HOW TO DROUGHT-PROOF YOUR GARDEN – AND SURVIVE A HOSEPIPE BAN

Do these things to ensure that your garden can survive a drought and feel confident even during a hose pipe ban. Use our simple guide and learn how to drought-proof your garden.

Learning how to drought-proof your garden may feel like an impossible task if you’re used to the warm, wet conditions that we usually have in the UK. But the climate is changing, and long, hot summers are becoming more commonplace. Hose pipe bans and dried-up riverbeds and reservoirs may become more and more a part of our lives as time goes on.

It is possible to prepare your garden for these conditions, however. You can have a spectacular garden that requires very little watering and can thrive even whilst others are withering. 

Drought Conditions in Southern England

HOW TO DROUGHT-PROOF YOUR GARDEN

Different plants are adapted for life in different conditions. Some plants thrive in moist, temperate regions whilst others do better in warm arid areas. 

Additionally, soil conditions can have a huge impact on our plants during a drought. Heavy clay will dry almost solid and crack. This is disastrous for our plants’ roots’ as they become trapped within the earth sometimes unable to access the water or oxygen they need for growth and respiration. 

Sandy soils do not retain water well, meaning that in warm conditions it can seem as though no amount of watering is enough to keep your plants happy. 

Thriving Garden in July

START WITH SOIL

The most important thing in any garden is the soil. Soil is a living, ecosystem that interacts microscopically with our plants helping to provide them with nutrients, water and optimum conditions for their roots. 

Healthy soil is well-drained meaning that it won’t become waterlogged in wet conditions (unless it is an area prone to flooding), which could cause our plants to drown as they need oxygen as much as you or I. Healthy soil is also rich in nutrients and organic matter for our plants to feed on and also retains moisture well.

We can’t expect to achieve healthy soil straight away, it does take a few years to develop, but by following the right methods you will start to notice the difference very quickly. 

TRY NO DIG GARDENING

No-dig gardening has been gaining in popularity in the last few years, with more and more gardeners laying down their forks in winter and opting instead to mulch their soils. 

‘Instead of turning the soil, I spread an annual mulch of compost. This layer is incorporated into the soil by the diverse organisms living below. Their actions of eating and excreting improve the soil’s structure and fertility, making it excellent for growing’ says Stephanie Hafferty, author and no-dig expert. 

The well-aerated soils created by no-dig gardening also have excellent water-retaining qualities. The aggregates or “peds” within the soil, created by the soil organisms themselves act like a sponge meaning that it is able to hold onto water for longer, instead of the water simply draining away. 

Moreover, the layer of mulch on the surface of the soil also acts as a protective layer slowing the evaporation of water from the top layers of the soil. This helps the soil retain even more water, even during hot and dry periods.

If you have shrubs, bushes or trees you may not want to mulch with compost. Bark-chip is a great choice of mulch for these areas as it will help the soil retain water, but unlike woodchip will not acidify the soil.

TRY WATERING LESS

Watering less might seem a little counterintuitive, but bear with me. When we are establishing plants in our garden it is a good idea to ensure that they have a really good drink and that they are watered regularly to help them to get established.

If we water too much, however, we may be creating more of a problem for ourselves. It’s a good idea to give slightly more water but do it less often. This allows plants to get the water that they need but also encourages them to put down and strong, deep root system to go in search of food. 

Some plants, such as lettuce will not respond to this type of ‘training’ but are more likely to go to seed if they don’t have enough water. It is therefore important to choose plants that are suited for the conditions if you are unable to manipulate the conditions to suit the plants. 

Water less when establishing plants
Try watering less when establishing plants

CHOOSE DROUGHT-RESISTANT PLANTS

There are plenty of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit that are well adapted for life in warm and dry conditions. Plants that naturally grow in these sorts of climates come with specific features that help them retain water.

Plants are constantly losing water through pores on their leaves. The water is pulled up into the roots and through the plant by capillary action as plants do not have any other means to draw water up. Plants that generally live in hot dry places will usually have one of the following adaptations:

  • Fewer pores on their leaves so less water is lost.
  • A waxy cuticle. A waxy layer that covers the pores on the leaves, reducing water loss.
  • Small leaves with less surface area for water to be lost.
  • A deep root system, allowing the plant to penetrate deep into the groundwater.

As with all plants, drought-resistant plants will only become drought-resistant when they are fully established. Seedlings will still need to be watered regularly, as will newly planted plants. 

Try choosing drought-resistant plants
Try choosing drought-resistant plants

TRY THESE DROUGHT-RESISTANT VEGETABLES

Here are some great drought-resistant vegetables to grow in your garden:

  • Rocket / Arugula
  • Corn
  • French / Climbing Beans
  • Edible Amaranth
  • Tuscan Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Mustard Greens
Tuscan Kale is adapted for dry conditions
Tuscan Kale is well adapted for dry conditions

CHECK OUT THESE DROUGHT-RESISTANT FRUITS

Plant these drought-resistant fruits for crops even through a drought:

  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peach
  • Nectarine
  • Olives
  • Figs
  • Blackberries
  • Goosberries

TRY THESE DROUGHT-RESISTANT FLOWERS

Grow these drought-resistant flowers in your garden to feed your pollinators and bring in a splash of colour:/

  • Coneflower / Echinacea
  • Achillea
  • Verbena Bonariensis
  • Salvias
  • Hollyhocks
  • Strawflower
  • Antirrhinum
  • California Poppy
  • Kniphofia
Kniphofia is a reliable and interesting flower even in drought
Kniphofia is a reliable and interesting flower even in drought

YOU WILL LOVE THESE DROUGHT-PROOF HERBS

These herbs will thrive in warm, dry conditions. Plant these drought-resistant herbs for fragrance in your garden, and in your kitchen:

  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Catmint
  • Rosemary Sage
  • Chocolate mint
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Fennel
  • Hyssop

Remember that extreme temperatures can cause even the most resilient plants to suffer, especially if they are not properly established. If your plants are showing signs of water or heat stress such as curling leaves, a loss of leaf turgidity (firmness), brownness or wilting, it is a good idea to give them a good drink if you can!

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