Water in the garden - Cambridge Water

Water in the garden

Long dry summers may be great for holiday makers, but they can be a bug bear for gardeners. While frequent watering will help your garden look lush and green, it can be time-consuming and expensive. The average hosepipe can use as much as 1000 litres an hour.

Fortunately, with a little care and attention there is much you can do to help your garden not just survive, but thrive in the summer months.


Some plants are adapted to dry weather conditions with thick waxy leaves (e.g. sedums, cacti), or hairy leaves to trap moisture, or small narrowly divided or curled leaves to reduce transpiration. Others have fleshy roots or roots which reach down to search for water deep in the soil (e.g. poppies).

Sun-loving or drought-tolerant plants:

Abelia Elder Mesembryanthemum
Acanthus Escallonia Nasturtium
Ajuga Eucalyptus Oenothera
Alchemilla Foxglove Pelargonium
Alstroemeria Genista Petunia
Alyssum Geranium Philadelphus
Armeria Gypsophila Pines
Artemisia Hebe Poppy
Berberis Helichrysum Privet
Box Holly Pyracantha
Buddleia Honeysuckle Saxifrage
Catmint Ibiris Sedums
Ceanothus Impatiens Sempervivum
Cedars Iris Senecio
Cistus Ivy Tulip
Cotoneaster Juniper Ulex
Clematis Kniphofia Weigela
Crocus Laurel Wisteria
Cytisus Lavender Yucca
Dianthus Marigolds  

For more tips and advice on how to save water in the garden and to view products, visit our Save Water Save Money website.


Herbs prefer a dry soil and are generally more aromatic as a result, e.g

  • Rosemary
  • Sage and Thyme
  • Lavender

Crops which can cope with little water include:

  • Parsnips and turnips
  • Beetroot
  • Onions
  • Swedes
  • Carrots
  • Rhubarb
  • Asparagus

Water butts

Purchasing a water butt can help you stockpile rainwater for summertime gardening. As well as helping you to save money on your bill, rainwater is also better for plants than tap water. water butt and bench

Water wisely

When watering established plants never water in the heat of the day - most will simply evaporate. It is better to water in the evening or early morning. Water plants at the base thoroughly and infrequently. Roots will then go down in search of the water, making plants stronger

Water only the plants that need it. Some plants, even root vegetables, will survive on very little water. Some, such as potatoes and broad beans, need water when they are filling out and only some, such as lettuces, tomatoes and marrows need water throughout the season.

Use a rose on your watering can. Water flooded on to the surface will dry to form a hard crust. If you need to use a hosepipe, fit a trigger nozzle to control the flow.

Container plants

Container-based plants require more watering. Consider adding water-retaining crystals to the soil and mulch on top to prevent evaporation. Also make sure you place a container underneath to capture any wasted water


Grass can survive for long periods without water and will quickly recover from drought. Unless you totally drench the lawn, watering encourages the roots to come to the surface, thus rendering it less tolerant to dry conditions. In dry spells raise the blades on your mower so that the lawn is left longer and cut the grass less frequently. Aerate the lawn well to allow any moisture to seep down to the roots.

dry gardenXeriscape

Xeriscape means to landscape for water conservation. The idea is to use plants that require less water. You can also utilise objects for decorative effects such as rocks, bricks, benches and gravel which cut down on the amount of vegetation in your garden.

To get more ideas why not visit the Cambridge University Botanic Garden where Cambridge Water sponsors a dry weather garden. The garden has been landscaped as a typical town garden, and planted with drought resistant plants that are not watered.


Compost also provides valuable nutrients and encourages drainage, whilst keeping the soil moist.  You can buy various types, or make your own, by saving refuse from the kitchen, such as: vegetable peelings and even tea bags. All kinds of garden waste can also be used, but avoid recycling diseased plants in this way.

Maintain your garden

Maintaining your garden and plants will ensure water is not wasted on dead, diseased or damaged plants.

Dead-head flowering plants to encourage new growth and remove any rotten  or dead wood.

Pull weeds out when the shoots first appear, before they compete with your plants for precious water and always before they set seed.


Damp patches in or outside the property, or lush vegetation in dry periods may be indications of leaking pipes.

To find out more about leaks click here


Wash your car using a bucket and sponge, rinsing off the suds with a watering can. Just 30 minutes with a hosepipe will use more water than the average family uses in a day.



Water efficiency
There are lots of easy ways to save water in your home and garden - helping to save money and the environment at the same time