How to Save Water in Your Garden

Watering can © Calinat via Getty Images

When the weather grows warmer many of us reach for the garden hose, but this demand for water can damage our local chalk streams. Here's our top tips for keeping that garden tap turned off.

A yard or garden can be a precious slice of the great outdoors, but keeping them green can have serious implications for nature. In Hampshire, much of our water is drawn from the chalk aquifer that feeds our beautiful chalk streams - this can cause a shortage in the streams and real problems for wildlife.

One way to tackle this issue is by changing the way we manage our outdoor spaces. No matter whether you have window boxes or rolling lawns, there are lots of ways to make water work harder. With a bit of advance planning, you can even be preparing your plants for a heatwave during the winter drizzle.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have lots of great advice on this topic, so we definitely suggest exploring their wider resources using the links below. With that in mind, let's take a look at how to save water in your garden all year round!

Wildlife gardening © Tom Marshall

Wildlife gardening © Tom Marshall

Scope your soil

When it comes to water use, carefully cultivated soil can make all the difference. While some types are thirstier than others, there are simple tricks to increase your soil's water retention; all it takes it a little preparation before the summer arrives.

Water-absorbing granules can be added to pots and hanging baskets, but their environmental impact isn't fully known. Organic alternatives like homemade compost or well-rotted manure can also boost your soil's liquid capacity - dig them in during autumn or winter for the best results.

If digging isn't your thing, try spreading mulch on the surface of your beds during winter and spring. This can be biodegradable matter, like wood chips, or more decorative materials like slate and gravel. A thick layer will shield the soil from sunlight, limiting weed growth and loss of water by evaporation.

➤ Read more: RHS advice on soil types

➤ Read more: RHS advice on mulching

Plant seedlings in containers © Penny Dixie

Plant seedlings in containers © Penny Dixie

Pick your plants

Once your soil is ready, consider your choice of plants. Leave any well-established shrubs and trees in place, as their extensive root systems will help them cope with dry weather. When it comes to new additions, go for species that need less water to get through the warmer months.

Whichever plants you choose, introduce them early in their lives and without using fertiliser. This will let them gradually adapt to their new living space, avoiding dramatic growth that may be unsustainable in the long run. Be sure to remove any weeds you see - they use water too!

Lawns, meanwhile, are hardier than you might think; while your grass turning brown can be alarming, it will most likely revive come autumn time. Choosing more drought-tolerant grasses, planting at the right time, and regular maintenance throughout the year can all improve your lawn's resilience.

➤ Read more: RHS advice on drought resistant plants

➤ Read more: RHS advice on lawn care during dry spells

Water barrel © Martin Fredy via Getty Images

Rain collecting in a garden water barrel © Martin Fredy via Getty Images

Sort your storage

Before you reach for the garden hose, have a think about other sources. Rainwater is often healthier for plants than what your tap can offer, especially in hard water areas. Think about installing a water butt (also called a rain barrel) or setting out buckets during wet weather,

Depending on your outdoor space, you may be able to create a rain garden. These are areas that collect rain runoff, creating a temporary water reserve. Low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and attractive to wildlife, these gardens can absorb up to 30% more water than a lawn!

Some 'grey' water from your home - such as bathwater - can also be used in your garden. The water should be used quickly, alternated with other sources, and kept away from plants you intend to eat. Be aware too that some household products can make the water unsuitable.

➤ Read more: RHS advice on creating a rain garden

➤ Read more: RHS advice on storing and reusing water

Watering plants with a can © Ikostudio

Watering plants with a can © Ikostudio

Master your methods

Even using all these tips, you'll still need to use fresh water on your garden. Early mornings are a good time to do this, as it will keep your plants going through the day and avoid water going to waste overnight, when it's often less needed. Check the forecast to avoid watering when a wet spell is on the way.

In a bit of garden magic, you can actually train your plants to 'drink' more slowly by reducing the amount of water you give them. Watering less frequently but more intensively will not only lower your water use, but also encourage the plants to establish a deep root system.

The tools you use for the job can also make a massive difference. Watering cans are a good option, as refilling them helps you keep track of how much moisture you're adding. A hose can use up to 1,000 litres of water an hour - the average person's use for a week - so grab a trigger nozzle to better control the flow.

Cherishing our chalk streams

Using less water in your garden is a great way to care for our local chalk streams, but it's not the only one! For many of us, our indoor lives are a bigger culprit - learn how you can save water in your home, and why it matters for wildlife, with the Watercress and Winterbournes scheme.

Learn more about water saving