Water Meter Aquacount.
A hosepipe or sprinkler can use about 1000 litres an hour, which would use about the same as the average single persons daily use, in 10 mins.
We hope these ideas help you keep your garden looking great this summer whilst minimising your water use. We have purposefully avoided significant adaptions to your garden which might be considered to make your garden more resilient and use less water in future, as we hope to address some of these in future posts.
Here at Lay of the Land, we’ll happily accept that we aren’t perfect in this regard; we are however in the process of working on water saving measures ourselves at a slightly larger scale, and again, time permitting we will hopefully share some of that process in due course…