Season: Summer

Coping with the hosepipe ban

This page will look at the strategies to ensure the dry summer and hosepipe ban have a minimal effect on your garden. The focus here is on trees but the same ideas can be used for your other garden plants and shrubs.

For established trees the impact of a dry year has less effect than for newly planted trees that have a better established rootplate that can access the water table more efficiently. As trees grow the root plate extends in size to ensure adequate water and nutrients can supply the developing canopy for the processes of respiration and photosynthesis as well as providing stability for the weight of the mass of the tree. Mature trees can access water even in the summer when local water tables tend to drop reflecting the combination of lower precipitation and higher demands for water from flora.

At R.J. Tree Services we have encountered an increase in progressive die back of conifer and pine trees over the last 2 years. This is in part due to the shallow and often localised rootplates these trees have making them more vunerable to a lowering of the local water table with our below average precipitation. Even mature trees have experienced this effect although it is generally trees less then 5 years of age that have a dieback.

Dry river
Some strategies

The obvious methods to reduce the effects from dry summers and a hosepipe ban relate to reducing water evaporation loss thus maximising water available for tree roots to absorb.

  • Water in the evenings using supplies from a water butt.
  • Create a pipe feed directly to the root plate from the surface for newly planted trees.
  • For trees already planted construct a “moat” like trench around the root collar to contain the water limiting the runoff away from the tree as you water it.
  • Apply a thick layer of wood chip or bark chip around the tree rootplate area.

On previous articles I have discussed the benefits of a woodchip mulch to your gardens. A good layer of woodchip can inhibit weed growth, increase the organic content ,reduce water evaporation from watering or rainfall and look quite attractive. This technique is quite well established on many allotments where water conservation is an even greater pressure for owners aiming to maximise productivity of fruit and vegetables.

Many arborists like us supply woodchip and barkchip for free to local gardens. It is important to check that the woodchip is not from conifer or pine trees which are too acid for most gardens; in addition the chip must be from disease free trees.

In the long term perhaps we should be considering planting Mediterranean trees in our gardens that can cope with dry summers and overall lower annual rainfall levels!!