For a start, minimise the time you need to water containers. Mix water-retaining gel into compost to hold moisture for longer, and use a multi-purpose compost that includes a wetting agent so the compost can absorb moisture if it does dry out. Leave a gap at the top of the pot so there is space for water to soak in and not run off, and mulch with shingle to help retain moisture.
If you grow vegetables in pots, use a planter that will keep the contents watered for up to a fortnight. The Flower & Vegetable Waterer is a 30-litre fake terracotta planter that, although less than gorgeous, holds a 15-litre reservoir that delivers water to the plants’ roots via capillary watering spikes.
Thus you can sprinkle the rocket seeds, disappear for a fortnight and return to a healthy crop of seedlings.
A water butt will give you on-site rainwater, the best kind for your plants. They don’t need to be monstrosities of regulation dark green or dirt brown.
B&Q stocks slimline, cylindrical water butts of grey, lime or pink that, at more than 2ft high and 18in wide at the base, are ideal for small spaces, yet hold 320 litres of rainwater. They resemble tall, elegant containers and have drop-in trays at the top for holding plants.
A trio of three against a patio wall would look the business and provide a rainwater reservoir for the summer.
A hosepipe is handy, but it’s a hassle to use a standard size, and in a small space it probably needs to be on show, even when stored. You can now buy a lightweight, compact hosereel that is as decorative as it is practical.
The cute Pico Reel in pink, lime or purple, which is no wider than 2ft in diameter with a pick-up handle, has a hose more than 26ft long, a multi-spray gun and a solid base, so it can be parked anywhere on the patio.
Invest in a micro-drip irrigation system that can be connected to the mains or water butt. This can be easily set up around the borders, with the soaker hose buried under the soil so that every drop reaches the roots of plants, which is more effective than showering plants from overhead, when much water is lost through evaporation.
Kärcher claims its basic Watering System takes less than 30 minutes to set up and includes a soaker hose plus rain hose with drip and spray nozzles to target specific areas. You can also use it with a water-sensitive timer, which reacts to moisture levels in the soil so will only water when needed.
If you have more than half a dozen containers, consider an irrigation system for those, but you will have to group them together and spend time setting up a bespoke system with a thin hose, connectors and drippers that, when installed, will be unnoticeable and keep petunias perky right through summer.
Meanwhile, if you fancy a fountain in your garden this summer, the good news is that you don’t need a submersible pump, cables or any other electrical gear, nor do you need to depend on the sun for solar power. Now you can choose from a range of fountains, contemporary and classic, that are run on batteries and just need recharging overnight. Bliss.
- Potting composts with wetting agent: Growing Success Universal Enriched Compost, J Arthur Bower’s Multi-Purpose Compost, both £3.99 for 20 litres from garden centres
- Flower & Vegetable Waterer, £34.99. Seasons Pico Reel, £39.99, both Hozelock, leading garden centres
- Slimline water butt, £269.93, B&Q
- Irrigation systems, from £40.99, Hozelock, leading garden centres; Kärcher, B&Q
- Senso Timer, £99.99, Kärcher, B&Q
- Battery-operated fountains, from £95, Bernini at QVC; Liberty Mains Free Features