We all need to do our bit to save water. The Royal Horticultural society has come up with some tips to help save water this summer.
1. Use waste water from washing-up or rinsing vegetables for watering, as normal amounts of household soaps and detergents will not harm soil or plants.
2. Let your lawns go brown. They will recover when the rains return. Newly sown and turfed lawns will require a lot of watering to be successful, so leave sowing or turfing until the autumn.
3. Vegetables need moist soils to give their best. Water them at key growth stages. The response to water is especially marked when sweetcorn, peas and beans begin to flower, when the edible part of lettuces begins to form and when potatoes show flower buds, which initiate plenty of tubers.
4. Newly planted trees, shrubs and climbers are extremely vulnerable and it is difficult to ensure the water applied at the surface works its way down to the roots. Don’t leave hoses running all night – the water will either saturate the roots and possibly kill them or it will drain deeply below the root zone. Water should always be applied over the surface so it soaks the root ball and surrounding soil.
5. Fruit may remain small if not watered, but it should be sweet and well coloured. Cane fruit and strawberries will benefit by keeping the soil moist every two weeks.
6. In sunny summers install greenhouse and conservatory shading and ventilation to limit overheating and invest in a min-max thermometer.
7. By grouping pots, ideally in clusters of similar size, watering is made easier and moisture loss reduced. A saucer beneath the pot to retain run-off helps.
8. Don’t dig new ground in summer if you can avoid it, as digging soil allows any remaining moisture to escape. Hoe off weeds as shallowly as you can, loosen soil with a fork and ‘puddle’ plants into the soil, adding a little liquid fertiliser. Adding nutrients helps plants make the best use of what moisture there is by encouraging extensive root growth.
9. Establishing new plants in borders during dry times can be difficult. Instead, pot them into slightly bigger pots and keep well watered and fed in light shade until the autumn planting season arrives.
10. Early summer perennials will survive on moisture left in the soil from winter. Give late summer perennials one good watering in the summer as plants begin to flower, which should be enough. In the longer term, consider planting drought-resistant species in your borders such as grasses, Mediterranean type shrubs, or sedums and other plants with spiky or succulent leaves.