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Water Conservation in the Garden
It's easy to go overboard when watering your gardens and green spaces during the summer months.
So we've compiled some top water saving tips to help you collect and use more naturally sourced water, for healthier plants, soils and water bills!
1. Avoid mains water where possible
Mains water may appear the same as any other but in fact it is at the end of a long journey of filtering, processing and stabilising to make it safe for us to drink. This food-grade resource is particularly in demand in the summer months - a demand set to increase as weather patterns including heatwaves become more erratic - so we should think twice about using too much of it on our gardens.
Luckily, capturing natural water is a simple task. And more frequent stormy weather is set to bring more opportunities for capturing and storing rainwater throughout the year - reducing the need to use mains water. This may even help reduce your water bill!
2. Become a rainwater harvesting warrior
With a little planning you can easily harvest enough rainwater to stretch though the drier months.
Water butts are a must, and can be easily attached to downpipes on houses, outbuildings, sheds – or any sizeable surface area with a slope.
Coming in all shapes and sizes, made from recycled plastics to wood or even clay, there are many options to choose from. A decent downpour can easily fill a 150L container, so consider linking more together or having several located near to watering hotspots.
Top tip: be sure to secure water butt lids to deter mosquitos in the summer, and a tennis ball in the water can help stop the surface freezing during winter.
3. Be frugal with your watering can
It turns out that using water sparsely not only conserves water but is better for plant health too.
Spot watering at the base of plants is much more efficient than spraying large areas. It also avoids splashing, which can sometimes be harmful to plant health, leading to spore germination and structural damage.
Top tip: to prevent blight spores travelling down into potato tubers, avoid watering the leaves. You can also remove the lower leaves of established tomato plants to reduce their risk of being affected by blight.
4. Timing is key
During the summer, water early or late to prevent the water evaporating in the day time heat – but be mindful that slugs and snails will also thank you for the evening moisture!
You can also regulate temperature and humidity in your greenhouse by watering minimally and ventilating well.
Top tip: avoid over watering your seedlings, as this can easily lead to damping off - a disease which can cause seedlings to collapse.
5. Give the grass a miss
Out on the lawn, grass is well suited to weathering droughts, so neglect is encouraged.
Soil edges that meet walls and tarmac roads can be prone to drying out more quickly though, so check these areas for dry spots. In general, roots are encouraged deeper into the soil by reduced watering, which leads to a much more resilient plant, so this ‘neglect’ can actually benefit your plant.
6. Feed the soil, not the plants
Liquid feeds and watering naturally go hand-in-hand, and rainwater is recommended as it won't inhibit the good bacteria in your homemade compost teas and comfrey mixtures.
Over feeding is as much an issue as under feeding, so go easy on the seaweed! In fact, many believe that if you prioritise improving soil health then the reliance on liquid feeding will substantially reduce.
Mulching plays a key role in both retaining moisture in the soil and providing nutrients. Mulch will also introduce plant or animal tissue (known as organic matter) to the soil, enhancing its structure and its capacity to hold water.
Which means healthy soils with higher levels of organic matter are key to saving and retaining water!
Woodchip Mulch is strongly recommended by Soil Association Head of Horticulture and Agroforestry, Ben Raskin. Its benefits include:
- Retaining moisture
- Feeding the soil and fungi
- Supressing weeds
- Providing a barrier to soil, prohibiting erosion
- Depending on its type, woodchip can even release natural chemicals that aid germination and growth of seedlings.
Top tip: use a pipe to make sure water infiltrates thick mulch, and leave a clear ring around trees to prevent moisture causing disease on the bark.
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