Most gardens can be modified to use much less water than they already do. There are many ways to make a garden much more thrifty where supplementary watering is concerned. How many of these ideas are necessary depends very much on geographical location and temporary climatic conditions, but there are few gardens which would not benefit in some way from at least one of these ideas. Remember, too, that cutting down on watering also cuts down on the time spent in looking after the garden – time which you might find more usefully employed in sitting in the garden and enjoying it!
Saving rainfall. Although conserved rainwater is not likely to be sufficient to see you through a prolonged dry spell, it will certainly help to save tap water. In general, plants prefer soft rainwater to tap water anyway, so it is always worth having a supply. Most rainwater is saved in butts or tanks filled from downspouts off the roof — if yours runs directly into a soakaway, there are several products available to divert the water into a container until this is full, when the rainwater will automatically start running into the soakaway again. Devices are available to connect several butts in series. Rainwater butts should always be covered with a lid to prevent green algae growing in the water and mosquito and other water-borne harmful larvae becoming a problem. For anyone with a large garden with an open, unplanted piece of ground near the property, or someone contemplating building a new home, it is worth considering installing a large underground water storage tank from which water can be pumped when necessary.
Walls, fences and hedges. Hedges will require plenty of water to get them established, and strong-growing, tall hedges will remove much moisture from the soil. Consider replacing some hedges with walls and fences, especially openwork ones like pierced screenwork and trellis, which will not cause the same quirky down-draughts as solid structures. Remember that in a very sunny garden, a wall or fence with a hot, sunny face will also have a cool, shady one, so if you want to grow shade-loving species in an unsuitable area, this kind of structure can be useful. If you feel nothing else but a hedge will fulfil the purpose, choose one capable of withstanding drought, such as potentillia for a low hedge or sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) for a taller one.
Paths, paving and other hard finishes. In a really problematical situation, much of the cultivatable area can, as a last resort, be covered with paving. As this is to be more than merely functional, choose finishes which are as attractive and complementary to the landscape and surrounding architecture as possible, and if large areas are involved, try to incorporate more than one type of finish for additional interest.