Believe it or not, the UK water companies are worried that we may be at risk of a drought situation. So how can gardeners save water in the garden? This blog looks at waterwise lawn care and gardening.
Did you know that April 2017 was the 10th driest April on record? According to the Environment Agency, in England, rainfall in April ranged from just 19% of average in the South East to 44% in the South-West. Edinburgh was the driest place in the UK.
What could happen if drought hits the UK?
Drought affects our everyday lives in many ways. We need water for domestic use, for drinking and for hygiene. We’re all of us very aware of that – even if we do take it for granted. We also use water in food production, manufacturing and energy production. Without enough water, farmers’ crops will fail. For us, that will most likely lead to higher prices in the shops.
Don’t forget our wildlife and waterways too. An awful lot of wildlife depends on our rivers, streams and drainage ditches. Animals and plants suffer when water levels drop.
What can gardeners do to avoid drought happening?
Waterwise is the leading authority on water efficiency. They say that all of us should be thinking about saving water all of the time.
For example, spending one minute less in the shower could save up to 16 litres of water. For a family of 4, that’s a saving 24,000 litres a year or £100.
Gardeners can save water by choosing drought tolerant plants whenever possible. By installing water buts to collect rainwater from roofs and by only watering when absolutely necessary. There’s certainly no need to water established lawns. Especially if your lawncare regime plans ahead for drought.
Waterwise Lawn Care: Watering the lawn
Newly laid turf must be watered daily until it’s established – there’s no getting away from that. However, if you use a hosepipe rather than a sprinkler, you’re less likely to over-water.
Watering late in the evening, as the sun goes down, reduces the amount of water that will be lost to evaporation. Most of the water will be able to sink down to where the roots need it.
Established lawns really don’t need watering.
I know it’s lovely to see a lush green lawn on a hot summer day. But honestly, the plants are happiest in hot weather when they’re allowed to do their own thing. They naturally slow down growth and become partially dormant.
That may mean that the lawn takes on a brownish hue. The gardener must decide whether it is more important to have a green lawn or to avoid water restrictions in the home? – I know which I would go for.
If your lawn is maintained at a slightly longer length when drought is threatened, it will stay greener for longer. A 6mm lawn will really struggle in a drought situation. A 25mm lawn will have enough grass to shade the soil and longer stronger roots that can seek out water from deep in the soil.
How should gardeners cope with drought?
There are a number of measures that sensible gardeners can take to help their plants thrive during a drought.
Mulching with bark or compost will help conserve soil moisture and reduce the need for watering.
If plants MUST be watered – and I’m talking here about edibles not ornamentals – use a watering can rather than a hosepipe and water in the evening time. I like to cut the bottom off plastic bottles, take off the lid and then upend them in the soil beside each of my tomato plants. I use them to direct water to the roots so that not a drop gets wasted.
Waterwise plant choices
When buying plants, choose the ones that are truly suited to your soil type and garden aspect. They need a lot less TLC to survive. Sedums are great in a sunny garden and sedum matting makes great ground cover for hot dry areas.
Waterwise lawncare regime
Aerate, scarify and feed lawns in early spring so that they can form strong root systems to help them withstand drought. Continue to feed every 6-8 weeks during the growing season.
Mow lawns little and often but don’t let the grass get too short.
Use water retaining gel or granules in the soil – particularly in planters and hanging baskets.
Wildlife and ponds
Try to help wildlife if you can – a shallow tray of water placed in the shade will give birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial creatures a much needed drink on a hot day.
If you have a pond in your garden, plant waterlilies or other aquatic plants to shade the surface and reduce evaporation. Only use the fountain at night time – again this will reduce evaporation and cut down the need to top up the pond with water.
Make the most of the weather – whatever it may be
Most importantly whatever the weather, enjoy your garden for what it is and embrace what Nature has to throw at it.