How to water the plants – the best method for watering the garden

Gardening expert gives advice on how to water plants

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Watering your garden is the single most important thing you can do for your plants, particularly over the summer months. However, water is a valuable resource and gardeners should take care to minimise waste as much as possible – here’s how to make the most of it. 

What is the best way to water plants?

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the most effective way to water your garden is with rainwater.

The RHS advises collecting what you can, rather than relying on the mains water alone.

The RHS said: “Water resources in the UK are under pressure from climate change and population growth.

“Gardeners should therefore use mains water as sparingly as they can.”

According to the RHS, 24,000 litres (5280 gallons or 150 water butts) could be collected from the roof each year, even in dry areas.

However, most water falls in winter and so needs to be stored for use in summer.

The RHS said: “Our mains tap water in the UK is of the highest quality, but plants don’t need perfectly clean water.

“As gardeners, we can help to avoid hosepipe bans in the future by using our water resources wisely.”

A significant amount of energy and treatment are used to provide safe water to our homes so using stored rainwater or greywater in your garden also lowers your carbon emissions, the RHS said.

And there’s another benefit: rainwater is also better for your plants as it often has a lower pH.

The minerals that are sometimes found in mains water, especially in hard water areas can raise the pH of your root zone, which can affect nutrient availability.

Rainwater is especially good for ericaceous plants such as azaleas.

How to collect rainwater

Rainwater can be collected from the roofs of homes, garages, greenhouses and other garden structures as long as they have gutters and a downpipe that enters the drain at ground level.

If you don’t have room for a water butt, you can still increase the water holding capacity of your soil by adding organic matter either as a top dressing, mulch or digging it in.

Water butts with rainwater diverters are designed to collect water from the downpipe and still let the overflow enter the drain or soakaway.

You can avoid the water becoming smelly or carrying diseases if you clean water butts annually.

DIY stores are good places to purchase basic plastic water butts if you want to get started.

Always make sure to use the lid supplied to stop wildlife falling in, preventing algal growth and discourage mosquitoes.

The RHS advised: “Climatic change projections suggest an increasing proportion of rain will fall in winter, so it may become cost-effective to build in rainwater storage when constructing new homes.

“This usually involves sinking a large tank somewhere in the garden, pumping water out for use in the garden or for domestic tasks such as flushing toilets.”

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