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The Money-Saving Gardener: How to save water in the garden

4 min read

The Money-Saving Gardener: How to save water in the garden
Thrifty gardening influencer and author, Anya Lautenbach, shares how to cut costs in your garden by saving water in an excerpt from her new book
Gardening, if you let it, can become an expensive hobby, and in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, many are choosing to strip their gardens back. 
In the UK, we spend around £1.5 billion a year on outdoor plants and houseplants, though that number has actually decreased since 2021 as people’s budgets have shrunk. 
When we think about gardening’s additional costs—the expensive gardening tools, the soil that needs replenishing, the water sprinklers and, for the pond-builders, electric pumps—it’s not hard to see why many simply choose to pave over their backyard.
But thrifty gardening influencer, Anya Lautenbach, is on a mission to change that. On social media, she has amassed a massive following (400k on Instagram and 685k on Facebook) for her easy-to-follow gardening tips, which focus on keeping horticulture cheap and cheerful.
Her new book, The Money-Saving Gardener, condenses this advice into a complete guide to gardening with a tight purse, with insights into how to acquire perennials cheaply, source second hand gardening equipment, harness nature to prolong soil health, and choose water-wise plants and herbs. 
"In 2022, the UK experienced its first hosepipe ban in ten years"
In an extract from her book, Lautenbach shares how to save water while you’re gardening—an increasingly pressing task as the climate crisis accelerates.
In 2022, the UK experienced its first hosepipe ban in ten years, when South West Water introduced a restriction that lasted over a year. Households in Kent, Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight also experienced bans, due to historic heatwaves besetting the country.
Water costs are also increasing, with the average water bill in England and Wales due to go up by six per cent this year, as water companies look to improve the nation’s water security and clean up rivers contaminated by sewage. 
But fear not—Lautenbach has plenty of ideas to cut your water use, from saving the water you use inside the house to rethinking what kinds of plants you cultivate.
“We’ve got to change how we garden,” she says. “I know by sharing my knowledge I can make gardening and propagating more accessible, helping people to create the garden of their dreams at a fraction of the cost of going out and buying what they need.”

Excerpt—How to save water in your garden

woman using bucket of water to water plants
With the changing weather conditions, including extended droughts as well as more intensive rain, you need to make your garden more resilient to cope with extremes.
There are quite a few measures that you can build in to help your garden thrive while minimising water use.
Using water efficiently in the garden helps the environment and saves you time and money—it makes sense on all fronts.

Collecting water

Water butts are a useful part of your garden infrastructure. Located under a downpipe on a house or a gutter on a shed or outbuilding, a water butt will collect rainwater ready for you to use during dry spells.
You can also collect household waste water from washing up, the bath, or when cleaning a fish tank.
Make sure the water doesn’t contain any chemicals, and only very minimal dirt or detergent, before using it to water plants.
If I wash down things such as pots in the garden, I always wash them over a border, or collect the water in a plastic trug or wheelbarrow so it can be used again.

Using water carefully

Water is a precious resource, so it needs to be used carefully to best effect. I always water newly planted plants until they are established, and make sure my cuttings don’t dry out.
I never water grass; even if it is parched in the summer, it will green up again.
Watering in the morning or evening minimises evaporation from both plants and soil, so the watering has the maximum benefit.
"Watering in the morning or evening minimises evaporation from both plants and soil"
Mulching reduces evaporation immediately around a plant’s roots, so is well worth doing. I also line terracotta pots and hanging baskets with plastic compost bags cut to size (though with drainage holes). This reduces evaporation through the sides of the container.
If you  are using a hose for watering, check it for leaks and replace linking parts as needed. Avoid using sprinklers, as they water a huge area rather than targeting the plants that need water, and so they are not efficient. 

Adapting your planting

lavender in garden
If conditions in your garden are changing so that it regularly dries out for prolonged periods, it’s worth consciously choosing and planting more drought-tolerant plants.
These will thrive in drier conditions, and save money as you will not need to water them so much. You will be enabling your garden to adapt to the new conditions. 
Drought-tolerant perennials including agapanthus, lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), crocosmia, various poppies (Papaver), and catmiint (Nepeta). For shrubs, choose lavender, buddleia, santolina, cotoneaster, and eleagnus.
Many herbs, such as bay, dill, sage, thyme, and rosemary flourish and have a more intense flavour in dry conditions.
There are many more plants that will tolerate dry conditions, and these are very useful in containers as well as in the wider garden.
Extracted from The Money-Saving Gardener: Create Your Dream Garden at a Fraction of the Cost by Anya Lautenbach (published by DK)
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