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Saving water

It seems that every summer we are told that Britain is facing a drought, and hosepipe bans come into force. Given that we must cut down on the amount of water we use, do you have any suggestions or tips for gardeners on how best to conserve water?

G Wilson, Horsham

One of the easiest ways to conserve water is to buy a water butt - available from most DIY superstores. They can be connected to the drainpipes of your house or any outbuildings, collecting rainwater for your garden. During hot weather you should water your garden thoroughly at intervals as this helps plants to develop deep roots and so become more drought- resistant.

In dry conditions, water directly around the roots of plants. Watering leaves is a waste, as plants cannot absorb water through them. Watering your garden late in the day or in the evening is also helpful as this minimises the amount of water lost through evaporation. Watering plants in the heat of the sun can leave plant leaves scorched.

When water supplies are limited, you should focus on watering vegetables and newly planted trees and plants, and disregard your lawn. The majority of well established plants can endure drought conditions, and when the rain does return your lawn will soon recover.

Mortgage on the net

I have read in the press that you can now find information about mortgages on the internet. Could you give me further information?

B Collins, Bristol

Most mortgage lenders now have internet sites that offer information for home buyers. These sites can be found by using a "search engine" to look for the name of the lender. Alternatively you could search on the word "mortgage".

There are also other companies with sites on the internet which could be useful. Magazines such as Your Mortgage (http://www.yourmortgage.co.uk) have sites, as do Money Net (http://www.moneynet.co.uk) and Mortgage Link (http://www.mortgagelink.co.uk), which provide information on the rates and offers available from all the major lenders.

Safe climbers

We have recently moved to a newly built house and are considering growing climbing plants to cover the back wall. However, we have been told by our neighbour that climbing plants will damage the brickwork of our property. Is this true?

C Hawkins, Norwich

As your house is new, there is no need to be concerned about climbing plants damaging your walls. Damage is only likely to be caused to older buildings where the mortar is deteriorating.

Climbing plants such as ivy cause the most problems, while climbing hydrangeas are one of the easiest and most effective climbing plants for a property. They need to be watered regularly and will also require some initial training to support the growth. I suggest that you speak to your local garden centre which will be able to show you a range of suitable plants.

q George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

q Send your queries on practical property issues to the following address: Home Truths, 'Independent on Sunday', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax: 0171 293 2043; e-mail: sundayproperty@independent.co.uk