As a grower (and as a human!) I feel a big responsibility to play my part in looking after our natural resources. Gardens can easily use up a huge proportion of household water usage, but there’s a few simple things we can all do to conserve water, help look after the planet and save money at the same time!
1. Use less
Plants use osmosis to draw in water, so if the surrounding soil is dry, the plant will naturally increase the levels of vitamins and nutrients that give veg their taste. If you water too much (especially with veg like tomatoes), this can result in bigger but blander tasting fruit and veg. As a general rule, it’s best to give the soil a good drenching every few days rather than a light soak every day.
2. Get a water butt
If you’ve got a garden it’s worth getting a water butt. Not only is this “free” water, but it is better for watering than tap water, as it doesn’t have the added chemicals tapwater does. I’m always surprised at how fast our water butt in the front garden fills up, despite only being connected to the down-pipe of the guttering around our front porch.
3. Use a watering can
A hosepipe will use around 15 litres per minute, and tends to be less accurate than using a watering can. Think of carrying those watering cans as a free gym session!
I’ve added a longer hose to ours that reaches out our bathroom window and down to the back patio where I fill up watering cans, or attach to the hose pipe to water the back garden with. If you’re planning on re-using bath water choose natural/biodegradable bath products.
5. Water in the morning
Avoid watering in the afternoon when it is hot and sunny, as the water will evaporate quicker from the soil. Aim to water in the cool of the mornings or evenings, when water can soak into the soil. I generally aim to avoid watering in the evening, as damp soil in the dark of the evening/night encourages the slugs!
6. Make a funnel
Get a 2 litre drinks bottle and cut the bottom off. Dig a hole and pop it in the soil upside down. This gives you a funnel that will take water straight to the roots.
Using a mulch will help keep water in the soil as it prevents evaporation. Wood chips work well around fruit trees/bushes or ornamental plants. You can use straw under strawberries and other crops. Just watch out for any slugs and snails that might like to hide in the cool of the straw!
8. Plant right
Planting close together will help shade the soil and keep the air cool, preventing the plants from drying out so much. If growing in pots, put pots close together rather than spreading out. Picking varieties that are drought resistant can make a big difference. Varieties grown in warmer climes may be much more acclimatised to less water.
9. Improve your soil
If your soil is too sandy, water tends to drain away too quickly. If your soil is too heavy, water can run-off rather than running down to the roots. Adding lots of compost will help improve your soil’s ability to keep hold of water.
10. Keep on top of the weeding
Remove the competition!