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Keeping the garden growing and taps flowing this World Water Week

This week is World Water Week – an annual event that highlights global water issues, and  shines a light on the increasing and concerning rise in water scarcity across the globe, including here in the UK.

This week is World Water Week – an annual event that highlights global water issues, and shines a light on the increasing and concerning rise in water scarcity across the globe, including here in the UK.

A report from the British Standards Institute and Waterwise, has brought together several areas of research to mark World Water Week, that analyses the challenge nations face around water supplies, and even goes as far as to say it should be considered as critical an issue as climate change.

When we consider the last 12 months, this perhaps doesn’t seem so surprising. Last year, we experienced the highest temperatures ever seen in the UK, following one of the driest 12 months on record and the first drought in a decade.

Although this summer has been more of a damp squib compared to last year, this June was the hottest on record in the UK causing huge spikes in demand – from a summer average of 540 million litres to a whopping 678 million litres per day – which has led other water companies to introduce a hosepipe ban.

And with climate change and a growing population affecting countries across the globe, including here at home, it’s becoming increasingly important we understand and adapt to this change.

Unsurprisingly, during the summer months, a lot of the water we use is in the garden, however much of this is wasted unnecessarily, which can cost you money and puts pressure on our rivers and reservoirs.

However, with warmer, drier summers and hosepipe bans expected to become more commonplace in the future, here are some useful tips for helping your garden survive while conserving water.  

  1. Watering early morning or evening

When the sun is high, moisture in the soil can be lost through evaporation. In the morning and evening, on the other hand, the sun is lower and the temperatures are cooler. Watering your plants at these times means less water loss, and it gives water the chance to penetrate deeper into the soil before the weather heats up again.  

  1. Water thoroughly and infrequently

Tempting as it is to keep watering your garden, established plants will benefit more from staggered, thorough waterings than frequent, lighter ones. This is because watering thoroughly allows the water to reach down to the tips of plant roots, which is both better for your plants and the moisture levels in the soil.

If a heatwave is in the forecast, giving your garden a thorough drink beforehand can help it survive for longer – watering roughly every 10 days should be enough.

  1. Use fertiliser

Plants use water most efficiently when they have the right amount of nutrients, so it can be a good idea to give them a boost with organic or natural fertiliser. Experts at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) caution against using too much, however, as it can leave you with a garden that requires even more water to stay healthy.

  1. Let your lawn grow

You may be worried about your lawn looking unkempt, but there’s a good reason to let your grass grow longer during the summer. Having longer blades of grass means more shade for the soil, which in turn slows the rate at which water evaporates. Letting it grow can also encourage deeper rooting, resulting in a healthier, more resilient lawn.

  1. Leave it to go brown

Brown prickly grass is not nice to look at nor comfortable to sit on, however,  the roots in most well-established lawns will still be alive underneath the surface. Once the rain returns, the grass will bounce back, so there’s no need to waste precious water on it during a heatwave or drought.

  1. Add mulch

Adding a good layer of mulch to the surface of your soil can help to insulate it against the sun, stopping evaporation and retaining moisture. Mulch can be made up of many different materials such as bark, compost, gravel, wood chippings, pebbles, and more.

  1. Aerate your lawn

During periods of drought, the soil in your garden can become dried and compacted. When it does rain, this means that the water won’t be absorbed as easily. To counter this, you can aerate the soil by spiking it with a rake, a fork, or an aerator so that water can better reach the roots.

  1. Install a water butt

Rather than using mains water, a water butt can provide the water your garden needs to survive the summer – especially if there are hosepipe bans in place in your area. On average, a full water butt can hold up to 200 litres of water, but they are also available in many different shapes and sizes depending on your space.

  1. Use greywater

In times of drought, leftover water from your kitchen sink, shower, bath, or bathroom sink can be a useful resource. Usually, soaps and detergents are mild enough to be used in the garden without negatively affecting your plants in the short term. However, if you’ve been using any harsh cleaners or chemicals such as bleach or boron, it’s best not to use the leftover water at all as these can affect the soil. You should also avoid using greywater on any edible crops because of the risk of contamination.

  1. Move container plants into the shade

Plants that are kept in containers have a much smaller body of water to draw from than the rest of your garden, so they tend to dry out more quickly. Moving them into shaded areas can help to protect them from the heat of the sun and reduce the amount of moisture lost through evaporation.

  1. Future-proof your garden

The final tip on this list is more of a long-term solution and involves a bit more careful planning. When looking for new plants, try opting for drought-friendly ones such as lavender, buddleia, and agapanthus. These kinds of plants are usually native to hotter, drier climates and need less water. You should also pick plants that suit the soil type in your garden because they will be more tolerant of varying conditions. Another tip is to do your planting in the autumn so that your plants can get established over the rainy winter season and be more resilient by summer.

With our changing climate, we may be facing hotter and drier weather in years to come. So, now is the perfect time to implement these simple but smart techniques that will prepare your garden to survive.