AFTER one of the driest springs on record, it’s time to get water wise. We’ve had glorious sunshine and heavy showers this month, but beds, borders and pots are drying up .
The Royal Horticultural Society has come up with 10 tips to help save water this summer.
1. Use waste water from washing-up or rinsing vegetables for watering, as normal amounts of household soaps and detergents will not harm soil or plants.
2. Let your lawns go brown. They will recover when the rains return. Newly sown and turfed lawns will require a lot of watering to be successful, so leave sowing or turfing until the autumn. Lawn seed companies are breeding deeper rooted grasses that hopefully will stay green for longer. These will be worth considering, particularly in drier regions.
3. Vegetables need moist soils to give their best. Water them at key growth stages. The response to water is especially marked when sweetcorn, peas and beans begin to flower, when the edible part of lettuces begins to form and when potatoes show flower buds, which initiate plenty of tubers.
4. Mature trees, shrubs and climbers, hedges, fruit trees and bushes will not need watering during a drought. However, newly planted trees, shrubs and climbers are extremely vulnerable and it is difficult to ensure the water applied at the surface works its way down to the roots.
5. Fruit may remain small if not watered, but it should be sweet and well coloured. Cane fruit and strawberries will benefit by keeping the soil moist every two weeks. In future adding mulches in winter will help improve the soil and retain more moisture.
6. In sunny summers install greenhouse and conservatory shading and ventilation to limit overheating and invest in a min-max thermometer.
7. By grouping pots, ideally in clusters of similar size, watering is made easier and moisture loss reduced. Mass pots for mutual shading and use the largest pots possible. As days lengthen and the sun rises, more plants, especially large-leaved ones, can be gathered in shadier areas. A saucer beneath the pot to retain run-off helps.
8. Don’t dig new ground in summer if you can avoid it, as digging soil allows any remaining moisture to escape. Hoe off weeds as shallowly as you can, loosen soil with a fork and ’puddle’ plants into the soil, adding a little liquid fertiliser.
9. Establishing new plants in borders during dry times can be difficult. Instead, pot them into slightly bigger pots and keep well watered and fed in light shade until the autumn planting season arrives.
10. Early summer perennials, irises for example, will survive on moisture left in the soil from winter. Give late summer perennials such as phlox one good watering in the summer as plants begin to flower, which should be enough.