Now is a great time to think about water storage.
Stored water can be used around the garden during dry periods and also to water plants, such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Blueberries, Camellias and houseplants that don’t like the high concentration of lime that is present in tap water.
There are two approaches to harvesting water: direct and indirect.
The direct method is collecting rain water as “run-off”. Most people have a water butt and extending rain storage capacity is a good idea.
This can be done in a number of ways:
• By attaching water storage tanks to all downpipes in your guttering system, whether they be a house, shed, out-building or greenhouse.
• By linking water butts together via an overflow pipe so when one tank becomes full it overflows into another. At our Ferndown store, we receive around a meter of rain a year so it would make sense to store as much of that as possible.
• By installing larger capacity, underground water harvesting tanks. Collected water can be used to run your washing machine or for flushing toilets. There are many viable commercial systems available that allow you to switch between mains water and harvested water, lowering your overall water bill.
The indirect methods of water harvesting involve slowing the movement of water through your property. When it rains in the UK, especially in summer, we tend to get heavy down-pours. The intensity and amount of rain in a short space of time means that most of the water ends up in the sewer system as run-off – the ground just doesn’t have time to soak it in.
By designing your garden to slow the path of water through your garden, you can recharge the ground water over time, meaning that you will not be effected so much by dry spells.
The methods of indirect harvesting include:
• Capturing and redirecting water run-off from hard surfaces, such as a driveway or a road, into channels that can supply your growing areas rather than going into a drain.
• Applying organic mulches to your plants so that they soak up excess water and help the soil underneath from drying out too quickly.
• Creating wicking-bed containers. This system is heavily relied upon in arid climates where water is a precious resource. This is a large container with a water reservoir at its base with the plants growing above. Google or Youtube “wicking beds” for more information.
• Gardening on contour. Water runs directly downhill so gardening on contour around a slope helps slow the flow of water downhill.
• Install landscape features such as a swale or pond. A swale is a ditch and bank of loose earth in which trees and other plants are grown. As it rains, the bank absorbs the moisture collected in the ditch, keeping it hydrated for longer, keeping your plants alive. Swales also run on contour and slow water flowing downhill. They are excellent features for broad-acre gardens and can be used to link ponds together.
The biggest obstacle to preserving water in your garden is having areas of exposed soil. This is why mulching or planting up all available spaces is important as a water saving strategy. Exposed soil rarely occurs in the natural world and where it does, the sun usually bakes it dry, eventually creating a hard pan. This can lead to all sorts of problems, especially in areas prone to flash flooding.
Water is a necessity for all life and we are lucky to live in a part of the world where it is usually in abundance. As gardeners, we can improve our own plot with a bit of careful consideration in how we manage this essential resource to give us a more secure future.