As a practising gardener / groundsman, I cannot remember having experienced such a dry winter and spring has we have had this year, 2017 must go down as one of the driest springs on record, in fact a recent report in the Telegraph newspaper states that Water companies have warned that parts of the UK could see a drought this summer after the driest winter in more than 20 years.
Lack of rain over the autumn, winter and early spring has left some rivers and reservoirs, particularly in the south and west, with dwindling levels. With weather experts warning that there is little sign of rain to come, many farmers and gardeners are desperately watering their crops as the ground dries out. Until now water companies have played down talk of hosepipe bans, but as the dry weather continues the public has now been warned that restrictions could be on the way in some areas unless reservoir levels are replenished by prolonged rainfall.
Kent and Sussex are almost entirely dependent on groundwater from rain. A spokesman for Southern Water said: "The winter of 2016-2017 was drier than average, particularly in the months leading up to Christmas. "This means there are lower water levels across our regional water sources."
Water companies say work has started with farmers to reduce the impact of the continuing dry weather as summer approaches. Environment Agency officials have admitted that the dry weather could lead to drought management measures' for some regions.
Britain has experienced parched weather in the six-month period between October and March - the driest since 1995 and 1996, according to the Met Office. According to long-term forecasts, the next three months will also be dry, making water restrictions likely.
So, what can you do to save water and ensure we are using water more efficiently?
· Only water essential crops and plants
· Water at night to reduce evapotranspiration.
· Ensure your hoses and sprinklers are not leaking and wasting water when in use.
· Choose an appropriate sprinkler / watering system to suit your needs.
· You can use timers to control water usage
· Use recycled water where possible
· You can mulch shrub beds to retain moisture
· Only water newly laid lawns, Lawns are quite resilient and can cope with dry periods.
Mulching helps conserve water. On bare ground about sixty percent of the water can be lost through evaporation. A 75-mm layer of mulch will help hold onto the water so the plants can use it.
When watering, a thorough soaking to wet the soil to a depth of 150-200mm is much better for plants than light frequent watering. Between 20-30 litres of water applied to one spot under the canopy of trees or shrubs should thoroughly saturate the root zone in that location.
Again, when watering lawns, apply enough water to thoroughly soak the soil to depth of 50mm, an efficient irrigation program on turf should not begin until the lawn grass shows signs of moisture stress. Symptoms include a dull and bluish-green colour and leaf blades folding. The most efficient time to irrigate is between sunset and sunrise because of less evaporation, less wind and lower temperatures. Early morning is the next most effective time to irrigate while midday is the least efficient.
Also avoid fertilising drought-stressed plants. Fertilisers are chemical salts and will actually dehydrate roots when water is in short supply. If you need to apply a pesticide, make certain the plant is not wilted at the time and spray during early morning or late afternoon. You should also avoid unnecessary pruning of plants during drought. Pruning encourages new growth which has a high demand for water.