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How to Save Water When Gardening

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 29 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Allotment Hosepipe Bans Mains Water

Many gardeners and allotment holders live in fear of hosepipe bans being imposed by local authorities, but careful planning can reduce the need to rely on mains water for the garden. Saving water can also help protect wildlife, reduce climate change impacts and, for homes on water meters, cut bills.

Hosepipes can suck up 1,000 litres of water per hour, so use a hosepipe with a trigger on it, not a sprinkler system, and water the garden in the evening or early in the morning to reduce loss from evaporation. Fix leaky taps and dripping hoses as soon as possible, or, better still, dispense with the hose and use a watering can.

It is not necessary to water plants every day. Dig down a spade's depth and only water if the soil is dry to the touch. A good soak once a week is better than a daily sprinkle, as light watering will not penetrate deep into the ground and encourages plants to develop roots near the soil's surface.

Collect Rainwater

Install a water butt to collect rainwater from the roof. Butts cost upwards of £25, although many water companies and local authorities offer special deals. It should be positioned to siphon off water from a downpipe and, as 100,000 litres falls on the average roof every year, it will give a considerable boost to the water supply. Also, if filling paddling pools for children in the summer, reuse the water on plants.

Grey water, which is the name given to water used for domestic tasks such as washing clothes and bathing, can be reused in the garden for non-edible plants, particularly if harsh detergents are avoided. Collect it either by bucket or specially installed outlet pipes, allow it to cool and avoid pouring it straight on to foliage. This can save water usage by anything from five to 36 per cent.

Do a water audit of the garden to establish where water could be leaking unnoticed, and monitor how much water is being used on a regular basis to figure out how you can reduce use. Try to cut back on outings with the lawn mower and raise the cutting level, as longer grass is more resistant to drying out. If the lawn turns brown, don't panic, as it will recover quickly in the autumn.

Mulch for Moisture

Mulches can reduce the loss of water from a garden. A mulch is a layer of material such as bark, gravel, or straw that is placed on the soil's surface to prevent water evaporation. It also improves the condition of the soil and keeps weeds at bay. Mulched flowerbeds need far less water and the thicker the mulch the more effective it is - a mulch of at least five centimetres makes a big difference.

Try to plan a water-efficient garden. Healthy, composted soil will retain moisture and nutrients, and choosing drought-resistant plants like hebes, lavenders, buddleias and rosemary means the garden will need less water. A massive range of plants will survive without regular watering, including the echinacea, ceanothus, geranium and red hot poker.

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