Saturday 12 May 2007

Waterwise Gardening

Hosepipe bans over recent years in the south of England and on the Isle of Wight have bought to the forefront the need to conserve water and practise ‘waterwise’ gardening techniques.With unreliable or changing weather patterns it is timely to consider how to manage our gardens in a time of water shortage.

In truth this can be an opportunity to try many new planting combinations and horticultural techniques which are regularly practised in parts of the world which have to deal with water shortages as a way of life.

In 1999 I built a large gravel garden at Afton Park which was designed with just such principles in mind. The choice of mainly mediterranean, perennial plants and drought resistant grasses, intermingled with tough species bulbs has, over the years, proved itself to be a winning formula. The dense gravel mulch serves to both conserve moisture and also to suppress weed growth. We have been delighted in recent dry, hot summers to see just how long-lived these displays have been. This garden never required watering, even through the driest spells. With a little consideration and effort at the outset I believe that most gardens can look good despite a hosepipe ban. My top tips would be:

  • Good ground preparation is essential and the addition of extra humous will help to hold moisture in the soil.
  • Choose from plants that are better suited to dry soils and low rainfall. Many are grey or fine leaved and of Mediterranean origin.
  • Water early in the day or in the cool of the evening when evaporation is lessened.
  • Try to group container plants together to ease the watering situation.
  • Be particularly considerate of new plantings of trees and hedges which need the opportunity to establish.
  • Mulch the surface of all soil and even container plants as this helps to reduce evaporation and conserve moisture.

As a garden designer I am regularly asked to design gardens for second home owners. These gardens by necessity have to survive periods of neglect while the owners are away. Planning a waterwise garden in these circumstances is essential to the success of the design. For more information visit Chris' garden design website