Even if you don’t remember the drought of 1976, you are probably aware of the current water shortages across England. With the forecast due for a dry July, here below are some tips for the organic gardener.
And in years to come, its worth making your growing area more water efficient. Organic growers are the best on earth for using water wisely and effectively. See here for ways to save and use water. Its a precious and finite resource – far too valuable to waste.
1. Decide which plants are most important to you and water just them. Is it your carefully tended veg crops? Your hanging baskets? The new trees you planted last winter? Do not waste water on the lawn (grass always comes back after a drought) or on mature trees and shrubs.
2. Water carefully. The best technique is to water the soil, allowing moisture to penetrate deeply. You can be generous with your water this way, knowing that after a really good soil soaking, you don’t need to water mature plants again for a few days. Seeds and young plants benefit from a drip irrigation system, which uses minimal but constant water to keep the soil moist.
3. Water in the cool of the evening or very early morning, not in the fierce heat of the sun.
4. When you have watered, put a mulch down on the wet soil to conserve the moisture. This covering can be anything from cardboard to grass cuttings, compost or leaf mould. Use gravel on top of pots to keep the moisture in.
5. Save every drop of rinsing water into a separate washing up bowl – from washing veg and salads, even from washing your hands.
6. Use ‘grey water’ from baths and washing up. Make sure you don’t use too much soap/shampoo (the residues can build up in the soil) and use straight away. Stored grey water can harbour legionnaires disease. Water with washing powder or washing up liquid in it can be used, but infrequently – this is because the modern detergents have enzymes and phosphates in them which, if used in concentration, an actually harm the plants. The water is also often surprisingly greasy by the end of a washing up session. Use ecologically friendly detergents, and avoid using grey water continually on the same patch of ground or pot.
7. When rain comes, be prepared. Make sure you have a water butt connected and ready, have buckets or containers lined up to collect every drop. And if the shower hasn’t been prolonged or heavy, water your plants straight after to make sure moisture goes down deep to their roots. Don’t forget to mulch!