Thames Water has now imposed a ban on using a hosepipe to water gardens. This means that most people will only be able to use a watering can or drip feed irrigation for watering their gardens. For exemptions see: http://www.thameswater.co.uk/cps/rde/xchg/corp/hs.xsl/15443.htm
How to survive the drought
In a recent article for The Times, garden designer, broadcaster and Registered Member of the SGD Joe Swift offered readers guidance on how to survive the drought. A summary of his advice follows:
Plants that are suited to dry conditions can usually be spotted by their adaptations:
water molecules stick to fine hairy leaves (Verbascum, Teucrium fruticans, Stachys byzantina etc); silver foliage plants reflect the heat of the sun (Artemisias, Achillea, Euphorbias, Eryngium, Dianthus, lavenders, Caryopteris, Echinops, Convolvulus, Cneorum etc); and fine foliage or needles reduce transpiration (rosemary, junipers, Santolina, small-leaved hebes, Genista, Cytisus etc) . Many ornamental grasses are also a good choice for dry soils.
Don’t worry about the lawn drying up and going yellow. It won’t kill it and will quickly green up once it rains. Don’t lay or seed a new lawn unless it’s small and you can water it with stored water (see below), as they need plenty of moisture to establish.
Incorporating plenty of organic matter in your soil on a continuing basis will increase its water-retention capabilities significantly. It will also increase its fertility and, when used as a mulch, suppress weeds and lock moisture in. Only mulch when the soil is already wet.
Water efficiently. Drip irrigation systems are usually OK to use during a hosepipe ban (check your supplier), because they are extremely efficient and can be put on a timer.
If you use your own collected water then try to water early morning (the best) or evening to reduce evaporation during the day. Water to the roots of the plants — a good soak every now and then is better than a light sprinkling. Don’t bother with established plants unless they look desperate. Water seedlings and pots/ containers first. Use a saucer or tray under pots to catch the excess. Consider mixing water-retaining granules into compost for larger pots and also when planting new plants into the ground; they swell up into a gel and retain plenty of moisture.
Small water butts will quickly fill up when it does rain, but the problem is that you will use this water up quickly too during dry spells. Any water that does land on your house or garage roof can be stored and used. If you already have one butt then consider either adding another to a separate downpipe or connecting a series of them together with pipes so they fill up in sequence. Water from baths, showers and washbasins can be used directly on the garden for watering if you can devise an ingenious method with pumps or diverters (or just use buckets?), but this water can’t be stored. Washing-up water contains food, which will only encourage vermin, and washing-machine water contains too much detergent for the garden.