Advice in a drought

Target your watering

Make the most of your supply all year round by mulching beds, fitting automatic irrigation systems and water butts and by targeting your watering.

Water-saving tips

Patios

  • Add water-retaining gel to compost in containers – or buy compost with granules already included – this is particularly effective in hanging baskets.
  • Choose hanging baskets with a built-in reservoir – this distributes water when the compost needs it.
  • Top up containers with a decorative mulch, such as polished pebbles or tumbled glass chippings to prevent moisture loss.
  • Set up an automatic watering system with a water timer fitted to an outdoor tap and a micro-irrigation system. Water seeps out of small holes from pipes or from nozzles placed in pots exactly where it’s needed.

Houseplants

  • Stand houseplants on capillary matting when you go away. The felt-like matting sucks water from a reservoir of saved water, and the roots suck it up into the pot.

Lawns

  • Longer grass deals better with drought, so raise lawnmower blades to a higher level. This encourages grass to become deeper rooted and prevents too much loss of moisture through evaporation from the soil.
  • When buying a new mower, consider a mulching model that finely shreds and returns clippings to the surface of the lawn. This traps moisture and the clippings add plenty of goodness as they decay.
  • Make sure mower blades are sharp. Blunt blades will tear grass and expose a larger cut area than sharp blades which leads to greater moisture loss.

Beds and borders

  • Spread a layer of mulch across the soil to lock in moisture. Bark chippings, leaf mould and cocoa shell are ideal. These can be applied at any time of the year, but are best after planting in the autumn or after tidying beds in spring.
  • Dig compost, leaf mould or well-rotted manure into the soil to help it hold onto moisture for longer.
  • To help funnel water directly to the roots sink a flower pot or an upside down plastic bottle with the bottom cut off into the soil next to plants and water into it.
  • Choose plants that naturally tolerate dry soil. Grey-leaved plants, such as lavender, santolina and stachys are particularly good at retaining moisture in their foliage and like dry soil. Drought-resistant plants, such as cistus, are very good on sandy soils.

Effective watering

  • Either water in the morning or the evening, allow plants to soak up moisture before the hottest part of the day.
  • Target the part of the plant that needs water. This means watering the area of the soil above the roots, but don’t saturate, because some of the water will evaporate or run off.
  • Watering plants less frequently, but more thoroughly helps them to develop deep root systems that are better equipped to seek out moisture in the soil.
  • Fit a water butt and save hundreds of litres of rainwater in wet periods to use when your garden needs it most.