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Water Wise Tips

Water wise tips

Notcutts know gardeners like to be prepared. With the UK currently basking in gorgeous sunshine (albeit between clouds and showers!), we've collated our top tips and advice for conserving water and using water wisely. With a little planning and careful maintenance, your garden can still flourish and look beautiful during warmer weather conditions.


The earlier you start collecting water the better! Take advantage of Spring downpours and early Summer showers, storing as much rain as you can.

1. Have a look around your garden to see if there are any areas to collect ‘run off’ water from roofs. Greenhouses, garages and sheds are often ignored but a well positioned water butt will soon fill up and can save carrying water the length of the garden from an outside tap!

2. Ensure your butt is fitted with a tap to allow you to make easy use of the accumulated water.

3. Ideally, position a ‘series’ of butts where practical, so that as one becomes full, the overflow can be captured in the second and so on.

4. Rainwater is especially good for acid loving plants and pot plants.

5. To help keep the water from stagnating and becoming a source of pests and diseases, add a few water-purifying tablets like the ones you might use on holiday.

6. Pumps are available that can be used to distribute stored water around the garden – see our range in-store now.



‘Be Water Wise’ is a motto that can be adopted in the home, as well as the garden. The average person uses 150 litres per day. Did you know you can reuse much of that water?

‘Grey’ water is essentially 'waste' water - it goes down the plug-hole when we bathe, shower or use a hand-basin. This water has no ill effects on plants and can save 30% on average home/garden water use. Only use grey water on non-edible plants. Keep grey water and rainwater in separate containers.


Smart Watering

When you water, water wisely. By taking care how you use water, your garden can make the best use of every available drop, with minimal waste.

1. Avoid giving a light watering as this will encourage shallow root growth. Water a couple of times a week; one good soak directed to the root ball will keep plants alive through severely dry weather.

2. Don’t water too forcefully. Avoid directing a jet of water at the base of a plant (it’ll wash away the soil and expose the roots). Ideally water with a watering can, rather than a hose. If you can’t, make a hollow around the base of the plant and fill with water.

3. Water in the evening so that less water will evaporate. Ensure you aim under the foliage, so that nothing is wasted. Watering during a hot day can also scorch delicate plants.

4. Water only those plants that are really in need, such as young plants, containers, vegetables and fruit.

5. Water shrubs, trees and other permanent or established planting only when absolutely necessary (when leaves on the plants begin to curl and drop). Dropping leaves are part of a plants mechanism to prevent water loss and they will recover quickly once it rains or they are watered.

6. Irrigation systems are now widely available and these, combined with a time clock, allow watering of individual plants or containers without waste and at an appropriate time of the day.

7. A good alternative to an irrigation system is a standard water bottle – this works well to distribute water directly to the roots below the surface. Cheap & good for the environment (reusing those pesky plastic bottles!).


Once you've watered, it’s important to get the most out of those precious drops...

1. A thick mulch (50mm) of bark or decorative stones provides a barrier between moist soil and the air, keeping the water at the roots and reducing evaporation.

2. Water-retaining gels can be added to hanging baskets, pots and containers as they absorb water when it is readily available and then retain it in the compost, to be released back to the plants.

3. Weeds will compete for moisture and use up valuable nutrients – get rid of them.

4. Don’t hoe or dig deeply once Spring arrives – it will allow moisture to escape.

5. Ground cover plants such as Vinca and herbs such as Thyme can act as a living mulch, reducing evaporation.


Raise the blades of your mower and reduce the frequency of cutting; this will reduce evaporation and help to keep the grass roots moist and cool. Leave cuttings on the surface to recycle nutrients.

If you can or must water your lawn, use a sprinkler. To avoid overwatering, place a jar next to the sprinkler and move it once it has 2.5cm of water in it. If a hosepipe ban is introduced, don’t panic – a brown lawn will recover in autumn.

If your lawn is very dry, give it a helping hand with an aerator or fork.

Plant Selection

What you plant can influence how well your garden survives dry conditions. Choose wisely and your garden will be able to better withstand droughts and hosepipe bans.

1. Choose plants that are suited to your soil. If you’re not sure what soil type you have, Notcutts offer a free soil testing service. Find your local Notcutts Garden Centre

2. Where possible, buy the larger sized plants with well-established root systems that will withstand a little hardship. Also buy with care - plants that have been grown and cared for well will fare better in dry conditions.

3. Summer bedding plants will need extra care if the weather is very dry, so consider planting varieties that are more tolerant of drought. Pelargoniums (Geraniums) and Begonias are two plants that will tolerate dry conditions as are many of the half hardy perennials, such as Verbena, Diascia and Bacopa (Sutera), popular in containers and baskets.

4. When planting a border, consider using plants with silvery, glossy, hairy, narrow or fleshy leaves – these are usually much more drought tolerant.

Planting Tips

How your plant can also have an effect on your garden during a drought. Give your plants the best chance by following these few simple tips.

1. Plant early. Do not carry out major planting schemes through late spring or summer, when the weather is likely to be drier. Try to plant in autumn or early spring; the plants can establish while the soil is still warm and before water is in short supply.

2. Start a compost heap! Adding organic matter to the soil bulks it up; organic matter acts like a sponge and will hold moisture for longer (especially if it is dug into the soil surface during spring or autumn).

3. A thick layer of mulch or gravel on borders will also help save soil moisture. Aim for 5-7.5cm.

4. Poorly drained soils can prevent food being absorbed. Dig in composted bark, or in severe cases, grit, to improve.

5. Dig the soil between 25 and 50cm deep. This will let in air and water to prevent root suffocation.

6. Apply sufficient fertiliser – plants use water most efficiently when nutrient levels are adequate. But don’t apply too much as this will encourage too much lush growth (which will require more water to remain healthy).

7. When planting out vegetables such as brassicas, beans and squashes, ‘puddle’ them in. Take out a small planting hole, large enough to take the root ball, and water the base well. Put the well watered plants in and back fill the hole with the dry soil. The moisture will stay around the roots of the plants and evaporate more slowly. Again, water thoroughly a couple of times a week rather than every night.

8. Consider planting in containers or baskets. They require less water to thrive (especially when using water-retaining gels and mulch). Be careful though, as they have smaller roots and can dry out quicker. If a basket or container looks overly dry (the compost is pale and shrunk from the sides) stand in a bucket or pan to revive.

Useful Links

For more information on preparing for drought or being water wise, you may find these links helpful.

RHS Drought Advice  (opens in a new window) - comprehensive, expert drought advice from the Royal Horticultural Society, including how to create a gravel garden

Local Water Authorities (opens in a new window) - list of water companies courtesy of Hozelock. They’ll often have loads of great tips and free schemes to help you save water (and money!)

Find your local Notcutts Garden Centre  - prefer to visit a centre to find drought resistant plants and water saving equipment? Use this link to find your local centre.

Please be advised that Notcutts cannot be responsible for content on other websites.