Water shortages and Hosepipe Bans in the Garden

Dealing with a Hosepipe Ban

Hosepipe bans are usually enforced when the weather is at its hottest and there has been little or no rainfall for a prolonged period. Ironically, this usually comes at a time when the garden is already very dry and plants need water the most. The first sign of trouble is when the young leaves of susceptible plants start to look dull and lifeless. Following this wilting will occur and eventually the leaves will start to shrivel. In bad cases leaves will begin to fall and the plant will finally collapse and die. Plants can be seriously damaged before this stage occurs, but slight wilting and browning is generally reversible if water is applied copiously. Well established woody shrubs and evergreens should be more tolerant in dry conditions, however, shrubs with very large leaves or shallow roots, such as Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Hydrangeas, can be seriously effected. Where wilting and leaf loss occurs, this can leave some stems on shrubs bare until the rains return. Lawns can look bad during drought and brown patches will start to appear, although grass can be very tolerant under drought conditions and usually recovers quickly once rain arrives. For more information see our article on Caring for Lawns During a Drought.

If you're in an area prone to droughts or are under notice of hosepipe ban then there are few steps you can take to help prevent plants from dying. Most importantly, don't wait until the drought arrives but do something now before while the soil is still moist.

  • Install water butts to collect what rainfall there is.
  • Dig organic matter into the ground to help keep moisture in the soil.
  • Cover the soil around plants with a thick layer of organic matter (mulch) to prevent water loss through evaporation. Ensure the soil is thoroughly moist before you apply the mulch, otherwise it can actually keep the ground drier.
  • Introduce windbreaks and provide light shade to help reduce water loss on exposed sites.
  • Don't wait until the plants are sowing signs of stress before you take action, the time to water is when the foliage looks dull and the soil is dry at a depth of about 4 inches (10 cm).
  • Using a watering can, direct water at only those plants that are most susceptible to dry conditions. If your garden is on a slope, build-up a shallow basin of soil around the plants to enable the water (and rain when it arrives) to seep into the soil and not just run off the surface.
  • When watering it is better to provide a good soaking rather than watering little and often, as this allows the water to seep deep into the soil and encourages plants to grow deeper roots.
  • If you plan on buying new plants wait until the autumn once the dry season has finished. That way you can plant them in the knowledge that they will have plenty of moisture to allow them to get established before the next dry season.
  • If you are planting-up an exposed sunny area, choose drought tolerant plants that enjoy hot dry conditions and good drainage.

For information on what you can do in a Hosepipe Ban and whether there is a ban in your area visit Drought-Order.com.

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