How to Protect Your Garden from a Drought
23.04.2019 in News
It’s fair to say: we Brits love the summer. As soon as there’s the smallest glimpse of sun, we flock to our gardens, nearby parks and beaches in full force. But a prolonged summer heatwave can have some adverse effect, especially in our gardens.
A drought, especially when there’s a hosepipe ban, can put our gardens at risk. Plants can suffer and are occasionally lost and lawns could turn brown and patchy. But if you’re prepared for the summer months, you can help protect your garden in those rain-free periods.
In this post, we’ve created a list of ways you can help to defend your garden during a drought.
Harvesting rainwater is one of the best ways you can get ready for an impending drought. It’s also beneficial for all gardeners, helping you to make the most out of water that would otherwise be wasted. You’ll also save money, cutting down on your water bill.
To harvest rainwater, a water butt is the most simple method. A water butt will collect water that goes into the gutter when it’s raining. The water is syphoned off before it goes down the drain and stored in a secure plastic container. This water can then be used to water your plants as well as other things like flushing a toilet. We’ll discuss watering techniques later in this post.
For more details on what else can be done with harvested rainwater, please visit our previous blog post.
In addition to harvesting rainwater, you could also use grey water around your garden. Grey water is clean water that comes from sinks, baths, showers, washing machines, dishwashers etc. If you’re able to collect any grey water, use this to water your plants. Just be sure that the water doesn’t have anything harmful to plants in it such as bleach and avoid excessive use as well as edible plants. Once you collect grey water, if it’s not treated, it must be used with 24 hours to stop bacteria developing.
Along with water butts and grey water, you could add an irrigation system to maximise the water in your garden. An Irrigation system drastically cuts down on water waste by soaking the roots directly. They can also use water collected from the two methods we discussed, along with the mains supply, if required. An irrigation system will save you the effort of hand watering, a great benefit if you’re short on time or not a spritely as you once were.
Choose Drought Tolerant Plants
If you live in an area that’s prone to droughts, you should choose drought-proof plants for your garden. All plants need water, but some plants can still thrive on a limited amount, making them better-suited to hotter climates.
As you’ll likely know, succulents and cacti need very little liquid to grow. They store water, meaning they can survive for long periods without additional watering. They’re also hard-wearing and generally pretty low maintenance.
Another great option is a tropical palm. These come in a huge number of varieties so check each type individually before you purchase them to make sure they can flourish in your climate.
A Bougainvillea is a climber and perfect for hotter climates. This bight and colourful plants can be seen in small pots through to huge trees. Although they do love to be watered, they’re a hardy plant that can thrive without it for long periods.
Lavender is another plant known for its hardiness. This colourful perennial needs minimal water to prosper. It can also add an amazing aroma to your garden.
There are plenty of other drought-friendly plants. Just do your research before buying a species you’re unsure of.
Soil and Mulch
Your garden soil can be a key factor in protecting your yard in a drought. Thankfully, the best soil for a drought is also the best all-around soil for plants to grow in. That means, getting it right when setting up your garden is key.
There are three main components in soil: sand, clay and silt. Too much silt and sand and the water will flow too quickly through the soil. Too much clay and the ground will be too hard to work. Ideally, you want a combination of the three, especially clay and sand. This combination is known as loam and ensures the best soil for your plants. Loam is packed full of minerals and helps maintain the optimum moisture levels. You can create the mix by balancing out your soil or adding a new layer of premium soil to your garden.
Once your soil is in its best condition, add a thick layer of mulch on top. This will help to protect the soil from direct sunlight and keep moisture in the soil and its temperature cool. Mulch can also prevent weeds from seeding, blocking the surface of the soil. Mulch comes in different shapes and sizes so if you’re buying it ready-made, check to see which is the best for your garden.
A combination of the best soil and appropriate mulch should give your plants a much better chance of surviving a heatwave.
Weed Your Garden
Not only are weeds unsightly in your garden, but they can also be a waste of water. Weeds will steal water away from the plants, wasting the valuable moisture that could be used. Take the time to remove the weeds to prevent this from happening.
When weeding, keep in mind that the roots run deep. Don’t just tackle the part of the weed you can see, try to remove the weed entirely. This will help prevent it from returning.
Get the Watering Right
When watering your plants during a drought, avoid using a hose. Hoses are wasteful as they’re difficult to control and may lead to the water not reaching the plants’ routes. Instead of a hose, use watering cans to water the base of the plant heavily and deeply. Cover the whole area of the route rather than focussing on one spot a couple of times a week.
Never water during the heat of the day when the weather’s at its warmest. This can cause the water to evaporate, wasting some of what you put down. Stick to early mornings or evenings to ensure the plants receive as much as the water as possible.
You should also prioritise what you water. This can be done by monitoring the plants and focussing on species that you know need more water to survive. Look out for warning signs that a plant is dehydrated like wilting leaves.
Let the Lawn Grow
If you have a lawn in your garden, during a drought, let the grass grow longer to help protect it. A shorter lawn is more likely to wilt and go brown if it doesn’t have access to water. It will also be wide-open to the sun, without any protection for the grass or the soil.
If you do want to keep your lawn neat and tidy, increase the height of the blades. This will enable you to mow without cutting your grass too short.
Unlike the majority of your plants, grass can recover after a long period without water with some cultivation. Don’t worry about the grass too much, just wait for the drought to end and the rain should help bring it back to good health. If needed, simply top it up with seed and feed to bring it back to life quickly.