Dealing with drought in the garden

Eryngium Artemisia Pennisetum and Thyme in The Drought Garden designed by Steve Dimmock dry garden 040716 04072016 04/07/16 04/07/2016 4 4th July 2016 Summer RHS Hampton Court Flower Show Photographer Jason Ingram horizontal

Long periods of hot weather, without rainfall, remind us that water is a precious commodity. When dry spells become drought and hosepipe bans are implemented, it’s crucial to reduce water use and to apply the water you do use wisely.

There are many things that gardeners can do to prepare for periods of drought, such as conserving rainwater, mulching beds and borders and choosing drought-tolerant plants.

But if you haven’t already taken these steps, what is the best way to cope with drought? Follow our practical advice, including tips on watering plants, below.


Let your lawn go brown

An established lawn, with a healthy root system, will withstand periods of drought. When grass turns brown it looks like the whole lawn has died, but it will recover once rains return.

If your lawn is still green and in active growth, adjusting your mowing regime can help. Raise the height of cut and let clippings fall (set your mower to cut the clippings small if possible).

Autumn, when parched lawns start to green up again, is the time for restorative maintenance. Give your lawn an autumn boost, with the help of our action plan.


Guide to summer watering

Watering plants growing in a pot

Plants’ ability to withstand drought can vary enormously. Prioritise less established plants and those showing clear signs of stress. Beyond that it pays to know which plants need regular watering and which can survive without it.

Our guide to watering plants in summer lists:

  • Plants to water every day or two
  • Plants to water once a week
  • Plants to water once a fortnight
  • Plants to avoid watering during drought

Follow our guide to watering plants during a drought

It’s worth noting that flowers produce less nectar in times of drought, so keeping your plants watered will help ensure that bees and other pollinators don’t suffer.


Water plants effectively

A good soaking every 10 days is sufficient for many plants during a drought. In general it’s better to water less often, but to water thoroughly when you do.

Watch Alan Titchmarsh’s video guide to watering effectively, including advice on the best time of day to water and how to ensure water reaches the roots, where it’s really needed.

Video: watering plants effectively


Pullling out a weed seedling

Keep up with weeding

A weed is simply any plant in a bed, border or pot that you didn’t plant deliberately and that you don’t want. Weeds compete with cultivated plants for moisture, light and nutrients so keeping on top of your weeding routine helps ensure water goes where it’s most needed.

Follow our practical advice on weeding:


Holiday-proof your garden

If you’re lucky enough to have saintly, plant-loving neighbours then they might be happy to keep your garden watered while you’re on holiday. If not, you can fall back on our practical care plans:


Prepare your garden for future droughts

If you were caught out by hot weather this year and your plants suffered, don’t despair. Minimise damage caused by future droughts by taking pre-emptive action:

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