Plants need the most water in hot, dry and windy weather, which is usually when water companies are least able to meet demand. Less than 3 percent of the annual water consumption of an average household is estimated to be from garden use, but at peak demand as much as 70 percent of water supplied may be used in gardens.
Even in dry districts, 24,000 litres (5280 gallons or 150 water butts) could be collected from the roof each year. However, most water falls in winter, and would have to be stored for use in summer. There are about 18 weeks from May until September when plants' needs exceed rainfall. At first, the shortfall is met from soil reserves, but these can peter out by July, leading to about six weeks when watering is needed.
Even tiny gardens and patios can be used to collect and store rainwater, which may help the gardener get through hosepipe and sprinkler bans.
Rainwater can be collected from the roofs of homes, garages, greenhouses and other garden structures as long as they have gutters and a drain pipe.
Water butts are designed to collect water from either open or closed drain pipes. Closed drain pipes can be easily tapped into with a rain water diverter kit.
Local councils and DIY stores are good places to purchase basic plastic water butts. It is easier to access the water if the butt has a tap at the base and sits on a stand, either ready-made or improvised with a pile of bricks. More expensive butts moulded to look like beehives or terracotta urns are an attractive option, as are recycled wooden barrels. We can help you set this up, just ask.
Keep your garden growing with HTA's water saving tips. After one of the driest winters on record and water restrictions looking increasingly likely across southern and eastern England, the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), the trade body of the garden industry, is advising gardeners to use water sensibly in their gardens this spring.
In light of this, the HTA has issued the following water efficiency advice to keep the nation gardening.
• If showers are forecast, do not water your garden
• Water early in the morning or late in the evening when evaporation is minimal
• Be sure to deliver water directly to the base of plants
• Plant trees and shrubs in well-rotted, water-retaining compost and cover soil with 2-3" (5-7cm) layer of mulch
• Don't worry about established lawns turning brown. This shows the grass has stopped growing, but most lawns will recover completely when the rain returns
• Don't cut lawns too short, as longer grass sends down deeper roots and provides more shade
• Collect rainwater off greenhouse, shed, garage and house roofs in water butts
• Mix water-storing granules in with potting compost when planting up tubs and hanging baskets
• Keep borders well weeded as weeds compete for moisture
• Use a bigger pot and more compost to cool the soil and conserve moisture
• Provide shelter by planting in a spot that is protected by walls, fences, hedges or other plants