How to get the most from your garden – even in the driest summer!
We all know and accept now that climate change is upon is, and one of the impacts is much greater unpredictability and irregularity of the day to day weather. In Britain we have got used to being rather wasteful of water but with a bit of care and planning we can still enjoy colourful gardens in dry conditions. Here are five simple tips to keep your gardens green even in the driest summers.
1. Look after your soil
2. Water at the right time
Many of us over-water our gardens. The soil may look dry at the surface BUT if it's moist at depth it will be fine for established plants. To check if you need to water or not, look at the soil about a
spade-deep down. If it’s damp, it’s fine; if it’s dry, it’s time to water. If you have clay soil, it might
feel damp whether it’s irrigated or not and sandy soil can feel dry, even if it has water in it. If this is the case, watch your plants and when they start to show signs of water stress – when leaves change position or get darker – note how the soil looks and feels. This way you can get more of an idea of what your soil is like when it has too little water. Watering the garden before a drought sets in keeps the soil’s moisture levels up and helps prevent a water deficit.
Never water during the heat of the day: apart from being ineffective – much of the water is simply
evaporates in the sun - this can burn the plant leaves as well. Ideally the garden should be watered
early in the morning to reduce evaporation. Less well known is that evening watering, especially on the foliage can cause problems, as night-time temperatures are often inadequate to dry the moisture on the leaves. This can encourage some fungal pathogens to grow.
3. Use the best watering techniques for your plants
Getting the hose out may be tempting but the bad news is that not only is it frequently very wasteful of water, it's nowhere near as effective as it might look. Hoses can produce jets of water that can damage the surface of the soil, resulting in water running away from plants. Solve this by attaching a lance or spray gun. More effective methods include:
4. Do not over-water!
This bad habit:
5. Collect rainwater and reuse old water
Collecting rain water from our house, shed and greenhouse roofs is something many of us already do; if you have the space, did you know that with simple connectors you can have an array of water butts which can hold a remarkable amount of water?
6: Introduce more drought-resistant species into your planting scheme
Just as new insects and birds are appearing in a warming country it should come as no surprise that gardeners are looking to more drought resistant varieties for the garden. If you watch the TV
gardening programmes or go to the Chelsea Flower show chances are you know this already. According to the RHS the most popular shrubs to consider are:
• Abelia grandiflora
• Buxus sempervirens (Box hedge)
• Euphorbia characias 'wulfenii'
• Sedum spectabile
There is a good deal more on the RHS website. Just search for 'drought resistant plants'