Saving Water in your Garden

Water is the driving force

Maintaining a beautiful garden needs water. It is, however, a scarce and increasingly expensive source that should be carefully managed. Technology, innovation, products and just thinking differently can help us to reduce our water usage. We are already choosing species with a better drought tolerant factor, like those with grey foliage that reflects the sun’s rays away from the plant and keeps it cooler, which in turn reduces water loss. We are also now using many more succulents, which store water in their leaves and stems. Modern hybrids of old favourite perennials are now bred with a higher resistance to heat and have much lower water needs. But there is always something more that you can do, like the following:

Save every rainy day

Harvesting rainwater makes ecological and financial sense. Rainwater is relatively clean water that can be used in the garden for irrigation, in the swimming pool or in the home to run washing machines, showers and toilets. The great thing about harvesting rainwater is that once your system is set up, the water is free. Using untreated water in this way cuts back on chemical residue in the environment and reduces the demand placed on the country’s water systems. Don’t confuse harvesting rainwater with using grey water – rainwater is ready to use, whereas grey water (water from drains and baths) needs to be treated before use for certain purposes. Apart from the obvious environmental reasons for saving water, rainwater harvesting saves money in the long run.

Install irrigation systems

Watering a garden properly by hand takes time, and often the water doesn’t get to the roots of plants where it is needed. Installing an irrigation system can alleviate these problems. There are two systems of irrigation that can be used in a garden: spray irrigation and drip irrigation.Spray irrigation uses water pressure to feed water to vertical mist sprinklers set at intervals through the garden. This system is very easy to install and there are several DIY products from small to big available on the market. There are some disadvantages to using sprinklers, though: the systems are usually dependent on high water pressure to work, and the vertical pipes can easily be damaged by people and pets. More importantly, watering the foliage of plants can lead to disease while not reaching the roots of the plants. Drip irrigation provides a better solution and saves water in the long run. This system uses a series of perforated pipes or soaker hoses that can be positioned throughout the garden, including on slopes and in rocky gardens without the need of trenching. There is no water pressure needed and the slow rate that the water is delivered means that the water gets to where it needs to go – at root level. Both these systems can be controlled manually or connected to an automatic controller to time the start and end of a cycle. You can even get weather- monitoring systems that will switch off the system if there is going to be rain.

Recycling water

Grey water recycling for use in the garden is another way to save. There are various products on the market that can be attached to the water outlet pipes from the bathroom and kitchen to deal with collecting and storing water from showers, sinks and baths to be recycled to the garden. There are some conditions that need to be applied, like avoiding the use of harsh chemicals and cleaning products, before these systems can be effective. The more expensive systems are often used for hotels and commercial buildings, but are also available for home owners, and these treat the water using filters, biological systems and UV sterilisation. These automatic systems store cleaned water until needed, whereas other smaller systems have to use up unprocessed grey water immediately, or at least within 24 hours. Although recycling water systems takes some planning and perhaps the assistance of professionals, just using a basin placed inside a kitchen sink to catch the water you might use for rinsing something quickly or washing hands, or a bucket to catch shower water, will give you enough to water your containers.

Water-retention products

Use water-retention granules in flower beds when planting young seedlings. Water-retentive products break the water- resistant layer of certain soils, draw the water deeper into plants’ root zones and keep the soil moist for longer. Also treat all your container plants with water-retention crystals or granules – simply dig it in lightly around the existing plants, water well and finish off with a decorative mulch like bark nuggets, or add it to the potting medium before planting. You will be amazed at how helpful these products can be to keep plants hydrated (and alive) for longer!

Water-wise lawn care

Long grass sends down deeper roots and provides more shade for itself, so can cope far better with drought, so raise the cutting height in summer. The lawn might have a softer or wilder look, but will stay green.

The Gardener