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Retaining Moisture in Your Garden

The weather is so unpredictable it is easy to be caught out during a heat wave and lose the plants you love so much.

However, it is possible to retain moisture in your garden without hoses and sprinklers. There are some things you can do in advance to prepare your garden for dry spells and avoid wasting our most valuable resource - water. Below are some tips to help you retain moisture in your garden:

Retaining moisture with shade:

- Plants need space to grow but they also provide shade for each other and the soil they share. Placing pots in groups will have a similar effect.

- Set your mower higher – this will give the soil more shade and reduce evaporation from the soil – even half an inch will make a big difference.
- Mulch borders and flower beds with a decorative bark to a depth of at least 5cm over the surface of the soil. This will keep moisture in the soil and keep weeds down (it also looks good!).

- A decorative layer of small stones on the surface of your pots as a top dressing will insulate them from the heat of the day helping to retain moisture and suppress weeds. 

Avoid water waste

- Recycle water by Installing a water butt – you can now buy electric pumps to spray this water on your garden. In an average summer gardeners could harvest nearly 640 litres of rainwater from a 7ft by 5ft shed. Depending on the weather, this could keep up to 50 tomato plants happy for three months! The sooner you get a water butt installed, the more you can save.
- Check for leaks on your hose pipe and replace any faulty parts.
- Water in the morning or evening so that less water is lost through evaporation.
- Do you really need to water your lawn? Grass doesn’t die – it just becomes dormant during dry weather.


- Use a quality loam based compost that will retain moisture more efficiently.
- Use large pots that can hold more compost.

Plant choice

- Some plants are thirsty (e.g some conifers) and can suck moisture out of the surrounding soil and away from other plants.
- Look for drought tolerant plants. These are typically plants that originate from dry climates.

Good garden design

- Observe which areas of your garden are in direct sun. Plant according to plant tolerance.
- Low growing plants may provide soil shade around the base of taller plants.

Healthy plants

Healthy plants are most likely to cope during temporary water shortages.

- Keep plants well fed.
- Buy healthy plants.


- Weeds compete for resources. Weed as necessary but avoid disturbing the soil unnecessarily if very dry.


- Digging can release moisture. However, some plants may struggle in compacted soil. Hard, compacted soil will absorb less water. Good winter soil preparation will help the soil retain moisture naturally and reduce compaction.