Waterwise in the Garden

***Originally posted on the Waterwise website

The weekend is approaching and the challenge for the last day of this year’s #Watersavingweek is:

Challenge No.5: Use a water butt
Over 21,000 litres a year falls on the roof of the average UK home, it’s easy to catch some of that in a water butt and your
plants will love it too.

Rainwater harvesting with a water butt is a simple way to save water, reduce surface water runoff that can lead to sewer flooding and pollution from sewer overflows, and help you maintain your garden in drier weather. Although the amount of rainfall varies across the UK, this can help reduce your water use in general and reduce the peak demand on water supplies in Summer and droughts. By connecting your overflow to a raingarden you can further reduce the impact of surface water in our sewers. Check your local water company website (see Waterwise list here) for more information and they often provide free or discounted products.

Mulching your garden can also reduce water use but also mitigate against climate change. The 4/1000 initiative was initiated at COP21 in Paris. A recent BBC Costing the Earth Podcast outlines this further. “A 4/1000 annual growth rate of the soil carbon stock intends to show that even a small increase in the soil carbon stock (agricultural soils, notably grasslands and pastures, and forest soils) is crucial to improve soil fertility and agricultural production and to contribute to achieving the long-term objective of limiting the temperature increase to +1,5/2°C.”

This also applies to our home gardens. By applying mulch and compost, either from your own food waste at home or purchased back from your council when you have food waste collections, you can make a contribution to this.

A Waterwise garden can be achieved through many simple actions in addition to using a water butt. These are outlined below.

My approach – convert a dustbin
After one summer of carting a full watering can through the house multiple times to my back garden I decided that it wasn’t sustainable in many ways. As I only have a small garden and the guttering etc. is far from the main growing spaces I decided to create a home-made water butt by using a dustbin from a local shop and drilling holes in the lid to capture rainwater. As it doesn’t have runoff from the rooftop it does take longer to fill and stronger rainfall events are better. However, last summer this provided an easy and water efficient solution for watering tomatoes and other plants. My colleague on a project in Alicante was using his water meter to measure exactly how much water he used growing tomatoes on his balcony, however I had the luxury of using much less due to my improvised water butt.

What can you do next?
Whether it is raining or shining this Friday is a great time to think about buying or making a water butt for your garden. See the Waterwise list here for water company water efficiency websites where you can get discounts.

If you already have a water butt you can get it ready for spring and summer (some tips summarised from the Daily Telegraph below):
·      Empty it by using remaining water on your garden and disconnect the piping. Remove debris from the bottom and scrub out the inside (no need to use chemicals).
·      Clean the guttering and downpipes, checking for damage and replacing faulty parts.
·      Make sure the lid fits well to prevent mosquitoes laying eggs and reducing light reduces algae also.
·      Consider a pump and irrigation system that can automatically and efficiently water your garden using your water butt.

Finally, find out more tips from our Water Saving Week Garden Factsheet (here).


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