Dr Cryer joined this RHS in July, having previously worked in academia and industry on tropical agriculture focussed on optimising water, nutrition, and light use. As part of the RHS Environmental Horticulture team he will lead research and application of sustainable water management techniques within domestic gardens, RHS Gardens and the UK horticulture and landscape industry. Focus areas include understanding water use in domestic and RHS gardens, and applying this knowledge to help deliver the RHS Sustainability target of being water neutral by 2030.
The charity is highlighting the multiple benefits of using rainwater in the garden. Harvesting rainwater reduces the demand on treated water supplies which are running low in many parts of the country this summer. Water butts and a garden with more plants and less hard landscaping will slow the flow during more extreme rainfall events, helping reduce the tendency for drainage systems to be overwhelmed and for sewerage to spill into our rivers and seas.
To make the most of rainfall, gardeners can get creative with containers, using anything from saucepans to teapots and buckets to collect rainwater to be used on plants. This means greater volumes of water stored in water butts can be saved for drier times. Importantly, placing plant pots on drip trays can help capture ten litres of water per pot per year.
To be water wise with what they have collected, Dr Cryer suggests gardeners should direct water to plants that need it most, especially new plantings and plants in containers. For thirsty plants in established beds and borders, a good soak every two weeks with water directed to the roots should be sufficient. Keeping soil healthy is a hugely important factor in containing water and making it available to grow healthy plants. Improving soil quality and reducing water evaporation by adding an organic mulch or homemade compost is also very beneficial.
The charity also advises giving houseplants a holiday outside while it’s raining, as long as the rain is not too heavy or it is windy which could damage more delicate indoor plants. Many of the most-loved houseplants including spider plants and peace lilies are sensitive to the fluoride in tap water which makes them turn brown at the tips. So a regular rain shower could benefit their appearance.
Dr Mark Gush, RHS Head of Environmental Horticulture, said
: “We’re delighted to have Dr Nicholas Cryer join the Environmental Horticulture team, especially at a time when water use and shortages are at the forefront of many gardener’s minds. Research into water use in the RHS gardens, alongside usage in domestic gardens will be vital in providing the best advice to the nation’s 28 million gardeners. Dr Cryer’s findings will help ensure we maximise the effectiveness and efficiency with which we use our rainwater and reduce consumption of mains water, benefitting both the climate and wildlife.”
For more advice on collecting and using rainwater to keep your garden in blooming health and take the pledge to switch from mains to rains, visit: https://mains2rains.uk/