With climate change and the weather all over the place it’s essential to save garden water – but so is saving water everywhere. We all need water to live, animals need it and plants need it too.
Fresh water is becoming more and more scarce. As soon as a hosepipe ban looms we notice how much water our gardens and lawns consume. It makes sense to use what water we have in the most efficient ways possible.
These tips will show you how to save garden water so you won’t need to worry when the tap runs dry.
How to save garden water
- Deep watering
Try to water deeply. Let the water run long enough for the moisture to soak down to the root zone of each individual plant rather than merely dampening the whole surface of the garden. A light sprinkle will evaporate quickly and can encourage shallow root systems.
Watering early in the morning or early in the evening cuts down water loss to evaporation.
Only water when you need to, not when an app tells you or by some other rule of thumb. Scrape back the mulch and if the earth is moist to the touch there’s no need to water yet.
Save garden water by growing plants that are used to the conditions
- Native plants
Native plants are accustomed to the local conditions and diseases so require little water (or other attention) beyond what they receive from nature. You can cut down on the need for garden water by replacing herbaceous borders with native hedgerow plants.
- Ground cover plants
Plant ground cover and trees to create shade in order to help keep the garden cool. Avoid leaving bare patches of earth around plants. The cooler you make it, the less watering it’s going to need.
- Xeriscape and drought-resistant plants
Xeriscaping is a water-saving garden design method used in arid climates. The ethos is to create low-maintenance drought-resistant planting using native plants that survive with far less watering than other varieties.
In general drought-resistant plants have the following characteristics:
- Silver or grey leaves
- Leathery, hairy, fuzzy or curled leaves
- Small or narrow leaves
- Small plants
- Established or slow-growing plants
One of the techniques of xeriscaping designed to save garden water is to plant up garden slopes in order to reduce runoff. This retains water and nutrients within the garden rather than directing it away.
- Intensive planting
Pack your plants in closely so there is less area to water (though not so close that you restrict root development).
Save garden water by improving the soil
Mulching is one of the most effective ways of managing your water use in the garden. It prevents evaporation from the surface, helps suppress (thirsty) weeds and when it breaks down it can add nutrients to the soil. You can use any organic matter for mulching such as grass clippings, leaves, straw or bark; or mulch with inorganic matter too, such as pebbles.
- Add organic matter to the soil
Adding organic matter to your soil helps to improve how well it absorbs and retains water. Dig it in deep or top dress for a mulching effect too. Managing water resources is another great reason for composting.
Find advice on how to prepare your garden for climate change
- Build a deck or other hard surface
Limit the area that needs watering by adding a deck or patio, ie. simply reduce your growing area.
Save garden water by using the water nature gives us
- Rain Barrel
Collect rain from the roof on your house by connecting a barrel to a downpipe. Roofs make up a large surface area perfect for collecting large amounts of this precious resource.
- Drip irrigation
Soaker hoses or drip irrigation reduce evaporation by directing water to plant roots rather than sprinkling it through the air.
Drip irrigation, the whole kit in a box
With drip irrigation the water gets directly to the plants you want to reach, especially if you run the pipes under mulch.
When you use a sprinkler (especially on windy days) much of the water never makes it to the plants – a lot evaporates or drains away before it gets to your target.
- Recycle household water
Use household water from cooking and appliances as an extra source of water for your garden. When you recycle household water you have another reason to use natural chemical-free cleaners – it’s what’s best for your garden too.
You could start off simply by re-using the water from the kitchen sink or saving the water from cooking. With a little more effort you could set up a grey water system that re-uses water from showers and appliances.
You’ll need a filtering system if you use soapy detergents.
A swale is a drainage ditch that doesn’t lead water away but keeps it ‘dammed up’ where it’s needed. Rather than directing water off the land, a swale collects it, allowing it to absorb into the earth around it.
A swale – surface run-off is prevented by a ditch and mound and the water seeps down to where it’s needed.