Heatwave help for your gardens

Round & About

hosepipe ban

With temperatures set to soar again this week, a paucity of rain and impending hose pipe bans, how do you keep your garden going? R&A gardening expert Cathie Welch has some advice

As I write this we are being warned that temperatures are going to climb to over 40 degrees! Many people are asking how we deal with this in our gardens. Once it hits there is very little we can do about extremes of hot and cold that descend on us unexpectedly.

The lawn

Lawns naturally have a dormant season in the summer and there is no need to waste precious water trying to keep it green. Once the rains arrive in the autumn it will green up again but will need some tlc so get scarifying, aerating and topdressing. I found my grasses went brown very quickly but the lawn ‘weeds’ thrived.

The flower beds

You may have lost a few of your plants in the recent hot spells even though you tried your hardest to water them. Accept there was nothing you could do and move on. Make plans to improve the soil structure by adding organic matter and don’t forget to mulch as you weed. Consider installing drip irrigation for the future.


Plants in pots do not tolerate drying out but this can be alleviated by using a good quality compost such as wool which holds onto the water for longer. Once they have dried out it’s very difficult to get them wet again so consider plunging and soaking the root ball or top dressing with wool compost before watering thoroughly.

Lawns naturally have a dormant season in the summer and there is no need to waste precious water trying to keep it green

New plants

Do not even consider planting in the summer months unless you have an irrigation system or you are sure the water is reaching all the way down to the roots. If you must plant, place an upside down water bottle or piece of pipe next the plant to fill up each day. I’ve seen bags next to newly planted trees which act as a reservoir. Trees are notorious for dying in the drought and many suffer from ‘establishment failure’. Whether planting in the spring or autumn it is that first summer that is critical. When you have watered the plant check how wet it is by scraping the surface of the soil. You would be amazed how little the water penetrates despite spending hours of your time watering!

Old plants

Unfortunately I remember only too well the summer of 1976 after which many established trees suffered from dieback as the water table dropped below the depth of their roots in the Summer.


Moving forward

• Improve your soil by adding organic matter.
• Prevent evaporation by mulching.
• Irrigate if you can and at the very least harvest as much rainwater as you can by placing water butts and containers under every pipe and gutter.
• Learn from the plants that thrived in the heat and the ones that died.
• Think very carefully when planting new plants. If you are choosing Mediterranean plants, plant in the spring and not the autumn as they could rot over winter.
• Get to know your soil type and research the plants that would do well in your garden.

Find out more

More advice on this and other garden topics at www.cathiesgardeningschool.co.uk

Why waste water?

Round & About

hosepipe ban

Berkshire-based Plastic Free Home’s Dave Lamont looks at ways we can be more water-friendly in the wake of news of impending shortages

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

Make no mistake, the water shortages faced in the UK this summer should not be dismissed as “just another hosepipe ban.” You only have to look around Europe to read headlines such as ‘Water shortage cripples nuclear reactors in France’, ‘Dutch government declares water shortage due to drought’ and ‘Water scarcity: EU countries forced to restrict drinking water access’ to know that something isn’t right.

The problem isn’t a new one though. For some time the Environment Agency has cautioned that the UK faces a significant water shortage by 2050, by which point the country’s population is expected to have risen from 67 million to 75 million people.

Back in 2019, the Agency’s Chief Executive, Sir James David Bevan, warned that the country faces the “jaws of death – the point at which we will not have enough water to supply our needs”.

“We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea,” he said.

‘But the Earth is 70 per cent water,’ we hear you cry. Yes, but only three per cent of the world’s water is fresh water, and around 65 per cent of that is stored in frozen glaciers.

The Environment Agency has suggested that in the UK the average person’s daily water usage could be reduced from 140 litres of water to 100 litres through more efficient use in homes and gardens.

Progress has been made by water companies but much more needs to be done to tackle wastage. Across England and Wales, nearly 3 billion litres (660 million gallons) of water is lost to leaks every single day – enough to fill almost 1,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

In our opinion, when it comes to water we also need to look at how homes are built and function. Just as big changes are planned when it comes to how we heat and power our homes. It cannot be right that in the 21St century we flush our toilets with clean drinking water that in some parts of our planet people would walk miles to drink. Up to a third of the water we use in our homes comes from flushing.

The Environment Agency has suggested that in the UK the average person’s daily water usage could be reduced from 140 litres of water to 100 litres through more efficient use in homes and gardens.

So, how can we all save water? Here are our ten tips…

💧 Swap baths for short showers. An average bath will use around twice as much water as a five minute shower.

💧 Use water butts in the garden, water at night or early in the morning and a good mulch to retain moisture. Even the smallest water butts will fill 20 watering cans and rainwater is better for your plants.

💧 Use watering cans, not a garden hose, and avoid watering lawns. Lawns will generally recover so don’t waste water on them. A garden hose or sprinkler system will use around 15 litres per minute meaning in just 20 minutes you could have filled your bath four times.

💧 Turn the taps off when brushing your teeth, shaving, washing up etc. A running tap wastes over 6 litres per minute.

💧 Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when full and use an eco-setting. It can actually be more efficient than washing them by hand.

💧 If you have a dual (two button) flush, check which button uses the least water and stick with it. This can use half the amount of water every time you flush the toilet.

💧 Install efficient or water saving taps, shower heads etc. Your water supplier will often provide discounted options.

💧 Save cooled water from cooking to water plants. Particularly if you’ve been boiling the likes of pasta and potatoes – plants love starchy water.

💧 Avoid excessive car washing. Wash your car less often and use a bucket and a sponge instead of a hose or jet wash.

💧 Deal with or report any leaks. Around a third of our water is lost to leaks, ranging from dripping taps to burst water mains.

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