Garden And Gardener

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Reducing water use in the garden and on the allotment

by Diane - April 9th, 2012.
Filed under: allotment.

The best thing you can do in the garden or on the allotment to reduce water use
is to improve the quality of the soil. The more organic material soil contains,
the more water it can hold naturally.
By using compost, manure and other organic material dug into the soil over time
we can improve the structure and quality of the soil. As you do this you also
improve the water retention properties and allow soil to hold water without being

Drought preparing the soil in the entire of your garden is a slow process so
be prepared to make this a long term goal. There are several quicker measures
you can put in place to assist your low water gardening.

Pick plants that don’t mind drought. Mediterranean plants are used to
hot dry conditions and so don’t need regular watering. You’ll know
the sort of plants that have small narrow leaves that are designed to allow
less water to evaporate. They’re also pretty and often highly scented.
Obviously you have to water when you plant them, but after that they’ll
require very little water.

You should mulch flower beds and vegetable beds to ensure that the water in
the soil doesn’t get chance to evaporate. You can use well rotted compost,
grass clippings, or bark chippings as mulch. Bark can be decorative and if you
can find it free then that’s even better! You can use gravel too but this
doesn’t add anything to the soil itself.
If you have a shredder then shred all hedge clippings and you can compost these
and use as mulch too.

Some plants need water at particular stages. For instance, potatoes need water
when the tubers are growing larger. Beans and peas need it during flowering.
You don’t have to water as much all the time once you find out when plants
need water.

You don’t have to water every day. Water heavily and infrequently. Give
plants a soaking rather than a dribble.

Don’t use hosepipes either as they encourage water waste. Regular watering
can encourage more leafy green growth which then needs more water adding to
keep the plants growing. Slow growth at the plants owns speed is best.

Look for ways of feeding plants that doesn’t require watering in. If
it’s not going to rain all summer though a granular plant food isn’t
going to be absorbed into the soil. Sometimes a watered on feed is essential.

When you water plants do so in the early morning or later evening. Avoid watering
when the sun is high in the sky as more water will evaporate off. You can also
scorch the plants.

A big way to reduce water waste is to weed beds regularly. Weeds also have
a water need so by reducing these you reduce the competition for the water that
is in the soil already.

Have a compost heap too. Put all your weeds and cuttings and plant waste on
to the compost pile and use the compost on the garden. This cycles round plant
matter and reduces waste and improves the soil quality.

Avoid types of planting that require regular watering. If you plan not to have
hanging baskets then you reduce the need for watering them! It also takes a
chore off the daily list which can only be a good thing! Whilst they look lovely
you can use an awful lot of water.
If you must have hanging baskets look at the water retaining gels and liners
that can help reduce the need for watering. Have the baskets on a shaded wall
too and they’ll not be scorched dry by the sun so quickly. Keep them out
of the worst of the wind too as the wind will take away the water too.
Mulch the top of the baskets too. Some people swear by a piece of plastic fitted
into the middle of the basket that stops some of the water running straight
out and acts as an in-basket reservoir.

All of these hints should help you reduce your water burden in the garden!

At the same time you should also collect as much rainwater as you possibly
can and this can really help reduce your reliance on tap water. If you have
sheds, greenhouses or garages you can easily fit rain barrels. You can also
fit rainwater collection containers on to the house downpipes too!

You can buy special barrels or collect old barrels – but aim to keep
the water covered to prevent anyone or anything falling in.