Be water wise: Ways to help your garden grow
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The sun’s still shining and many of our gardens are struggling to cope. Deborah advises on how to use water most wisely this summer…
The last couple of months have been punishing on the garden - with next to no rain for several weeks, it is not surprising that the lawns are looking dead, and the trees and shrubs are starting to shed their leaves. With the need to conserve water as important as it is, we must look to the best ways of looking after the plants in our gardens, without wasting water wherever possible.
It is likely that if you were sensible enough to have taken up the local councils on their subsidised water butt schemes earlier in the year, you may well have had a bit of extra rainwater saved. But the chances are that you will have used this up several weeks back, and with no rainfall to have replenished it, you will likely be watering your plants with water directly from the mains.
As well as not being eco-friendly, this can also be adding quite considerably to your water bills if you are on a water meter, which many people now are.
How we can get around the watering issue?
Focus on watering the plants that need it most
Shrubs, roses and climbers which are well established should be resilient enough to survive, even though they will probably be starting to shed their leaves and look sick. If they have been established for a while and have a good root system, they aren’t likely to need watering.
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If you have any trees or shrubs which haven’t been well established, you need to ensure that their root ball is well soaked when you water them.
If you can, avoid planting in this hot weather - it is better to wait for a period of rain. But if you absolutely have to put things in at the moment, make sure you water the planting hole well before you put any plants in.
Give it a good soaking several times, and let the water drain away each time before putting more in; only when you have done this several times should you plant.
Use water wisely
Don’t waste water on things which don’t need it - for example, although your lawn may be looking brown, it will soon start to spring back to life with a bit of rain. Plants like rhododendrons put down their buds towards the end of the summer, so giving them a good soaking every now and again will be a much better use of the water.
Get some air into the greenhouse
If you have plants in a greenhouse they are at risk of overheating whilst it’s so hot. It’s a good idea to take out a few panes of glass if you can, just to allow a little bit of air in. If any of the plants in the greenhouse can be moved outside to a shadier area - for example if they are in moveable pots - it’s a good idea to do so.
Water hanging baskets wisely
If you have hanging baskets, and they are not too heavy to move (always be careful with your back when moving hanging baskets, as they are often heavier than they look), try to hang them somewhere shady.
If possible, also hang them over existing potted plants (or move the pots underneath where they are hanging), so that when you water them, the overspill of water will drip onto the pots below, making double use of the water.
Reuse water from the house…
It’s obvious to say to reuse bath water, although not always easy to empty out from an upstairs bathroom to carry all the way downstairs - but worth it if you can.
I generally would only do this if I’ve not had any bubble baths or bath oil in the bath - just in case the plants don’t take kindly to the bubbles!
One less obvious reuse of water is to use water from boiling vegetables/cooking. If you can allow the water to cool right down in the saucepan after you’ve cooked your vegetables, you can then easily tip it onto potted plants - and no need to pour it down the sink!
… and the paddling pool
If you have children who are using paddling pools, it’s sensible to empty it out using buckets or watering cans to use directly on the garden.
Also, it’s a good idea to cover it over at night, so the same water can be reused the next day, rather than refilling it every day when it’s full of the inevitable bugs and leaves from the night before.
A good tip for covering most paddling pools is pulling an old fitted sheet over the sides of it – this should fit to most sizes of children’s paddling pool.
Enjoy it while it lasts!
Aside from the obvious problems the hot weather causes, it has been glorious to have so many days of unspoilt sunshine to be able to get out into the garden to enjoy it these past few weeks, even if it’s not really been possible to do much in the way of planting.
I personally have a flower bed which I have big plans for, and will be totally replanting it with old English roses.
At the moment they are all in big pots, being watered regularly, but I’m having to hold fire on getting them into the ground until the weather turns!
So - make the most of the water you have, and make the most of the good weather whilst it lasts!