How to save money by cutting water use in the garden
Whoa! Step away from the sprinkler system… Us Brits need to talk about saving water in the garden! But don’t worry – using less water doesn’t mean paving over the borders or giving everything over to gravel and cacti. With just a few easy tweaks to the garden routine we can save litres of water every week without parching our plants. Metered or unmetered – we all benefit from saving water
If you’re on a water meter, which over 48% of us are, then finding ways to save water around the garden is money in your pocket. But did you know that saving water will actually help to keep all of our bills down in the future, whether you’re on a meter or not?
During peak demand on hot summer evenings, up to 70% of the local water supply can end up on our gardens, forcing the water companies to resort to precious groundwater and streams to keep everyone’s taps running. This not only leads to damage to important wildlife habitats, the extra work involved in sourcing the water pushes up prices for all us consumers – both metered and unmetered.
>> Check if you need to water first
This is a big one! Most of us think that a daily watering helps look after our garden, when plants actually do better with a good soak once a week to encourage them to grow deep strong roots.
You can check whether in fact you need to water by digging a spade’s depth down into a bed. If the soil is damp, it’s fine; if dry, grab the watering can because it’s time to give everything a proper drenching.
>> Water beds in the morning, container plants in the early evening
Most garden plants should be watered in the morning, preferably early morning before temperatures start to rise.
One exception to this rule is container plants. Pot plant soil dries out much more quickly than that in beds, so watering container plants in the early evening gives the plant ample time to get the moisture it needs overnight.
Avoid watering after dark. Slugs and snails love it, for a start, and slow-drying leaves are more prone to fungal infections.
>> Collect rainwater
Install a water butt and take advantage of up to 24,000 litres of free water that lands on your roof every year. Houseplants love a dose of fresh rainwater and you can even use it to wash your car.
>> Mulch the soil
Mulching around the base of your plants with bark, compost or straw has a multitude of benefits: 1) it helps stop water evaporating from the soil, keeping it where it's needed, 2) it prevents weeds growing, cutting down on the need to weed regularly and stopping unwanted plants sucking up the water that should rightfully go to your thirsty favourites.
>> Choose a watering can – or get trigger happy with your hosepipe
Watering cans use the least amount of water, so for extra water-saving choose to use one in combination with a water butt. As an added bonus, it's great for toning up those biceps!
Hoses can be serious water wasters, however you can minimise the damage to your water bills by screwing on a simple trigger gun to give you extra control for precision watering.
>> Let your lawn be brown during dry spells
Grass doesn’t need as much water as we often imagine to stay healthy, so cut out the worrying (and the sprinklers) and get comfortable with some brown patches. Leaving the grass to grow slightly longer during the summer will help it survive and the lawn will soon turn green again when the rain returns.
>> Reuse 'grey' water from around the house
Plants don't mind a bit of soap! So long as you haven't added bleach, disinfectant, dishwasher salt or stronger cleaners to your water when cleaning, washing up water, handwashing water, even water from the bath or shower – once it's cooled, it's good to go onto the garden.
The cooking water for fruit and vegetables can also be saved, cooled and used in the garden. As an added bonus, this contains extra nutrients that plants love. Old fish tank water is also a brilliant fertiliser.
>> Clean hard surfacing with a broom, not a hose or pressure washer
A simple bucket of water and a stiff broom will make short work of mucky driveways and patios. For extra savings, why not reuse the 'grey' water from your morning shower?