Four ways to minimise water usage in the garden – water plants from ‘below’ to avoid waste

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Resilient gardening expert, Kim Stoddart, told Express.co.uk: “Our approach to how we should garden has become very needy and time consuming over the years, with a reliance on buying so much in and this idea that we aren’t good gardeners unless we are constantly busy tending our outside spaces. Watering is no exception as there is this mindset that unless you are constantly back and forth with the watering can, or hosepipe that you aren’t looking after your plants properly and they will die. 

“Especially with the multifarious heat waves we have experienced recently. Now with the many hosepipe bans of course we aren’t able to do this. Let me explain how to massively reduce the amount of watering you need to do overall.”

1. Water well

Kim, who is the editor of The Organic Way magazine for Garden Organic and co-author of The Climate Change Garden book, recommended watering either late in the evening or earlier in the day.

This is when the weather is cooler and helps gardeners make the best use of the water, and it will also help to avoid evaporation.

The expert added: “Watering the ground itself and not the foliage is also important as this helps the liquid refreshment to permeate deeper into the ground where you need it most. 

“Also watering for longer enables the water to travel deeper into the soil where it can stay for longer. 

2. Think before you water

As well as watering well, Britons should think before they water the garden as not all plants have the same watering requirements.

Kim has been living with a reduced water supply every summer since 2018 as the well on her smallholding keeps running very dry.

This means she is hardly able to water plants at all and has to be mindful of her water usage.

The expert continued: “Not all plants have the same watering requirements. Generally, perennials (as longer lasting plants) have deeper root systems and are better able to find their own sources of food and water underground. 

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“Also, if you water plants too much they become needy so watering less often and doing so for longer, helps all plants, especially perennials to adapt better and seek out their own sources without as much help. 

“Annuals however, especially water hungry fruits will require more help so this is when a mulch after you have watered will massively help afford protection. 

“Grass clippings, compost, wool, cardboard, non-invasive weeds, comfrey, woodchip and leafmould can all be sprinkled around plants after a deep soaking. 

“Plants in pots are more vulnerable so mulching can massively help. Consider also watering from below so water can be absorbed this way also. 

“Try and protect the soil as much as you can and consider using bigger pots in future as the more soil there is within, the better able you are to reduce watering overall.”

3. Use ground cover and don’t dig your soil

Kim recommended allowing plant leaves to spread and provide protection on the ground.

According to the expert, soil that is directly exposed to the glare of the sun will dry out a lot quicker than soil that has some form of leafy cover.

She added: “No dig helps to build resilience below ground and provides structure to the soil which enables it to absorb and hold water for longer. 

“Try and leave your soil alone as much as possible, even clipping plants off at the stem where possible if you are harvesting so the roots stay in as this helps soil better cope.”

3. Use ground cover and don’t dig your soil

Kim recommended allowing plant leaves to spread and provide protection on the ground.

According to the expert, soil that is directly exposed to the glare of the sun will dry out a lot quicker than soil that has some form of leafy cover.

She added: “No dig helps to build resilience below ground and provides structure to the soil which enables it to absorb and hold water for longer. 

“Try and leave your soil alone as much as possible, even clipping plants off at the stem where possible if you are harvesting so the roots stay in as this helps soil better cope.”

4. Make the best use of the water you have

Over the summer, searches for water butts have risen, meaning many are looking to collect rainwater for use around the garden.

However, Kim said gardeners don’t have to purchase dedicated butts and could instead use old bins, big pots or even wheelbarrows.

The expert said: “Standing butts or bins by a gutter will enable you to maximise the amount of water you can collect. 

“Otherwise there are lots of opportunities for grey water collection; from showers, baths and washing up bowls. As long as the products you are using are natural and chemical free these are generally fine to use.”

Kim has been writing about climate change and resilience since 2013 and helps people grow delicious fruit and vegetables naturally, with less time and money overall. She runs lots of courses including online to help people grow food at home all year round, including inside on the windowsill over winter. 

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