Watering can watering greenhouse crops

Hosepipe Ban – Work Arounds and How to Keep Your Garden on Song

The banning of hosepipe use causes much distress for all gardeners, but it can be overcome. So, just how do you keep your plants watered, healthy and alive during these periods?

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Hosepipe bans; a rarity in the past, with the exception of 1976, of course, but in recent years as our summers have gotten hotter and longer, we’ve come to expect them. The banning of hosepipe use causes much distress for all gardeners, but it can be overcome. So, just how do you keep your plants watered, healthy and alive during these periods?

Watering Can

Different watering strategies for your garden

If you have got a hosepipe ban in your area, there are several different watering tactics you can employ to keep your garden watered.

  • Using watering cans or buckets. Either of these containers is good for watering your plants in the garden. Although, it is a bit more time-consuming and heavier work, particularly if you have a medium or larger size garden or vegetables.
  • Install a drip irrigation system. Becoming more popular these days, especially for people with big gardens or vegetable patches, drip irrigation systems are exempt during hosepipe bans. Systems like WaterMate are very efficient and can save water consumption by as much as 70-90%. Drip irrigation systems also make sure the constant drip of water gets to the roots of your plants rather than evaporate on leaves in hot, dry weather conditions. They usually come in kit form and different systems are available for different garden environments, like raised beds, hanging baskets, containers and larger plots of land. Remember that irrigation systems will need adjusting depending on the time of year and the amount of water the plants will need.
  • Water morning and evening. During hot and humid weather, when you water plants during the day, the water is likely to evaporate before the plants can fully absorb it. Therefore, water in the morning and evening when it is cooler and try to get as much water on the roots.
  • Target the roots. As well as watering in the morning or evening, target the roots as much as possible and give them a thorough soaking as it will keep the roots hydrated. This is especially relevant for plants with large leaves as the leaves will protect the watered roots, meaning you may not have to water twice a day.

When watering your plants in the garden, let the water flow gently as it takes time for the soil around the roots to absorb the water. Too heavy a flow will usually mean the water just runs off the area and away from the plant, wasting water and not doing the plants any good at all.

Mulching and soil preparation

Putting a layer of mulch, about 4 inches thick, around the base of your plants aids water retention. The mulch is able to store water and drip-feed it to the roots. It also slows down the effect of moisture evaporating during hot weather. However, make sure the ground is at least damp, if not wet (not waterlogged) before you put the mulch down. An added benefit of using mulch is that it also suppresses weed growth.

There are a variety of mulch types, including:

  • Shredded bark.
  • Wood chippings.
  • Organic garden compost, like grass cuttings and mushroom compost.
  • Leaf mould, like autumn leaves.
  • Straw, as you see around the base of strawberry plants.
  • Gravel, stone chippings and slate.
  • Crushed seashells.

The best time to lay your mulch is mid-spring or during the autumn when the soil’s temperature is warmer, and water the soil before you put it down. To keep weed growth to an absolute minimum, add some newspaper or specific weed-control woven fabric under the mulch and around the bottom of the plants. However, thoroughly weed the bed first and make sure you do not strangle the plant’s roots.

Plant selection and placement

Managing your garden during a drought, which is becoming a regular occurrence in the UK, can start with choosing the right plants and their placement. Many plants are resistant to hot, dry conditions, as well as plants that need little water or maintenance. Here are some of our top tips for making your garden more drought resistant.

  • Improve soil structure. Even if you are on clay, you can dramatically improve the structure of the soil to help it retain water better for the plants. Dig in deep large amounts of well-rotted organic matter that includes grass cuttings, mushroom compost, farm/equestrian yard manure, straw and composted bark.
  • Keep plants nutrient rich. The higher the nutrient levels in your plants, the more likely they are to use the water efficiently. So, add fertiliser but do not overdo it or it could encourage too much growth, leading to other problems.
  • Choose grey-green or silver-leaved Plant selection is important so go for plants with grey-green or silver leaves as they reflect the rays from the sun. This helps the plant retain moisture.
  • Plant to soil type and position. Choose plants that are suitable for your type of soil as well as the positions they favour. Those that prefer partial or full shade are more likely to retain water.
  • Plant in autumn. If it is possible, plant during the autumn months so that they have the opportunity to become established, and more tolerant to droughts before the dry summer months arrive.
  • Soak plants in pots or buckets of water before planting. Before you plant anything out into your garden, leave them to soak in their pots or a bucket of water until any bubbles no longer rise to the surface. When you do plant them out, make sure they are well-watered.

If you have a garden with soil that is not that conducive to planting in a drought, think about creating a paved or gravel garden with raised beds and pots. Not only can you then control the soil structure, but it is also quicker and easier to water them.

Water collection and recycling

Rather than relying on water from the tap, you can collect, save and reuse water in the garden.

  • Water butts. One of the easiest and quickest ways to get water for your plants is by installing a water butt. If you have space, locate it under a drainpipe but if you cannot do that it will still collect rainwater.
  • Collect and reuse household water. As long as it doesn’t contain bleach, soap or anything else that will damage your plants, save your household wastewater. So, rather than empty washing-up bowls and other containers down the drain, top up your water butts instead. Keep a washing-up bowl in the sink to catch water during the day and evening. Every time you rinse something under the tap, collect the water for your garden.
  • Rainwater harvesting. Installing a rainwater harvesting tank in your garden is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also a great way of making sure you have water on hand to water your garden during dry spells of weather. You can go simple or complex with rainwater harvesting. Either use water butts, rain barrels and retention ponds or go as far as trenches, dams and rooftop collection systems. These are set up to drain into large storage tanks and ultimately into indoor and/or outdoor plumbing.
  • Greywater recycling. Greywater is water that has been used in the home. So, this is water from baths, washing machines, showers, dishwashers and sinks. In general, about 50-80% of household wastewater is greywater and it can be recycled for use in the garden. However, because it may contain contaminants, it needs to be treated before use which can be done via a greywater recycling system installed in your home.

Collecting, saving and reusing water generated elsewhere in your home is one of the easiest ways to make sure you have plenty of available water to keep your garden healthy.

The right garden maintenance

Keeping on top of weeds in the garden, pruning trees and shrubs to help them conserve water and replenishing mulch on a regular basis are all important in maintaining a garden during drought periods.

Before you start watering your garden, check the soil first because if you have plants that have a wide umbrella or large leaves, they will have protected the soil. Therefore, the soil remains damp for longer and might not need watering every day.

Keeping your immaculate lawns green during a hosepipe ban is often as big an issue as you cannot use sprinklers either. If your lawn area is not too big, a watering can add a reasonable amount of moisture. However, do not panic too much. Lawns that have been laid a long time are pretty hardy and whilst they may go a bit brown and dry, they will bounce back in no time when it rains. Avoid cutting the lawn too much during dry periods and raise the cutting blade on your mower, too. Longer grass will retain moisture better and protect the roots.

Hosepipe bans in the UK are becoming a common occurrence so, the more you can do during the autumn, winter and spring to prepare your garden and make it drought resistant, the better. At Rhino Greenhouses Direct, we have a large selection of traditional and modern-style greenhouses, greenhouse shelving or alpine staging, blinds or shades to keep out direct sunlight, greenhouse heaters and even rainwater collection solutions.

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