Summers are getting increasingly warm each year, and as a result of this, it’s never been so important to keep an eye on your water usage. Whether it’s at home, in the garden or at the allotment, we rely on water for everything we do when tending to our beloved green spaces.
There are a couple of very important points that highlight why saving water is so important. Firstly, around half of homes are now fitted with a water meter, so the more you use, the more you’re spending. Secondly, during peak times such as the summer months, water companies are forced to siphon water from local streams in order to cope with demand, and this not only drives the prices up, it also causes damage to the environment. So here are just a few things you can do to help save water.
COLLECT AND REUSE WHAT’S ALREADY THERE
Collecting rainwater, and using grey water from the bath or shower can make a huge difference when saving water. It’s estimated that if every household in the UK collected just one water butt of rainwater per year (which is on average 160 litres), there’d be four billion extra litres of water that could be used for gardens and allotments.
If you have room in your garden for a water butt, we highly recommend them. You can buy a piece of kit that will divert water from your drainpipes into a water butt, and (depending on the rain) water soon builds up. When deciding where they should go, to save you a bit of effort, it’s a good idea to place them closer to where they are needed, such as next to the greenhouse or close to a vegetable patch.
You can also reuse grey water from the bath or shower, but remember that water containing bleach, dishwater salts, cleaning fluid or disinfectant will harm your plants and damage the soil, and is a health hazard to you as well.
BE SELECTIVE WITH YOUR PLANTS
Not all plants need the same amount of water every day. Lavender, mimosa, verbena and palms, to name a few, need far less than exotic and tropical plants such as hibiscus. Your lawn is also surprisingly resilient and can be left to brown without worry. In fact, if you leave a lawn to grow longer, it will cope well without the need for additional irrigation.
A further point to consider is what you put your plants in. Plastic and glazed pots will make watering much more efficient, as opposed to unglazed terracotta pots that are porous, as these not only absorb water, they also tend to allow water to seep out much more than a standard pot. Also, group pots together so that they benefit from shading one another, which stops the soil from drying out quickly.
LOOK AFTER YOUR SOIL
Well-maintained soil will help you a lot when saving water. If you add organic matter from the kitchen or garden into the soil it will improve its structure, which helps to retain moisture. One of the best things to help keep your soil moist is to lay mulch down around the base of plants and trees, as well as using it to cover your flowerbeds.
Mulch made from biodegradable matter such as mushroom compost, wood shavings, rotten manure, straw (for the strawberries) and even seaweed, will retain moisture (meaning less watering), and even break down in the soil making it healthier and more fertile. Alternatively, mulch made from non-biodegradable materials looks more decorative on a flowerbed, and will also help to repress weeds. Think of weeds as being competition when it comes to water, the less there are, the more water your plants and flowers will have for themselves.
Another great trick to ensure that your plants need as little water as possible is to mix water retaining gel beads in with the soil. These capsules swell up creating little reservoirs of water that help to keep plants watered all day long.
DON’T OVERDO IT
This is a big one, as many of us tend to over-water our gardens or allotments, which is incredibly wasteful. In order to check if soil needs watering or not, simply take a look at roughly a spade-deep down, and if it’s damp, then it’s fine, if not, it needs watering. The type of soil is also a factor, as light sandy soil will need more frequent watering than heavier clay soil.
Avoid using sprinklers, as it’s said that the amount of water used by a sprinkler in one hour is the same as the average household’s water use for an entire day! Instead, go for watering cans and hoses where you can be more precise with the water. Water around the base of plants and avoid getting the surrounding soil wet, as this encourages weeds.
And finally, be sure to water during the evening, as this saves on water being evaporated away when the sun is out and in full force.
By keeping vigilant and on top of water usage we can all do our bit to save water and help the environment.