Hosepipe bans are an inconvenient side-effect of our driest season, but they don’t have to be a nightmare.
We’ve put together some advice to help you drought-proof your garden before the temperatures start rising, so your green space stays green when there’s a water shortage. You might even save yourself time to enjoy your garden more!
Choose drought-resistant plants
One way of overcoming a garden water shortage is selecting plants that don’t need a lot of water.
Those that do best in the heat tend to have small, succulent, hairy or aromatic leaves. Rosemary and lavender, for example, cope really well in dry weather — and other grey-green or silvery leaves are a safe bet, since they reflect the sun’s rays.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has a list of the best options when it comes to planting for a drought.
Use a good compost
An organic garden waste compost will make your soil better at retaining water — and you better at saving it. And water-retentive granules can be added to the mix, to help your plants hang onto the moisture that’s there.
Most garden centres stock these clever gels and crystals, which can be used for ground plants, pot plants and hanging baskets. Always follow the instructions for quantities, as these swell a lot.
To dispose of them, simply throw them into your compost pile where they’ll degrade over time.
Mulch your flower beds and tree roots
A mulch works to protect your plant roots from drying out in the sun, by providing an evaporation-reducing top layer. There are two types — biodegradable mulches, such as bark, straw and mushroom compost; and non-biodegradable options, like shells, slate and gravel .
Mulch in the springtime or autumn, when the ground is still wet, so that you lock in some moisture before the dry spell arrives — and make water savings once it’s here. A good three-inch layer should keep you going until next year.
Keep the grass longer
Dread the thought of getting the mower out on a weekend? Well, keeping the grass longer during the summer will actually reduce the amount of water it needs, by trapping moisture and slowing down evaporation.
And when you do cut the lawn, raise the height of your lawnmower blades so that you don’t make it too short.
Or why not go grass-less?
As an alternative to grass, consider hassle-free, all weather option. Decking looks great, but it can also need a bit of upkeep and cleaning after a damp winter — not ideal when you’re trying to save water (and time).
Pebbles, stones, or even a good quality imitation grass will cut your upkeep time to almost nothing, and they won’t require watering. Ever!
Recycle your bathwater
“Grey” water is the fairly clean waste water you used in your baths, showers, sinks and washing machines. It can amount to thousands of gallons a year and it could help keep your flowers blooming when it hasn’t rained for a while.
During a water shortage, consider filling a bucket or two before emptying out your old bathwater — for an environmentally friendly way to feed your garden. Just be careful not to use water that contains chemical products (soap, shampoos, etc) on edible plants. Stick to your ornamentals, where the soaps may actually help growth by keeping aphids at bay.
Your local water provider should be able to advise on systems which can more effectively collect and recycle your grey water.
Consider a water butt
Water butts can reduce your utility costs, if you’re on a water meter, whilst helping you do your bit for the planet!
Standard rainwater tanks hold around 200L. They’re relatively easy to fit next to your downpipe, or an outbuilding with a gutter system and most DIY or garden centres stock them. And, if you’ve got space to spare, you can join multiple tanks for even more effective storage.
It’s worth speaking to your water company, who will likely be able to offer you a standard, low-cost option.
Other garden-saving tips to consider are:
Avoiding greenhouse-scorch by moving delicate plants to an outdoor netted space, when it’s hottest
Moving less hardy plants to a shady part of the garden
Putting up a makeshift shade, where there isn’t any — e.g. a garden umbrella — for particularly vulnerable spots
For the most up to date information on water restrictions — and advice on water-saving gadget offers —your local water provider can be a very helpful first contact.