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More than two million households in the UK will face a hosepipe ban, after the driest July on record. Southern Water will restrict the use of hosepipes and sprinklers within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, meanwhile South East Water has confirmed there will be a temporary hosepipe ban for households in Sussex and Kent.
While you can’t use a hose to keep your garden thriving, there are plenty of ways you can protect your plants, including saving water used at home (such as from washing up), using your water butt or filling up a watering can.
“We are going to have to adapt the way we garden and selection of appropriate plants will be key to this,” Rob Crowle, Senior Sales Assistant at the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, says. “With drought increasingly becoming a pressing issue, gardeners must adopt a three stage strategy; Preparation, coping during the drought, and managing the aftermath when rain arrives – which it will.”
Take a look at everything you need to know about gardening during a hosepipe ban:
1. Save as much water as you can
One way to get around the hosepipe ban is to reuse the water you are using at home. If you haven’t got a water butt full of rain water, try saving washing up water (as long as it doesn’t contain bleach) or bathwater by decanting it into buckets. Our pretty borders can also feel the affects of the heatwave, so this is a good way to ensure they stay hydrated.
“Preparation includes doing whatever you can to store water. Do what you can to save as much as you can in water butts, barrels, dustbins, or other vessels.”
2. Water in the morning or late evening
A hosepipe ban limits outdoor water usage, however gardeners can still water plants using buckets and watering cans. During the drought spell, the experts recommend you water your plants in the morning or evening, while it is still cool. Watering during the day means the heat can cause the water to evaporate before the plants can absorb it.
“In the throes of drought, the focus must be on watering. The aim is to get plants through with minimal damage. Watering in the morning or evening is recommended as there is less loss through evaporation,” says Rob. “Evening watering means the plant has the whole night to plump up before it starts to lose more water through transpiration in the sun. On the other hand, damp soil overnight is more likely to draw out slugs and snails.”
3. Direct water to the base of the plant
The best way to water plants is to target their roots, as they will take moisture from the surrounding soil or compost.
Rob explains: “A sprinkle of water may rinse dust off the leaves but will not keep a plant hydrated. A thorough soaking so water penetrates deep into the soil is what’s needed. It will encourage roots to stay deep in search of water.
“Prioritise plants that need water most, especially those which have been recently planted and do not yet have established root systems. Direct water to the base of the plant rather than overhead. This is especially important for large-leaved plants, where the foliage acts as an umbrella diverting water away from the root zone.”
4. Water plants slowly
As well as watering the roots, Rob advises to water plants slowly and steadily. During a heatwave, always soak plants deeply and thoroughly until you get overly saturated soil. Using a watering can is the best option for this, as you can direct it towards the roots.
“Water slowly to make sure it is soaking in and not running off. Some plants will show scorching, or crispy leaves. Leave them on for the time being, they provide a degree of shade for leaves beneath, and many trees will shed leaves, this is a normal response,” says Rob.
5. Consider adding organic matter
Organic matter, including mulch and bark, improves water infiltration and water holding capacity, giving plant roots and soil organisms better living conditions. To protect your plants during the hosepipe ban, place a layer of organic matter on top of the soil to keep your garden moist.
“Improve the water-holding capacity of your soil by adding organic matter,” adds Rob. “This is not an instant solution but forking in well-rotted compost will help conserve moisture and feed your soil. Mulch or top dress your beds with a generous (5cm or 2”) layer of organic matter, but only when the soil is already thoroughly wet. You want to trap the water in.”
6. Don’t water unless you need to
This might sound pretty self-explanatory, but always check the soil to see if it needs watering. Drowning a plant in water, even in a heatwave, is never good. Signs of overwatering include orange spots or rust on the leaves, as well as a droopy appearance. The temperatures might be continuing to soar, but your garden might not need watering every single day.
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