Saving Water in the Garden
Why should Letchworth gardeners save water?
To conserve supplies
To save money
What can we do to help?
Techniques for saving water in the garden can be divided into several different areas –
What are the best plants for dry conditions?
Others such as succulents and cacti have fleshy stems or leaves that can store a reserve of water.
Vegetables such as carrot and parsnip have deep roots which can also be useful.
Here are some other plants good in dry conditions: Miscanthus Grasses, Osteospermum, Aloe Vera, Geraniums, Euphorbia, Thyme, Marigolds and Verbena
Tell us your favourites – email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pots & Containers
Which pots and containers should I use?
Another good idea when growing in pots is to use water-retaining gel; when added to the pot’s growing medium it swells up as it absorbs water during rain or irrigation. Biochar, a charcoal-based soil improver, does a similar water retaining job but also aids soil fertility.
Using a few large pots with several plants in is better than a number of small ones with one plant each. This is simply because the larger volume of growing medium in a large pot won’t dry out so quickly. Group the pots together so the plants can shade each other, better still move the pots into the shade if it gets really hot.
Mulching and More Mulching
What is mulching?
Mulching with fabric – in this case the mulch is placed on a woven landscape fabric (also known as semi-permeable membranes or geotextiles) to a depth of 2.5cm (1”). Mulches used in this way are usually decorative. Some examples of decorative mulches are: gravel, horticultural grit, shingle, slate and other aggregates.
Mulching without fabric – in this case the mulch is placed directly on the soil to a minimum depth of 5cm (2”) ideally 7.5cm (3”). Mulches used in this way are usually biodegradable and will also add nutrients to the soil. Examples of biodegradable mulches are: bark chips, garden compost, mushroom compost, rotted manure, leaf mould and grass cuttings.
How can I get free water?
Greywater is water, usually from your house, that has already been used for something else. This includes water from washing up and vegetable preparation. Water from cooking your vegetables may also be used – let it cool first, this will have added nutrients that have been lost during boiling. Although you can get detergents that can be used in greywater it’s probably best to use them just on your flowers and not your fruit & veg patch. Greywater should be used straight away and not stored.
When running the shower or hot tap waiting for the hot water to come through why not catch that water in a saucepan or bucket and use it on your plants.
Always use clean tap water for seeds and young seedlings as any impurities in stored rainwater or in greywater could cause problems.
What are good watering techniques?
Another good idea is localised watering: use a can without a rose or a hose with a trigger nozzle to water the ground around the plant rather than the plant itself.
To promote deep root systems a good soak every 7-10 days is better than small amounts every day.
If you are willing to spend some money on your garden irrigation then soaker hoses are very useful for rows or larger areas of planting. Soaker hoses are permeable and allow water to flow through their walls at a controlled rate; they are connected to the water source with normal hose and may be laid on the surface and covered with mulch or, preferably, buried in the soil.
Never use a sprinkler as they can consume up to 1000 litres of water per hour.
What is smarter gardening?
Keep your soil in good condition; incorporating plenty of compost or manure helps with moisture retention and encourages deep root formation.
If you are not mulching, keep up to date with your weeding. Weeds use up water and nutrients that should be for your plants.
If you are growing runner beans, another good idea is to dig a ‘bean trench’. This is a trench dug well in advance and filled with kitchen scraps, newspaper, cardboard etc. and then back-filled. This gives a great reservoir for the beans’ roots to grow into.
What can you add?
Some of the products mentioned above can be found at our Trading Store, see our Trading List for details and the full range of products stocked.