Down to Earth: How to deal with garden drought
Summer’s hot, dry days can wreak havoc in our gardens. The solution? From irrigation to mulching, the secret is to be prepared, writes Cambridge designer Robert Barker
High summer can be an unusual time for the keen gardener. We are either dealing with a wet summer and the disappointment that our sunny borders look as damp and windswept as unimpressed children on a camping trip in spring or we are having a persistent battle against drought. There doesn’t seem to be an inbetween and the way things are going this year it looks as if we are heading into another very dry end to summer.
Compared to most of the UK, East Anglia has one of the lowest rain counts and this year has been record-breakingly dry. This has caused the plants in our gardens - and to all of us who care about our gardens - to go through stress. So lots of hours have been spent watering exhausted-looking plants and feeding evergreens that look frankly anaemic. Even plants that tolerate dry conditions have looked like characters from old films that have been stranded in the desert gasping for water.
It is very difficult to advise on a method to combat drought. Most gardening programmes on television and radio spend the spring advising us to use plants in our gardens that can handle water-logging from the wet springs we get, then spend the summer advising us to use plants that manage with drought. So, all those water-loving plants that were recommended will be dead by summer and all the drought-tolerant plants will be dead by the following spring.
What is the answer? A good irrigation system can work wonders, as this can be turned on and off depending on the time of year. A leaky pipe system will not only save you money - sky is the limit with irrigation systems if a salesperson gets you in their grasp - and has a better chance of working properly.
Buying mulch each year for your garden may not sound like the most exciting thing to spend your money on. but it will help retain moisture and suppress weeds. This is usually spread over borders in winter, and not only will it make your life easier the following year but trust me, your plants will thank you for it.
The key to avoiding problems is to make sure that you know your garden. Knowing what soil you have, looking for signs of drought and signs of over-watering and whether your borders need a nutrient-feed, will work wonders.
So please don’t panic over having to spend this summer constantly watering sad-looking plants in pots and borders. With a bit of planning, this time next year you will be able to savour the summer no matter what the weather throws at you.
See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.
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