If you’re not a meteorologist, it’s unlikely that you’ll know when the next drought is going to be. However, when it strikes, you don’t want to be stuck up Hosepipe Ban Creek without a paddle (or a watering can) and an entire garden to care for. Not only that, but as water is a precious resource, we want to conserve it where we can, not just during droughts, but throughout the year. It’s better for the planet and better for your wallet.
In the garden, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your water usage. In this article, I’ve outlined some practical ideas.
The kit you need for your garden this summer
From QVC, I recommend the Richard Jackson Easy Summer Kit. It provides you with everything you need to help your plants thrive while conserving water.
This handy product can be endlessly useful for hanging baskets and pots (which are prone to drying out quickly) but also lawns, dry soils and sloping ground.
It works in seconds and the effect lasts around 30 days, helping soils to retain up to 80% more water.
You need to reapply once a month throughout the summer, and a 500 ml bottle, diluted at 5 ml per 6.8 litres of water, makes up to 680 litres. So, applied once a month for five months during the summer, this bottle should last the average gardener two years. An incredible, money-saving product!
Easy Feed Slow Release Plant Food
To complement your use of this wetting agent, feed your plants with Easy Feed. Add it at planting time or to established containers, and the granules gradually release Flower Power nutrients for up to six months.
You can buy these two products together from QVC in one handy kit.
1. Use a water butt
One way to conserve water is to use a water butt. A water butt is a container that collects rainwater from your roof. You can then use this water to water your plants. Water butts are a great way to save money on your water bill, and they are also good for the environment.
Kolforn (Wikimedia), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
However, there are a few disadvantages to water butts:
- Water butts can be expensive to buy and install. The cost of a water butt will vary depending on its size and material, but you can expect to pay anywhere from £50 to £200. If you have trouble installing your water butt – for example, if you don’t have the right tools and you don’t want to buy them – you may also need to hire someone to install it, which will add to the cost.
- They can be difficult to fill if you don’t have a lot of rainfall. If you live in an area with low rainfall, you may not be able to collect enough water to meet your gardening needs.
- They can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes if they are not properly maintained. To prevent this, make sure to empty your water butt regularly and clean it out at least once a year.
- Water butts can be unsightly if they are not well-hidden. If you are concerned about the appearance of a water butt in your garden, you may want to consider installing one that is designed to be hidden, such as a wall-mounted water butt.
- They can be a safety hazard if they are not properly secured. If you have children or pets, make sure to keep the water butt out of reach so that they do not fall in, and that it is properly secured so that it cannot fall upon someone.
Overall, water butts can be a great way to save water and money on your gardening costs. However, it is important to be aware of the potential disadvantages before you decide to install one.
2. Lay down plastic sheeting
Another way to conserve water is to lay down plastic sheeting in your garden. It’s relatively inexpensive, and it will help to prevent the evaporation of water from the soil. It’s also good for weed prevention!
Beachbums3, CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr
While plastic sheeting is great for conserving water, there are a few things to consider:
- It can be difficult and time-consuming to install, especially for those who are mobility impaired. You may need to hire a professional to help, which will add to the cost of the sheeting.
- If installed incorrectly, plastic sheeting can potentially prevent water from reaching the roots of plants, which can lead to wilting and even death.
- It can trap heat, which can make the soil too warm for some plants.
- It can hamper garden wildlife and reduce the quality of your soil by decreasing the amount of oxygen absorbed by soil microorganisms.
- Plastic sheeting can be difficult to remove once it is in place, and challenging to install if you already have established plants in your garden.
3. Use drought-tolerant plants
Finally, you can choose drought-tolerant plants for your garden. These plants are adapted to dry conditions and require less water than other plants. Some good examples of drought-tolerant plants include Lagerstroemia, Lomandra and Sedum. I’ve written an article about ‘climate-proof’ plants here, detailing lots of plants that have the ability to withstand droughts.
Me with a Mangave
Not everyone has the money or time (or the want) to replace the existing plants in their garden with drought-tolerant plants, however. Which is why wetting agents could be a great alternative if you’re looking for something low-cost and easy to use.
But first, here are a few bonus tips for conserving water in your garden:
- Water your plants early in the morning or late in the evening. This will help to prevent evaporation.
- Water deeply, but less often. This will help your plants’ roots to grow deeper and become more drought-tolerant.
- Mulch your plants to help retain moisture.
- Install drip irrigation to water your plants more efficiently.
- Aerate your soil to help improve drainage.
- Remove weeds regularly to prevent them from competing with your plants for water.
- Check your plants regularly for signs of drought stress, such as wilting leaves. This will help you better determine how much water to use, and when.
Wetting agents: An easy way to conserve water in the garden
Wetting agents are a type of chemical that is added to water to help it wet and penetrate soil more effectively. These products can be used in both indoor and outdoor gardens, and they offer a number of benefits:
Reducing water usage
One of the main benefits of using wetting agents is that they can help to reduce water usage. When water is applied to soil, it can bead up on the surface of the soil particles. This is because water molecules are attracted to each other, but they are not attracted to soil particles. Wetting agents help to break down the water-soil surface tension, which allows the water to wet and penetrate the soil more easily. This can lead to significant water savings, especially in areas with hot, dry climates.
Improved nutrient absorption
Wetting agents can also help to improve the absorption of nutrients by plants. When water is applied to soil, it can carry nutrients with it. However, if the water does not wet the soil effectively, the nutrients can be lost through runoff or evaporation. Wetting agents help to ensure that the water is absorbed by the soil, which means that the nutrients are also absorbed by the plants. This can lead to healthier, more vigorous plants.
Pest and disease control
In addition, wetting agents can help to control pests and diseases. Many pests and diseases thrive in dry conditions. By keeping the soil moist, wetting agents can help to create an environment that is less favourable for pests and diseases. This can help to reduce the need for pesticides, which can be harmful to the environment.
Improved soil appearance
Finally, wetting agents can help to improve the appearance of your soil. When water is applied to soil, it can leave behind a residue of minerals and salts. This residue can make the soil look white or grey. Wetting agents help to prevent this residue from forming, which can give your garden a more natural appearance.
If you are looking for a way to improve the health and appearance of your garden without breaking the bank – or your back – wetting agents are a great option.
How do you conserve water in your garden? Let me know in the comment section below!
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.