Saving water in the garden

Saving water in the garden

Overview of soil types and drought resistant planting

Saving water in the garden

Here we have some great ideas and information to help you use less tap water in your garden. As always, we welcome your comments and photos and if you have experience or expertise in any of these topics, we could feature your article as a guest author.


Wildlife gardens

When wildlife areas are established they can develop with little need for watering and weeding. Wild flowers can create colour and texture throughout the year if a variety of suitable seeds are planted. This will provide a valuable habitat for insects and birds. 

Leaving some lawn uncut is great for bugs, beetles and foraging birds.


A pond and a rocky area will attract amphibians and reptiles if you are lucky.

A pile of old wood is a perfect home for a wide range of insects and will soon establish a web of wildlife activity. Your own mini zoo ! 



Send us photos of  your wildlife area for inspiration to others in the POWER communities.




Vertical gardens


Our project partners in Jerusalem have some inspiring vertical garden examples such as the photograph below. More photos from Jerusalem community gardens can be found here .

Visit the Jerusalem pages and join their discussions so we can compare great ideas for saving waters in their community gardens. Click here  to see their pages or go to to browse their information.


This vertical edible garden is a lettuce farm.

Copyright Steve Keenan

The vertical garden below is outside the Timelab, Brusselspoorstraat, Ghent.



Making use of waste streams is always a clever way to be sustainable. In the example below, plastic bottles have been used to make a vertical garden.

copyright Planningnerd

Plastic bottles can also be used to build a greenhouse.

copyright dengarden 



Water Saving behaviour


Try to water your garden early in the morning or after the sun goes down. 



Water the roots of the plants rather than the foliage. 




Use water saving gel or beads in containers so they do not dry out so quickly.



Consider a smart flow meter for timing irrigation systems.







Water butts


Water butts can collect rainwater and allow you to reuse some of the 85,000 litres that fall on your roof every year.

Saving rain water for watering plants and washing cars is a great way to save water. Milton Keynes Council will provide some new houses with a free water butt and all MK residents can apply for low cost water butts with a choice of 100 litres or 190 litres.


Click here , enter your MK postcode, see what is on offer and start saving water as soon as your water butt is installed.


 Water Butts at



Other types of water butts are available, a quick web search or visit to the Garden Centre will provide you with many options to suit the style of your house and garden.

If you use rain water for cleaning your car, you have the added bonus of no white limescale marks left on your car if you are in a hard water area. 


Tell us what other water subjects you would like to see on these POWER Community pages and send us your articles, comments and photos.


Look forward to hearing from you.


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Soil Types and pH


The best use of any land is to work with nature and conserve or elaborate on what types of plant are already established. In a garden it is a good idea to plant the right species for the natural growing conditions. This will reduce the need for soil conditioning and intensive watering. Less work with controlling the soil conditions means you have more choices of how you spend your time in your garden. 


There are several factors to consider when planning a sustainable garden and there is a wealth of information on the web from well established and trusted sources. You will find links to these at the bottom of the page.


Before you choose which plants you would like to cultivate, there are a few considerations about what would be suitable for your patch of land.


As always on these pages, let us know if you would like to see more detailed information on any of the subjects and get involved by sharing your knowledge and experience. It would be great to see photos of your gardens too.



Soil types

A good starting point is to assess your soil type. Finding out the water retention properties will help you choose which plants will thrive in your garden.

Characteristics of soil fall broadly into six categories:


Chalk: Alkaline, free draining, usually over chalk or limestone bedrock, soil is often stony and poor in some nutrients.




Clay: Small particles, hard when dry, sticky and lumpy when wet, poor drainage, heavy to cultivate and reasonably high in nutrients.





Loam: Good for most plants, drains well and holds moisture, easy to cultivate and high nutrient content. 



Peat: Acidic, retains water, dark and high organic content, poor nutrient content.




Sand: Often acidic, large particles so feels gritty, free draining, easy to cultivate and often poor in nutrients.



Silt: Heavy soil, drains well but holds moisture, easy to cultivate, reasonably rich in nutrients.


Having a good idea of which type of soil you have is a good first step. Next stage of your research will be finding out if your soil is alkaline or acidic.



Soils in the UK are usually between pH 4.0 and  8.5. Acidic soils are between pH 1 and 7, alkaline are between 7 and 14. A pH of 6.5 to 7 is good for most plants, 



Usually you will have acidic soil if you are in a soft water area and alkaline soil if you are in a hard water area.


A soil test kit will determine the pH in a few simple steps. Kits are not expensive and easy find. You could also have a look round and see what plants are thriving there already.


It is expensive to change the pH of soil on a large scale but it is possible to raise the pH by adding lime. Lowering pH is not practical, it is best to grow plants in containers if soil is too acidic for the plants you would like to cultivate.

More on choosing plants will follow shortly.

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Drought tolerant plants

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) website has advice and an extensive list of trees, shrubs and flowers that are tolerant of drought conditions.

These are their top five:

Abelia × grandiflora

glossy abelia


Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima' (v)

box 'Elegantissima'



Ceanothus × delileanus 'Gloire de Versailles'

Californian lilac 'Gloire de Versailles'


Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii 'John Tomlinson'

spurge 'John Tomlinson'



Hylotelephium (Herbstfreude Group) 'Herbstfreude'

stonecrop 'Herbstfreude'

You may view the full list of drought tolerant plants from the RHS here 


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Rain gardens

Rain Gardens


A rain garden is a good option for reducing your water consumption and will save time with the watering can or hosepipe.


The idea of rain gardens is not new but is becoming a popular option for mindful garden remodelling.




Rain gardens are low maintenance once the groundwork has been laid. The ground needs to be lower than the surrounding landscape, have free draining and absorbent soil and plants that can tolerate occasional waterlogging.


Rain garden in Leicester          

There is a UK Rain Gardens Guide available here and the Royal Horticultural Society also have some interesting information and guidance on rain gardens here.


Sedges and grasses such as Carex and Mischanthus will thrive in your rain garden and provide insects with overwinter protection. Planting flowers that attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators will contribute to your positive impact on the environment. Well researched and creative planting could provide you with colourful displays in every season.


There are many ideas for where and how to build a rain garden along with other ideas on rainwater harvesting at the rain garden network site  where there is also advice on managing school and community gardens.




A rain garden alliance has been created in the USA, click here for a look at their website.

Would you be interested in creating a water garden alliance here on the POWER platform? This would be a space where we can share ideas, advice, photographs and experience


Keeping your garden drought resistant is good for wildlife and the balance of natural biological systems. Hedgehogs are in decline nationally so an added bonus of a rain garden is the provision of a habitat they can visit and keep the slug and snail populations in check.


Sign in to the POWER water communities today, make a comment and start to explore how we can create our own water garden alliance.



(Images, unless otherwise stated

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  • lailaallemand



    I wish I had a garden!

  • test2



    links to perma culture sites locally such as WWW PLANTING UP

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