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Tips for gardeners

February 18, 2008 at 1:51 am

As a whole, outdoors water consumption accounts for just 6% of the annual amount used by householders in the UK. Unfortunately, though, when supplies reduce in the summer, our consumption increases. In fact, it can rise to as much as 70% of the annual amount, as we all start fretting about our plants and lawns. Last summer may have been wet, but droughts and hosepipe bans are likely to become part of 21st century life, so it is a good idea to bear in mind the measures that we can take to minimise the need for water in the first place.

First of all, think ahead when you are planning any replanting or new lawns. Also, try to do it in the autumn or early spring, in order to develop a good root system before the heat of the summer strikes. If you wait until the summer, they simply will not survive without watering.

Don’t worry if your lawn turns brown during a hot summer. A few days of rain will soon see it return to normal. Scarifying in the autumn will help maximise water penetration.

Increasing the amount of moisture which a flower bed can hold is of paramount importance. Add a bucket-load per square metre of bark, manure or compost and this will have the added advantage of keeping the weeds at bay. There is not much point using precious water to help the weeds thrive!

Grey water from the kitchen and bathroom is fine for watering the garden, so long as you do not use it on anything which you are going to eat. It can, however, be a breeding ground for bacteria if stored too long, so it is advisable to use it quickly.

Better still is rainwater, which can be collected easily in a water butt. These come in different shapes and sizes and can be disguised by climbing plants on a trellis, if you are concerned about the aesthetic effect on your garden.

It is of course important to know whether you need to water your plants in the first place. Feel the soil at a depth of 30cm under the surface. If it is damp then you do not need to water. Bear in mind, though, that clay and sandy soil can be deceptive, with the former often feeling damp even when water is needed and vice versa with sand. Remember to check the weather forecast too as there is no point watering if rain is forecast.

Having decided that watering is required, it is also important to know the most effective technique. Water only at the base of the plants’ stems, beneath the leaves. Make sure you keep the soil around the plant dry. This will make sure that weeds don’t grow and that the root zone is receiving all the water applied. Make sure the water is applied at a gentle and steady rate.

Choose your time of day carefully when it comes to watering. If you do it in the heat of the day, much of the benefit will be lost due to evaporation. It is best to do it first thing in the morning or leave it until the evening.

Finally, think about what you actually plant in your garden. Drought resistant plants come in all shapes and sizes and a comprehensive list can be found on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website. However, these only become drought resistant after they are established, so don’t forget to give them a drink until this point.

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