Jeremy Vine guest slams water companies for hosepipe ban
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A lack of rainfall and continuous hot weather has forced two major water suppliers in England to announce hosepipe bans this month. Gardeners in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will face a significant fine if caught using a hosepipe during the ban, prompting many of them to quickly prepare their gardens for the dry period. Feeding and watering is crucial in the hot weather but experts have warned against using fertiliser before, or during a drought. Here’s why it should always be avoided and what to use instead to keep your plants hydrated.
A drought can cause many issues in the garden, especially when your water usage is restricted during the peak of the hot weather.
With two hosepipe bans already scheduled by Southern Water and South East Water, further hosepipe bans could see gardeners across the country put their gardens at further risk of damage by over-doing it on the drought preparations.
While it is important to give your plants and lawn a good drink of both water and nutrients before a hosepipe ban, several gardening experts have urged gardeners to “step away” from fertiliser products and instead stick to mulching.
Why should you avoid fertilising your garden in hot weather?
Fast growing plants are known to benefit from fertilisers in the warm summer, but over-using these products in scorching heat can have the opposite effect on your garden.
The team at Checkatrade explained that while fertilisers encourage new growth in challenging weather conditions, using them during a drought can make plants lose water more quickly, which is hard to replace during a hosepipe ban.
Checkatrade said: “Fertilisers encourage growth, and with more growth, more moisture is needed.
“Added to this, if fertilizer salt builds up because it’s not draining away properly, this can burn the plant roots.”
The key to using fertiliser properly is to keep the ground well watered after application.
This helps the plants to dissolve the nutrients packed into the fertiliser and “take them up” through the roots to support new growth.
Without adequate water, the fertiliser salts will just build up in the soil and cause unnecessary stress for the plant.
If you do choose to fertilise your garden before, or during a drought, always ensure that the planting site is free of weeds to prevent water loss when you go to water the plants after applying the fertiliser.
During a hosepipe ban, watering cans filled up with recycled cooking water or stored rainwater should be enough to give your plants a good drink.
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Can you fertilise your lawn in a drought?
Grass is equally as vulnerable as growing plants during a drought, so it is important to re-consider whether your lawn really needs fertilising – especially if you are affected by a local hosepipe ban.
The garden experts at Hayter Mowers said: “If your grass is looking a little dry and patchy, it can be tempting to douse it in fertiliser.
“However, it’s important that you fertilise in moderation – with proper watering, your lawn shouldn’t need extensive fertilisation, and over-fertilisation can do more harm than good!”
While it is possible to lightly feed your lawn, it is best to avoid it altogether if you are unable to water the grass quickly and efficiently without a hosepipe.
Carlos Real, lawn care expert and managing director of TotalLawn said: “Applying fertiliser encourages your lawn to grow, which will require more water and nutrients as it does.
“Fertiliser can burn your lawn in the warm weather too if it isn’t properly watered, so it’s best to save the feed and fertiliser until the drought has disappeared.”
How to prepare your garden for a drought
There are plenty of other ways to keep your garden healthy during a drought and it all starts with preparation.
To reduce your water usage, the most effective way to keep plants hydrated is to use organic mulch.
This helps to keep the soil cool and moist while you’re unable to water the plants as regularly.
Growveg.co.uk said: “Mulches are a must during any summer drought, and a mulch of organic material such as compost, leaf mould or even dried grass clippings is best.
“This extra layer serves a few purposes: it shades the soil from the sun, helping to keep it cooler, and it acts as a lid on the soil, dramatically reducing evaporation.”
Before applying the mulch, it is crucial to soak the soil beforehand to make sure there’s plenty of moisture to trap in the organic matter.
Lay the mulch so it’s at least an inch thick around your plants.
GrowVeg added that fruit trees, canes and bushes can be mulched with chunkier materials such as bark chippings, or fibrous materials like straw.
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