|Mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulching not only prevents water being lost from the soil surface. It also improves nutrient absorption and prevents a hard surface crust that repels water. Organic mulching materials (such as straw, granulated bark, and composted leaves) have the added advantage of improving the soil's water holding capacity as they break down. Be sure to thoroughly wet the soil before laying mulch.
|Train your plants to cope with less frequent watering by gradually increasing the days between watering. Deep infrequent watering encourages roots to grow deeper into the soil where they are less likely to be affected by a spell of dry weather. Frequent shallow sprinklings lead to shallow roots in danger of drying out.
|Invest in good equipment. Old leaky hoses and fittings, and those that are awkward to use, can waste a lot of water. Fix leaking taps.
|Plant more shelter. Wind whips the moisture from your plants. Think hedges and shelter belts or protect new plants with wind cloth.
|Remove weeds. Weeds rob the soil of moisture, taking it away from your precious plants. Mulching will help keep weeds under control.
|Time it right. Don't water in the middle of a hot summer's day when evaporation is high. Morning watering is ideal as plants tend to be most active at sunrise. Evening watering ensures good water retention but it can encourage diseases in warm humid weather. An electronic water timer makes watering efficient and worry free.
|Avoid sprinklers that waste water by depositing it where it’s not needed. Instead use trickle irrigation drippers or a soaker hose attached to a timer. Keeping the water off the foliage also helps to reduce disease problems and water loss via evaporation.
|Aim for the soil, not the foliage. Soaker hoses and drip feeders are more efficient than overhead sprinklers. Check and adjust irrigation systems to ensure water is going where it's needed.
|Use grey water from the shower or washing machine to water the garden and your container plants in dry weather.
|Choose dry tolerant plants. Once established trees and shrubs can find water deep down in the soil, so they can survive with a lot less watering than shallow rooted plants. Many perennials are drought tolerant.
Straw mulch (photo by Susan Hopkins)
Dry garden border