Keeping the garden green: perspectives on improving water management within the domestic, public and amenity gardening sectors

M.B. Gush, J. Manning, I.P. Holman, A. Griffiths, J.W. Knox
A changing climate, population growth, urbanisation and rising competition for increasingly constrained water resources are of particular concern to horticulture where water is a key dependency. To address this, a 3-year knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) brought together leading academic and industry scientists to promote better use of water in domestic, public and amenity gardens in the UK. The objectives were to i) evaluate innovative, cost-effective, impactful water management technologies and methodologies, ii) implement changes in gardens, and iii) raise awareness and inform behavioural change among amateur and professional gardeners. The project addressed the risks associated with the dependence of ornamental horticulture on water, while promoting the role of water in sustainable gardening, and in building resilience to increased climatic variability and extremes. The KTP reviewed best management practices and innovative solutions to improve water management in gardens. Findings were distilled into four key actions: i) maximise the collection, storage and use of rainwater, ii) minimise lateral runoff and maximise infiltration, iii) maintain soil health to balance water retention and drainage, and iv) select appropriate plant species and cultivars according to site conditions. Extensive engagement with national media and the general public took place. The project developed the website to help drive behavioural change in water management of gardens. At time of writing, nearly 3000 gardeners had committed to an average annual saving of over 35 million L of mains water per year. The project developed strategically and operationally important outputs for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), including a water policy, a water roadmap for their flagship garden Wisley, and contributions towards their sustainability strategy (water neutrality target). RHS gardening advice webpages on water were also updated, and relevant information incorporated into the curriculum of RHS horticultural qualifications. The project culminated in a show garden at the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Gush, M.B., Manning, J., Holman, I.P., Griffiths, A. and Knox, J.W. (2023). Keeping the garden green: perspectives on improving water management within the domestic, public and amenity gardening sectors. Acta Hortic. 1373, 223-230
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2023.1373.29
rainwater harvesting, sustainable drainage systems, soil water, evapotranspiration

Acta Horticulturae