Getting smart with how we splosh water about the garden isn’t just about conserving it – it’s also common sense. It will save you a lot of time and money, and your plants will be all the better for it. A win-win scenario!
Read on our watch our video to discover 10 tried-and-tested tips to help you save water in the garden.
1. Water Selectively
Watering by hand means you can be more selective about which plants you water. Only water if they really need it. You can check for soil moisture at root level if you’re unsure by digging a small hole with a trowel, or simply by poking your finger in. If it’s cool and damp, just move on.
2. Water at the Right Time
When you water makes a big difference to how much moisture your plants take up. Watering early in the morning gives crops time to absorb the moisture before it evaporates in the heat of the day. Any water that gets on the foliage will also have enough time to dry off before nightfall, minimising the risk from slugs and fungal diseases.
3. Aim Carefully
If you’re watering by hand, be sure to aim the flow of water at the base of plants where it’s needed. This will also keep foliage dry. A really good soaking every now and then is better than little and often, and will encourage a more extensive root system.
4. Trap Water
Sunken plastic pots make excellent miniature reservoirs. Sink them up to the rim next to thirsty plants such as squash, then water into the pot. The pot will feed the water directly to the root zone rather than running off on the surface. You could also use upturned bottles with the cap removed and the bottom cut off.
5. Irrigate Efficiently
If you want to automate watering, opt for drip irrigation or leaky hoses over sprinklers. These types of irrigation deliver water closer to the ground so that less is wasted. Place your setup on a timer and override it if it’s been raining or if rain is due. Keep an eye on the weather forecast!
6. Pick Pots with Care
Clay pots such as terracotta pots are highly porous. In essence this means they suck moisture out of the potting compost. Some other types of pots, such as those made of metal, heat up very quickly, accelerating moisture loss. Opt for plastic or glazed pots instead. You can always hide ugly pots within a more decorative metal or terracotta outer pot if you need to.
Group pots together to cast shade at root level and slow evaporation further.
7. Add Organic Matter
Soils that are rich in organic matter absorb moisture more easily – and hang onto it - so add well-rotted compost or manure to beds whenever you get the chance. Add thinner layers in summer so you can fork it in and replant, then thicker layers over winter.
8. Mulch Regularly
Laying mulches over bare soil dramatically slows evaporation. You can use landscape fabrics, or pebbles and stones on pots, but the best mulches are of well-rotted organic matter such as compost which will also help to feed the plants as they grow. Lay mulches at least two inches (5cm) thick onto moist soil. Coarser mulches such as bark chippings allow rainwater to drain through more easily, while grass clippings offer a ready supply of mulching material. Keep mulches topped up throughout summer.
9. Collect Rainwater
Collecting rainwater not only saves precious drinking water, it’s also better for your plants. Collect water off your roof, greenhouse and shed into water barrels close to where you’ll most need the water. Multiple water barrels can be linked together to store even more rainwater.
10. Get Rid of Weeds
Weeds among your vegetables mean competition for soil moisture, so keep on top of them. Annual weeds can just be hoed off and left on the soil surface, but take the time to dig out the roots of more pernicious perennials such as bindweed or ground elder.
Smart watering does wonders in the garden, giving us luscious plants and, of course, exceptional produce. I hope we’ve given you a few ideas to try out in your own garden. As ever, please let us know if you’ve got any other water-saving tips. We’d especially love to hear from gardeners in water-stressed regions – how do you make every drop count? You can let us know by posting a comment below.