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How to save water in your garden


Hosepipe bans and water restrictions are always a challenge for gardeners. But if you get into the habit of saving water in your garden, you'll be able to take the restrictions in your stride. Storing rainwater will mean you can keep your plants alive in times of drought, and - if you have a water meter - it will save you money too.

How to do it


Saving rainwater is the best way to minimise water use in the garden. Fix a water butt to every rainwater downpipe on your house, shed, greenhouse, conservatory or garage. Slimline models are available for smaller gardens.


Use water-retaining crystals or gel to retain water in containers so you don't have to water them so often. Organic, seaweed-based options are available. Line terracotta pots with polythene to reduce evaporation from the sides of the pot.


Mulch soil around plants with straw or bark to prevent evaporation of water from the soil's surface. This will also ward off slugs and prevent weeds from growing, which compete with your plants for water and nutrients.


Avoid using sprinklers in the garden. They are not very efficient and can use up to 1000 litres of water an hour. Use seep hoses instead, which can be hidden beneath the soil and deliver water droplets directly to plants' roots.


Use grey water from your baths, showers and washing up bowls rather than fresh water from the tap. Grey water contains minimal amounts of soap and detergent, though an eco-friendly washing detergent should be used if you have frogs or other pondlife.


Encourage your plants to develop deep root systems by watering them less frequently. Plants watered regularly will have shallow roots, because they do not need to delve deep into the soil in search for water. A good soak once every 10 days is sufficient for most plants.

Our tip

Choose young plants over mature ones, as they require less water.

Leave your lawn to grow to a length of 2.5cm in summer, to help it stay green during dry periods.

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to save water in your garden
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blossomville 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I have read with interest about saving water to water my plants. I have quite a large garden and live in a pretty dry part of the country. I have looked into getting water butts but haven't done so as yet.

My question is: What can I do as I have extremely low levels of rainfall. We had virtually no rain in May and June and the odd shower that didn't come to much this week?

Many thanks


Biddy 24/11/2011 at 15:29

If you live in an area of very low rainfall as I do you really have to change plants to suit if you want your garden to shine, maybe having just a few special favourite water hungry plants. The other option is to go for larger scale water collection. No messing about with little weenie water butts alone, go for recycled tanks like IBC's and juice transportation tanks off ebay and catch all your water when it does rain. We have 2000 litre capacity and are planning more. Think infrastucture!

ChristyRose 13/03/2012 at 17:46

Does the detergent in the washing up liquid not harm the plants at all?