Water, Water Everywhere...

Water, water everywhere… but none coming out of my hosepipe.

OK, you’re tucked up cosy by the log burner eating mince pies but there are already reports that we are going to struggle for water this summer. And that means hosepipe bans for gardeners. Of course, it does. After all, we are bad people. Aren't we?

inside a car washI was musing this after driving past a golf course and sitting in a car wash (in my car). Just how many gallons of water are used to keep the greens green and the car wash washing?  Well, let me tell you.

golf course watering and car washA golf course, according to one naturally derived source needs anywhere between 100,000 and a million gallons a week to keep it looking pristine. That's in summer. The figure does come down during other times of the year. And car washes? A quick rummage on the internet reveals it takes around 100 gallons per car. Am I the only one to be staggered by these figures? Am I the only one to rage when reading gardeners will be punished by hosepipe bans as golfers continue to golf and car washes wash?

‘Wash number FORE please’. Indeed.

garden hosepipe and tapNow I know hosepipes can be wasteful. I know lawns will green up after a period of drought. I know sprinklers left on overnight can end up watering concrete paths or wooden fences. But I also know plants need water (all that education paying off at last). I also know that gardening is the primary pastime for millions of us. I therefore get a little bit agitated at the thought of being an easy target for misdirected officialdom.

I’m not saying golf courses shouldn’t get their share of water. I just want it to be a fair share. I don’t want car washes to shut with the loss of jobs. I just want them to perhaps consider their opening hours. I do however want to be able to water my celery and dahlias without the fear of a tap on the shoulder - probably banned if water is in short supply - or knock at the greenhouse door as I drench the concrete slabs to keep the temperature down. The Water Police will be watching for criminal gardening activity.

So, with all this in mind and, to be honest, still a good few months away, we responsible and considerate gardening folk can start to make a difference right now. We can be prepared for the inevitable ‘ban on hosepipe’ stories that will arrive in June.

I know it seems early but here’s how we can do our bit:

gardening tips for preparing for a hosepipe ban

  • Water butts: get them sorted now. You will catch all that spring rain, every drop of it better for your plants than any splurge of tap water anyway, and you’ll get into the habit of using it. It’s too easy to turn the tap. There's something deeply satisfying about learning to judge how full a water butt is by the resonance of sound after gently knocking its side. You can, of course, always lift the lid and look inside.  
  • Make compost now. Get yourself a compost bin or two and start making your own compost. Come midsummer, use it as a thick cover on the surface of soil after the rain and it will help conserve moisture negating the need for tap water anyway.
  • Learn about your plants and know which ones really need extra water and those that are quite happy growing on the dry side. I’ve mentioned celery and dahlias - both thirsty - but many others, especially shrubs, are more than happy to get on with things on their own.
  • Get a new hosepipe and new connectors. I know, it’s a strange top tip when thinking months ahead to a hosepipe ban. But there might not be a full ban and if you can stop drips and leaks then you will be using the water wisely. I’d still get the water butts and compost bins sorted first though.

hand washing the carAnd finally, wash your car less often and do it using a bucket and sponge on your own driveway. And as for golf… well, I can think of a better pastime!