1. Improve your soil
Improve soil by digging in lots of well-rotted manure or home-made compost every spring. The more organic matter it contains, the better it will retain moisture. If that sounds like hard work, simply spread a thick layer of compost across your borders in spring (while the ground is moist), and let the worms pull it into the soil for you.
Help out individual plants by creating a wide planting hole and lining it with perforated polythene. Mix the excavated soil with plenty of compost or well rotted manure before backfilling it. The polythene liner will prevent water from draining away so quickly, and help retain more moisture at the plants roots.
2. Work with nature
Don’t battle with planting moisture-loving plants on dry, stony soils. Instead, choose plants that enjoy dry conditions. Drought resistant plants often have specially adapted foliage that helps them to cope with water shortages. Look out for silver, furry, waxy or glossy leaves. Fleshy succulent plants and those with aromatic foliage are also telltale signs that a plant will cope well with water shortages.
3. Mulch, mulch, mulch
Mulches reduce water evaporation by covering the surface of your soil. Better still, they keep the weeds down and look really attractive too. Always apply mulch between autumn and spring while the soil is still moist. Gravel, pebbles, bark chips make an attractive covering, while a layer of well rotted compost will help to feed your plants too. If aesthetics are not a concern, try planting through a sheet of polythene or landscape fabric.
4. Collect rainwater where you need it
We all know about the environmental benefits of collecting rainwater, and of course it’s completely free! Position water butts where they will be the most helpful. Site them behind the greenhouse, on the patio, or close to the vegetable patch, so that water is easily at hand whenever you need it. You can also collect grey water from the bath or shower to water your plants.
5. Water wisely
Water in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. An early watering routine will reduce water loss through evaporation, so your plants will get the full benefit of the water that you apply. Morning watering will also give your plants plenty of time to dry off before night fall, reducing the likelihood of slug damage and fungal disease. Donâ??t waste water wetting the foliage – always aim for the base of the plant.
6. Use water retaining gel
Add water retaining gel to the compost when you plant up your hanging baskets and containers. These little crystals swell to create resevoirs of moisture that help to keep plant roots well watered all day long.
7. Be selective
Not all plants will need the same amount of water every day so you can afford to be selective. Your fruit and vegetable crops are worth the effort , but you lawns are surprisingly resilient so don’t worry if they turn brown. In fact if you let them grow a little longer, lawns can usually cope well without extra irrigation.
Prioritise containers, hanging baskets and anything newly planted. Try setting up an automated irrigation system to help you target vulnerable plants. Our Water Wizards are ideal for keeping your Flower Pouches well watered. Good establishment will help plants to cope with dry conditions in future years.
8. Water well when required
A really good soaking every few days (or when the soil becomes dry) will help plants to develop a deep healthy root system. Avoid watering lightly every day as this encourages the plant roots to grow near the surface of the soil making them much more vulnerable to drought.
9. Choose your containers with care
Patio containers always dry out quickly, but you can make your watering more efficient by choosing plastic or glazed pots instead of unglazed terracotta which is very porous. Group pots together so that they can benefit from the shade created by one another’s foliage. Check that plants have not become rootbound – large root systems require extra water. Transplant them into larger pots if necessary to help the soil stay moist for longer.
10. Remove the competition
Keep on top of weeds in the garden as these will grow quickly and compete with your plants for valuable moisture.