Return To Index

Environmental Issues
Going Green

By Alan J Hartley

Reducing The Need
To Water In The Garden.




Here in the U.K. many people panic when they see a few days of sunshine without rain, because we are not really used to it! They get out their hosepipes and lawn sprinklers and waste hundreds of gallons needlessly. Most lawns will quickly recover from a very brown, dead looking state, only a day or two after a summer downpour. If the lawn really is in a dry part of the garden it could be re-sown/over-sown with a grass seed that is particularly resilient and suitable for dry areas. As for watering the garden with a hosepipe, there are many ways in which the need for this can be prevented or at least reduced. One simple way is to carefully select plants that are suitable for the part of the garden where they are to be grown, not so much for aesthetics, but for soil conditions. (See Plants For Dry Areas)

There are also many ways of making the soil retain more of the moisture that it does get. This is particularly important in things like Hanging Baskets and Tubs that are prone to drying out very quickly. In some ways it may not seem very green to add chemicals to the compost when planting them, but the addition of water retaining crystals, or gel, will work wonders. The additives can be bought, or saved, from packets of mail order plants/seedlings/cuttings that are usually packed in them for posting. Another way that watering can be reduced in Hanging baskets is to line the basket with a layer of plastic film to stop the water from pouring out when watering. Some small hanging pots and baskets can be bought with built in saucers secured to their bases for better watering.

Planting is a good time to take steps to reduce the need for watering later on in the season. This is particularly important with things like Runner Beans. It is traditional to add a thick layer of newspapers and vacuum cleaner dust to the bottom of the bean trenches before planting. Many other plants will appreciate well rotted compost mixed in with the planting soil to help retain moisture. In the bad old days there was a big demand for peat for this purpose, but this trade has been all but stopped now. For ericaceous plants such as Blueberries, that are the fruit plant of the moment, use bark chips to make the soil more acidic.

Mulching round plants with your own well rotted compost, or even well rotted horse manure, will not only save watering, but will improve the fertility of the soil. Do make sure that it is not fresh horse manure though because that may well kill your plants! Manure is especially good round things like rhubarb that like a very rich soil. Forrest bark chips make another good mulch, but again they are better if they are composted first. It is even greener if you make your own mulch with a garden shredder that can be used to shred all your annual shrub prunings. Some people mulch with fresh grass cuttings which will keep down the weeds, but they are not always advisable with some plants as they can poison the soil. Surprisingly, even gravel can be used as a mulch to retain water, and it is especially suitable on alpines beds, or alpine troughs.

Plants against a house wall will dry out very quickly as not only do they get reflected heat from the wall, but the wall itself will suck the moisture out of the soil. With plants like Clematis, that are frequently planted against a wall, it is best to shade their roots with large pieces of old broken clay pots to keep them cool.

Some plants need really wet conditions and with these the only sensible answer is to dig out the planting area to quite a good depth and line the hole with a plastic sheet or old pond liner before refilling with soil.



Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.


Books By
Alan J Hartley