Saving Water

Saving Water

Saving Water

Saving Water

Saving Water

Saving Water

You would think that by now we’d be experiencing autumn in all its glory: chilly mornings, strong winds and driving rain, but with higher than usual temperatures of late and summer refusing to let go just yet, we're not quite there. Whilst it may be a pleasant way to stave off the winter chills – let’s face it, it’s not been the best of summers – it means our gardens may still need watering. June may have been the hottest since 1884, but July was the eighth wettest on record – there were some parts of the country that saw their wettest July ever – and the sun took its own holiday when we wanted to take ours, but when it did make an appearance, it was hot, really hot, scorching lawns and starving plants of moisture, resulting in a hosepipe ban that has finally been lifted. Even when the temperatures were cooler, there’s been little rain – except for July – particularly of late, so we’re not able to rely on nature as often as we’d like.


Experts tell us this is the way it’s going to be; climate change may see an increase in temperatures, but it also seems to be making our seasons even more unpredictable than they already were. There may still be as much water on Earth as there ever was, but distributing it conveniently is just a whimsical dream, and there’s little hope of that ever changing. With hosepipe bans becoming increasingly more frequent and the cost of using water – whoever thought that would be a thing? – looking likely to rise indefinitely, saving water looks like the way to go, but it’s not as difficult as you might expect.


The starting point would be to minimise the amount of water you use in the garden, and there are a few ways to do that: drought-resistant plants need little to no water, so if you’re planning a new border or have pots and planters to fill, alpines will need less than your average bedding plants. Plants like Lavender and Verbena require less watering than many others, so we recommend taking a look at the RHS website for a list of less-thirsty plants and shrubs. Lining terracotta pots with polythene will help prevent evaporation, and adding compost to pots and planters and to soil when planting new plants, not only feeds your new purchases, it will help to retain water (see last month’s blog post on making your own compost). If your garden is more established, however, watering in the mornings, before the sun heats up – assuming it’s going to appear at all – makes better use of the water you do have. A mulch of straw or bark around the base of your plants will help to prevent evaporation there, keep the soil cooler when the temperatures soar and also suppress weeds, which have a tendency to steal water from the plants you do want; you can also add water-retaining crystals to your potting mix when planting new plants or sprinkle them in your borders to benefit existing plants, so long as the crystals are covered with a layer of compost or soil.


Watering frequently will keep roots close to the surface of the soil, but soaking the soil every seven to ten days will encourage your plants to push their roots deeper in search of a drink, taking the pressure off you and your purse. Be sure, though, to check with our experts; many annuals and bedding plants will only ever have shallow roots, so don’t neglect them. Grouping plants with similar watering needs together will help reduce waste and damage to those plants that are not so thirsty. But it’s not just plants that need a little help in the warmer months; grass can suffer badly in the height of summer, so keeping the cutting height higher not only reduces evaporation, it’ll shade the roots and give weeds less room to grow, averting the battle for water. Reducing the size of your lawn and increasing the size of your borders will also cut down your water usage: grass requires far more water than perennials, so it’s certainly a consideration for larger gardens.


And then there’s collecting water. Rainwater is by far the best option for your garden, with higher levels of nitrogen and oxygen that boost growth, a unique pH that means it’s less acidic than tap water and a less chilly temperature that’s far more acceptable to plant roots. Water butts are the best option for collecting rainwater, and attaching one to every rainwater downpipe attached to your house, conservatory, greenhouse, shed and garage will maximise potential; they vary in size greatly, so if space is an issue, there’ll be a slimline water butt to fit.


But it’s not all about water butts; any container can be used, so long as it’s big enough – don’t underestimate the amount of water you can collect during a downpour! Buckets can be used for light rain, and barrels add a rustic charm to your garden whilst effectively collecting much-needed water, but ensure you transfer your collection to a lidded container as soon as the rain stops to prevent any debris contaminating it, and only fill that container to three-quarters capacity during the winter months to allow for possible freezing.


Rainwater is not the only water source available: water used for cooking can be cooled and reused, as can ‘grey’ water; baths, showers and washing up can provide a useful alternative, and whilst soap and washing-up liquid will remain in small traces, they shouldn’t cause issues; eco-friendly products should be considered, however, if frogs and pondlife are likely to come into contact with your supply. ‘Grey’ water diverters are available to draw your bath water to your water butt, but any water that contains bleach, disinfectant, dishwasher salt or strong detergents is far too damaging to be considered.


Don’t forget paddling pools: when you’ve had your fun during the summer months, and your pool starts to look more like a swamp – a little too much grass or a few too many bugs that need saving – fill your watering cans from there, and get the kids involved in watering the garden.

The only downside to saving water is storing it for long periods; any longer than a few weeks, and it will stagnate and start to smell. Storing it in a lidded container will prevent contamination and reduce the algae that cause the stench, and it will also prevent insects breeding and subsequently searching for a tasty human to feed on. If you use your saved water regularly and completely empty your containers every four to five weeks, you shouldn’t have a problem, but collecting in the winter months to use the following summer could see stagnation tainting your supply. So what’s the answer? There are a few.

Potassium Permanganate:
A pinch stirred into your water will turn it pale pink, but it will also keep you water clean.

With its cleaning properties, it will reduce the bacteria in your water, so add a layer to the bottom of your butt.

Annual Clean:
Empty your containers annually and scrub and rinse to remove any silt and debris that may have found its way inside.

Filter & Lid
They’ll keep any potential debris from soiling your clean water.

If your garden is big enough, however, or your garden’s water consumption is more substantial than the average, you might want to consider a tank that can be stored underground. Not only will it hold more water, it’ll be hidden from sight, and being cooler and darker than on the surface, it’ll inhibit the growth of algae.

Saving water will ultimately save you money – couldn’t we all do with a little help these days? It may not be enough to allow you to retire early, but it might just mean a few more ice creams in summer – what more could you possibly want?

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