Efficiently water your plants during warm weather
Water is an essential element of any successful and healthy garden, though it isn't an infinite resource. And as such, we all try and do our best to conserve water and only use what we need. This can be tricky when caring for your outdoor plants in hot weather, especially when temporary use bans (aka hosepipe bans) are introduced.
That's where we can help. We’ll talk you through our top ways to use water as efficiently as possible in your garden. From recycling leftover water from your domestic chores to collecting and harvesting rainwater, we'll show you how to make sure none is wasted.
For more advice on caring for your garden during a hot spell, check out our helpful how to article.
Tools & materials required
Ideas to save water in the garden
Install a water butt
During hot spells – in particular if a temporary use ban is in place – it’s especially important to make use of water from sources other than the tap. By fitting a water butt, you can access, store and recycle rainwater. And not only does this water cost nothing, it has a neutral Ph making it a healthier choice for plants.
Connect your water butt to a guttering downpipe or even garden structures, such as a shed or greenhouse and attach a pump to use rainwater at mains pressure. With the right pump, your pressure washer can even be used from your water butt - though not during a hosepipe ban.
Water plants effectively
The aim of watering is to raise the moisture content of the soil around a plant’s roots – not wet the foliage or the surrounding ground. By watering correctly, the plant gets the water it needs, leaving none for nearby weeds.
When to water plants
- Water when plants show signs of needing a drink - most plants don't need to be watered every day
- Water in the early morning or late evening - it will require less water due to less evaporation and subsequent scorching
How to water plants
- Water at the base of the stem, beneath the foliage. Don't water the top of your plants as wet flowers spoil more quickly.
- Opt for fine droplets, rather than heavy watering which can damage the soil structure
- Fill the rim of potted plants with water and let it drain through. If plants are very dry, water them, then return a few minutes later to give them another soaking if needed.
- Plants in greenhouses and growhouses may need watering more than garden plants as the higher temperatures result in greater evaporation so water is lost more quickly.
It’s most important to water plants that are:
- in containers
- newly planted (this is also true for lawns in their first season)
- edible - vegetables will benefit from extra watering in the two weeks prior to harvest, especially leafy crops like lettuces
Little watering is needed for:
- perennial plants
- established lawns - don’t worry if your lawn goes brown during a dry spell, it will go green again once it starts raining
Introduce a garden irrigation system
A garden irrigation system, such as a water dripper system, can be implemented at any time of the year and can be a permanent feature if you want it to be. Water dripper systems (also known as hose systems) are effectively garden hoses with holes in that are connected to an outside tap or water butt to deliver water directly to the plants. They can be buried underneath or laid on top of the soil to keep things discreet. Make things even simpler by adding an automatic timer for your system - this will work with your outside tap to deliver water only when you want it.
For a more homemade alternative, consider a water reservoir. For more on installing a water dripper system or a water reservoir, head to our helpful guide to garden irrigation systems.
Re-use unwanted household water
Every home produces large quantities of waste water and much of it is safe to be used in the garden - even on plants. Known as grey water, this domestic waste water could have been used for cooking, rinsing the dishes or even bathing and can be used following the below advice.
Grey water should:
- be used as soon as it is cool – don’t store it
- not be used if it contains bleach, disinfectants or strong cleaning products
- not be used if it contains lots of detergents, soaps or cooking residues
- not be used if it's from your dishwasher or washing machine
Top tip: Re-use unwanted cool water
When running the hot water tap, collect the unwanted cool water as it reaches temperature and use it for watering.
Don't use grey water:
- on house plants
- on edible plants
- on container-grown plants
- on newly propagated plants
- on greenhouse or conservatory-grown plants
- to fill ponds
- in a sprinkler or watering system
- on foliage, apply to the soil instead
- as your one source of water for plants. Alternate it with water from the tap.
Top tip: Re-use vegetable washing water
When washing vegetables, use a washing up bowl to collect the water. When done, put the peelings into the compost or your food waste caddy, and empty the water onto your garden plants.
Add mulch to beds and borders
Mulching will not only help to save water in the garden, but will also keep it garden well-watered - great for when heading off on your holidays or if you have a particularly dry location. Mulching is the covering of the soil's surface in beds or borders with another material.
Choose between organic (biodegradable) or inorganic (non-biodegradable) mulches. Organic varieties include garden compost, wood chippings or bark and well-rotted manure and eventually rot down to improve the condition of the soil. Inorganic types include gravel or decorative stones and are longer-lasting as they don't decompose.
All mulches work to slow water evaporating and keep it where it’s needed in order retain moisture levels. And, depending on the material you choose, mulching can also help put nutrients back into the soil and keep the number of weeds down too.
Top tip: Only add mulch to damp soil
The most important thing to remember when applying any mulch is that the soil needs to be damp to begin with. Mulching an already dried out bed merely makes it more difficult for rain to penetrate, so be sure to give planted areas a good water first.
Remember the paddling pool
Paddling pools are a great way of cooling down when temperatures soar, but can be a massive drain on water usage. Be smart with yours by keeping it in the shade to minimise evaporation. This will help the water last for longer. And when you do decide to empty your paddling pool, don't simply tip it up, but re-use the water to hydrate any thirsty plants.