Gardening Essentials

How To Look After Your Garden In A Drought

During a prolonged drought,

it can feel like your garden will never look good again. Don’t worry, we’ve got all you need to help your outdoor space bounce back.


Light droughtMedium droughtSevere drought

While you wait for the drought to break

  • Leave the grass to grow. Longer grass will give shade to roots and encourage them to grow as well. If you do mow your lawn, raise the cutting height of the lawnmower.
  • Don’t use top dressing or weedkillers on the lawn during this period. Avoid fertilisers unless you are able to water the lawn (think of water resources in your area – is there a hosepipe restriction?)
  • Water your garden in the morning or late afternoon – if you water during the hottest part of the day it will evaporate before it has been absorbed.

How do I recover my lawn after a drought?

  • Rake the lawn lightly and remove any loose material.
  • Save water during the drought period (perhaps install a waterbutt if you don’t have one, this will help during future water shortages). After the drought, water heavily for a couple of days, and then water as normal. It is always better to give a good soak but less frequently instead of little and often – this will encourage deep rooting.
  • Avoid high traffic areas on your lawn when it is recovering to avoid more stress.
  • Use an electric scarifier to pull the thatch, dead grass and moss from the lawn.
  • After rainfall, there may be some patchy areas. To repair, rake the area and remove dead grass then apply a lawn patch product such as Gro-Sure Smart Patch or Miracle Gro Patch Magic, as it contains watering retaining granules and is perfect to repair any patch.
  • Once the grass is recovering (turning green is the first sign), apply a balanced fertiliser (but not a product containing weedkiller) such as Westland SafeLawn or EverGreen Lawn Repair Kit – to replenish soil nutrients and boost lawn health.
  • If your grass is very sparse or worn, we recommend over seeding the whole lawn. Try Gro-Sure Smart Lawn seed – it contains a clever aqua gel coating that can absorb 400 times its weight in water to guarantee germination.
  • Finally, if your lawn is dead (when it starts to become bare), you will need to re-turf or sow a new lawn with a seed mixture such as Gro-Sure Smart Lawn seed, a quality blend that will help prevent this happening if another dry spell occurs. Once you have sown your new lawn, keep watering well to help seed germination.

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Shrubs and trees

  • Don’t water established plants as it will bring roots to the surface – you want to keep a deep root system during a drought so your plants can get the most of any groundwater.
  • The essentials for plant care during drought include mulching, watering and pest management:
    • Be prudent with your pruning – less leaves = less need for water, but don’t cut back trees and shrubs, the shade provided by their canopy protects them from scorching.
    • Don’t use fertiliser during a drought as it requires frequent watering to be effective.
    • Once the drought ends use a slow release fertiliser with high phosphorous percentage as it will aid in repairing the root system.
    • Water little and often, keep soil damp but not saturated as this can suffocate root systems and add to plants’ stress.
    • Look out for secondary problems such as pests and diseases. Remove dead branches and stems after the drought as these can be an easy way in for disease.
    • Add a mulch such as J Arthur Bowers bark chips or Gro-sure Smart Cover – this helps retain soil moisture levels.

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  • Water daily as root systems in pots and containers can easily dry out. Make sure you plant in as a big a container as you can – smaller pots heat up quicker and dry out.
  • Feed weekly and consider adding water retaining granules to make the most of your watering.
  • Add a mulch such as decorative gravels on top to keep the soil moist.
  • Try grouping pots together to create a little microclimate – this should help lessen water loss from leaves.

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  • Water seedlings for a couple of weeks after planting so they establish a good root system.
  • Plant heavily water dependent plants, such as cucumbers, in a hollow so water will drain into it, boosting their roots.
  • Water them infrequently but deeply as this will encourage roots to go deeper in search of water, making them more self-sufficient and less likely to suffer during dry spells. If you water little and often the roots will be much shallower in the soil making them vulnerable to drought.
  • As with other plants, mulch the soil around your plants to prevent moisture loss.

Soil Conditioning

  • Mulch will make your soil to hold more water, as it will reduce evaporation
  • Organic mulches not only conserve moisture, they also feed plants, earth worms, microbes and other beneficial soil life by composting at the moist earth surface.

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From discovering drought tolerant plants to lawn care secrets, find out how to revive your garden in drought conditions with our latest guide.

Preserve your pride and joy through all seasons, even during long, dry summers when flower beds and lawn need a little extra TLC. If your grass is suffering from drought stress, we’ve broken down how to make your lawn drought resistant. Put green fingers to good use by watering and fertilising your lawn during a drought, then promote a quick recovery with the best reseeding techniques. To keep your garden green and full of life for years to come, it’s a great idea to choose plants that can withstand a drought. From plants that hold on to water to dry weather trees and shrubs, there are many routes to a drought-proof garden design.

Read the Homebase guide to garden care and discover the best drought resistant plants, so your outside haven can flourish through any UK heatwave.



Writer and expert