Many areas of the country are recovering from the balmy and dry summer of 2018 with groundwater levels still yet to be fully replenished in SE England and parts of East Anglia.
If we have a dry summer in 2019 it could be a double-blow on water reserves in the UK.
So what does this mean for you?
Your garden relies heavily on rainfall to top up the volume of soil water it loses from a relentless sun. If your soil doesn’t get this rain your garden gets a deficit of water difficult to replenish.
You need a plan
Whether you are growing flowers, vegetables or herbs – inconsistent watering will have a dramatic and detrimental effect on your plants – their colour, their performance, their fruiting potential and their long term health. If you don’t water you won’t get a good crop. Potatoes will be like bullets and your bountiful crop of fruit will be dismal and tasteless.
Each of the tips below highlights whether it’s a simple solution, applicable to flowers or edibles (including fruit and vegetables) plus the price range for your peace of mind.
Water butts at the ready
This piece of gardening and home-growing kit is worth its weight in gold in the event of upcoming drought. Water butts collect rainwater, perfect for vegetable plants. Rainwater quenches their thirst and it's at the perfect acidity for roots to take up the maximum nutrients in the soil.
Water Retaining Gel - Good for flowers, vegetables & lawns
An easy solution for under £5
Water retaining gel is a tiny polymer ball. Mixed into compost for containers or dug into borders when the ground is watered the gel absorbs up to 400 times its own weight in water molecules. They then release the water back to your plant roots slowly ensuring your plants have a constant water supply. A fantastic watering solution over the holidays and to supplement watering with the hose and the watering can. You can also use automatic watering spikes, the water is drip fed directly at the roots so there is no evaporation. As the bubble heats up the pressure inside releases more water. Another solution is to use a Bag & Drip Irrigation Kit as this will be great at preventing plants drying out during the day, especially bad for tomatoes and potatoes where uneven watering can cause fruit to crack and split.
Sphagnum moss - Good for hanging baskets, pots & containers
An easy solution for under £10
Moss is fantastic at holding water. It’s light and airy and has a structure that creates little reservoirs of water around the roots of the beautiful flowers in your hanging basket. Sphagnum moss is easy to mould around the side & top of baskets and containers and allows you to save on constant watering.
Rootgrow Mycorrhizal Fungi - Good for flowers, vegetables, roses, shrubs & trees
Under £10, some skill is required
Improve the root-growing abilities of your favourite garden plants like roses and rhododendrons by adding this fungi mix. In essence, the fungi increases the root zone area of your plants. The greater this area the more water these roots can access from far and wide. Sprinkle the fungi mix into the bottom of the planting hole before watering and planting up.
Recycled plastic containers - Great-value and great for flowers, vegetables, roses & shrubs
An easy solution from £5
By choosing pots made from plastic as opposed to terracotta you can really reduce your need to water. The vast amount of sizes, colours and styles mean that whatever your taste there is something to suit your budget. Plus if you choose a pot with a self-sufficient self-watering reservoir you can reduce your watering regime even more.
Weeding - Good for flowers, vegetables, lawns, roses & shrubs
An easy solution from £5
A simple solution which you hopefully already have the tools for. Remove the competition for water by getting rid of weeds surrounding your prized plants as well as the weeds in your lawn. We really like Kent & Stowe’s loop weeder.
Recycle bath & cooking water - Good for flowers, vegetables, lawns, roses & shrubs
An easy solution costing up to £15
Yes this seems obvious, however we think we have found the best way to use your old bath water. If you can reuse your cooking water (once it has cooled) it also has the benefit of having some trace minerals within the water.
Also don’t forget to wash all your fruit and veg in a bowl where you can re-use the water in your garden afterwards.
Dig rich, well-structured compost into your soil - Good for flowers, vegetables, lawns, roses & shrubs
An easy solution from just £5
A compost rich in any type of organic matter, will when dug in to your vegetable plot or ornamental plant borders automatically absorb and hold onto the moisture from your watering.
Regardless of whether you are protecting vegetables or ornamentals we really like Marshalls Vegetable Grower's Blend. Rich in organic matter and slow release fertiliser it will benefit any plant and really holds onto moisture in the soil.
Cover any bare soil - Good for flowers, vegetables, lawns, roses & shrubs
An easy solution from £10
Once you have dug in as much organic matter as possible, cover the bare soil with bark or ground cover. It not only suppresses weeds it also helps reduce moisture loss. Which means that you should reduce your need to water. We like Gro-Sure Smart Ground Cover which is new on the market this year. Made from wood fibres that naturally lock together we found that when watering the bark had less chance of being moved apart.
Protecting your lawn
Easy to quite complicated task starting from £10
It’s important to know that it takes a severe drought to actually kill off the lawn. That said you will have to accept that you are going to end up with a brown lawn during a summer drought and ornamental lawns using fine seed grass will suffer more than a general lawn seed or turf.
Allow your lawn to stay as tall as possible, so raise the height of your mower's cutting blades. Also allow the clippings to fall back into the grass but ensure you have small / fine clippings, large clumps will smother your grass. Try not to mow in full sun.
Nourishing the lawn prior to a drought can be a big benefit. Westland’s Organic Safe Lawn suppresses weeds, prevents moss, feeds the grass roots and also adds small amounts of grass seed to your lawn.
It’s important that you do not use lawn weedkiller when the lawn is stressed from a lack of watering. If you are happy with a non-organic solution for clearing weeds from your lawn, we’d recommend Westland’s Resolva Lawn Weedkiller. We recommend spring and early summer applications rather than autumn and winter applications. Never apply in the autumn if your lawn has had insufficient rains during the summer months.
Choose the right type of plants
An easy solution from £10
You need to be looking for the following key words, Mediterranean, low maintenance and also drought tolerant. These type of plants can survive on a lot less water when faced with dry conditions.
Scan our websites for bay trees, olive trees, lavenders, citrus trees and basil which are all naturally built to cope with periods of drought and thrive in full sun, putting on lots of flower colour even if you have the shallowest or driest of soil. Also don’t forget that almost all wildflowers are drought tolerant too.
Plant your flowers closer together - Good for flowers
An easy solution
Planting flowers close together gives multiple benefits. Better colour concentration, plus flowers in close proximity to one another provide more humidity around the leaves which gives a source of moisture to your flowers 24-7. Also denser leaves, means less sun on your soil which means less water evaporation. Try growing bedding plants as close together as 4in (10cm) apart in all directions for impact and water-saving.