With the introduction of hosepipe bans in the driest parts of England, gardeners have been looking to other ways to keep their gardens lush and well-watered.
The hosepipe ban has come about as a result of two dry winters, which has led to a shortfall in the amount of water stored by reservoirs, aquifers and rivers. Hosepipes are singled out due to their capacity to consume vast quantities of water, in some cases up to 1,000 litres in one hour.
Hosepipes are banned for most gardening activities, including watering plants, cleaning outdoor surfaces and filling ponds and fountains that do not contain fish or other captive aquatic animals. Fish owners can still use a hosepipe to fill their ponds.
Interest has been growing amongst gardeners into the use of private boreholes. These work by extracting rainwater which has seeped down into rock such as chalk, limestone and sandstone. These types of stone act as a sponge to store water until it is extracted.
Landowners are legally allowed to extract 4400 gallons of water every 24 hours via domestic boreholes and no licence is required. Most systems will cost around £10000 to install but where the water is easily accessible could be considerably less. While some criticisms point to boreholes extracting water that would otherwise be used for public supplies, enthusiasts argue that the water doesn’t need to be pump through pipelines or treated, making it an environmentally friendly solution.
If installing a borehole is a step too far, there are many simpler ways to make the most of your water supplies. Catching rainwater in diverters and a water butt is a popular method. Rain water is actually better for filling up your pond as it is lower in nitrates than tap water. The high quantities of nitrates found in tap water can encourage excessive algae growth at the expense of other plants and wildlife.
Local authorities often offer discounts on water butts, though some gardeners may require larger models. Install the water butt on bricks or another raised surface so you can fit a watering can underneath. You can also use a hosepipe direct from water butts or combine it with a pressure washer if more pressure is required, for example, for cleaning outdoor areas.
Other watering systems include drip irrigation, where water trickles gradually into the soil via tiny holes inserted along hosepipes laid on the ground or buried under mulch. Previously disallowed during hosepipe bans, these efficient systems are now permitted as they use less water than other watering methods while delivering water to where it is most needed.
Adding organic material such as compost or bark to soil helps water retention while also discouraging weeds. And finally it is worth considering which plants are grown. Mediterranean plants such as lavender, olives and Cistus rock roses are excellent options for dry gardens. For lawns, use drought resistant grasses or grow your lawn longer than usual.
Photo by Rob Gallop