Don’t be left high and dry: tips for beating the drought

18 April 2012

As I sit here typing the rain is lashing against my window, making it hard to imagine that we in the South West are actually in a drought, but a drought we are in, and the Environment Agency this week added 17 more counties in the Midlands and the South West to its list of places in England now suffering from a severe water shortage, thanks to two consecutive dry winters. Now much of the country is in a drought which is expected to at last until at least Christmas.

This is the kind of news that can get gardeners in a panic, especially in Spring when the garden is a flurry of activity. But there is no need to despair: with a little careful thought and planning, the drought needn’t stop your garden from flourishing this summer.

Here are a few tips to help you get through these parched times:

  • Mulch is a good friend of a dry garden: it holds moisture in the soil and stops the wind from drying it out. It also prevents weeds, which take ever-more-valuable water, which brings me to;
  • Weeding: keep weeds at bay as much as possible, so there is no unwanted competition for that precious rainwater;
  • If you are able to use a hosepipe, remember it’s more effective to give your plants a good soak once a week as opposed to a little water every day. And leave the sprinkler in the shed: on a sunny day you can lose up to 80% of water through evaporation. What’s more, just an hour of using a water sprinkler uses as much water as a family of four needs in a day;
  • Gather free water: Water butts under drainpipes are very effective and needn’t take up too much space. If these April showers keep up, you’ll soon have plenty of rainwater to keep your garden growing. Don’t forget the water you’ve been boiling your vegetables in: this can go back into the soil to grow more vegetables!
  • Plant wisely: there is a whole host of drought-resistant plants which love parched soils. The RHS has a good list on its website: RHS
  • Trust your garden: your plants and lawn want to survive. Grass which goes brown in dry times will soon recover with some rain, while established plants will find water underground through their roots.
  • The irrigation systems we install in our Living Walls are exempt from the hosepipe ban, as they are closed drip/trickle irrigation systems, that place water drip by drip directly onto the soil surface without any surface run off.

I hope these help keep your plants from getting thirsty. If you have any tips of your own, I would love to hear them, so please leave a comment.