Prioritise your watering and don't forget garden wildlife, says Ruth

Can you remember the last time your garden received rain of any significance? I certainly can’t – the grass is starting to brown (the moss went crispy some weeks ago…) and our chalky soil is turning to dust.

The water level in the pond is falling away a little more each day and the water butts are starting to produce a trickle rather than a flood when their taps are turned.

Despite winter’s saturation, I don’t think I can recall the garden being this dry so early in the summer and it is time to start prioritising what gets water and what is left to fend for itself a little longer.

Harvest grey water collected from washing up

It has now become a routine in Hayes Towers to collect the washing up water and run-off while the hot tap is warming up. We haven’t quite reached the point of syphoning off bath water but I suspect it’s only a matter of time (same with showering with a bowl to catch the excess drips).

This ‘grey’ water is fine to use as long as it doesn’t contain any bleach and isn’t too contaminated with food debris and grease. You can also use the cooled water used for boiling eggs and cooking veggies, rice and pasta.

Collecting fresh water for watering or the birdbath while the hot water warms up

Plants that need the most irrigation are anything in a basket or container, vegetables and soft fruits (especially anything in a shallow growbag that doesn’t hold much water) and new plantings that are still getting established. Mature perennials, trees and shrubs will be fine.

If you do think the garden needs a good drink, water in the early morning or evening. Give the roots a good soaking – a thorough watering once a week is better than a light sprinkling every few days.

Plants growing in containers need watering more than those in the ground with roots able to stretch out and quest for moisture.

A couple of drops of washing-up liquid added to water helps rehydrate dried out compost

Compost in containers, growbags and baskets is notoriously hard to rehydrate if it has been left to completely dry out. During prolonged dry spells they will need watering every day, maybe even twice a day during the heat of the summer.

Adding water-retaining granules at planting is one way of ensuring a steady release of moisture (and, in theory, reducing the amount of watering needed) but if the compost has become completely desiccated you can make it easier to re-wet by adding a couple of drops of washing-up liquid to the watering can.

Make sure birds have plenty of clean water to go with their food

Last but by no means least, don’t forget garden birds and animals during dry times. Make sure birdbaths are kept clean and full of fresh tap water (not grey water as the grease will strip feathers of their essential waterproofing oils) and put a saucer of water on the bird table too.

You can help supplement a hedgehog’s diet with suitable food but in dry spells fresh water is most important

Hedgehogs will also appreciate bowls of fresh water dotted around the garden. During these hot, dry times, water is more necessary than food as they should be able to find enough by themselves.


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