Lots of people long for a nice garden - a place they can relax and hang out. But in hot and dry weather, keeping your garden plants alive can become a real chore, and all that watering can cost you a fortune as well. Here's some hints on cutting down on the water and work required to keep your garden green.
Many people's ideal garden is a green and lush place. But in the heat of the summer, or in dry areas, keeping your plants watered and healthy can be a struggle. Not only is watering hard work (especially in the heat!) but it uses up a lot of one of our most precious resources - fresh water - and costs a lot of money. What can you do to cut down on the amount of water your garden needs?
- The first step is to look at your garden and see which plants are using up the most water. Which areas are you irrigating most often? Once you've identified the areas that are really thirsty for water, then you can see which of the following tips will help to reduce their requirements.
- Take a good look at your plants. Are they plants that are native to the area, or otherwise suited to the local climate? If they're not, then you might be using a lot of water to keep them happy. If they're a favorite, then you may think the effort and expense of watering is justified - but if not, then you should investigate replacing the thirstiest plants you have with ones that are more drought-tolerant.
- If you have large flower borders or a vegetable patch, then the chances are you spend a lot of time watering them. You can reduce the amount of evaporation from the soil surface by covering it with a mulch - which will also keep plant roots cool and comfortable. There are many mulches available, but if you use an organic mulch (e.g. straw, compost, bark chips) then as it rots down it adds organic matter to the soil. A higher level of organic matter in the soil helps to hold water, and is another way of saving water in the garden.
- Make sure that the water you do use is being used effectively. If you use a sprinkler to water the garden, then much of the water evaporates before sinking into the soil because it falls on leaves or paths. Using a hose, with a trigger gun, allows you to direct the water only where it is needed. Make sure you water the soil, not the plants, so the water has a chance to sink in before it evaporates.
- Try and water at the right time of day. Watering in the cool of the morning or the evening gives the water more of a chance to soak into the soil before it evaporates than watering in the heat of the day.
- And last, but not least, collect as much rain water as possible for your garden. Fix water butts to your downpipes - plants love rain water, it's free and it can keep your garden green if there's a water shortage!
It is possible to have a great garden without wasting water or spending all your spare time on irrigation. With a little bit of planning and a lot of mulch, your garden will stay green all summer!
Emma Cooper is the voice of The Alternative Kitchen Garden show (http://coopette.com/akg) and the author of The Alternative Kitchen Garden: An A To Z (http://coopette.com/books).