Thursday’s hosepipe ban means we won’t be watering our gardens with sprinklers and hoses this summer. The current somewhat damp weekend won’t make a dent in that, and in fact may have hardly penetrated the ground at all.
Already some newspapers are full of tips from gardeners about just what to do.
To be honest this is nothing new. Rainfall has been quite low in London, the South East and the Eastern counties for at least the past three years. In fact even in the winter planting season I have been finding the ground to be dry, especially in central London.
The obvious thing is to plant drought-loving plants. Some of these we already grow, catmints/nepetas, lavender, salvias and sages, most herbs, such as rosemary, thymes and plants from the many Mediterranean climate regions of the world.
Also roses, which have deep, thong-like roots that search out ground-moisture and root deeply. I have been reliably informed of old rose bushes surviving on abandoned farmsteads in California and even in the Australian Outback, and flowering well despite on just natural rainfall, and even in drought.
On its own however, this might not be enough. Reverting to some previously common practices is also helpful. Planting bare-root trees and shrubs in autumn and planting smaller specimens of herbaceous plants. Large-containerised shrubs and herbaceous are grown in purely organic composts – which even if peat-free can be hard to re-wet once they have dried out. That means they can be hard to establish without frequent watering.
Mulching is good, but especially with grits and gravels. Organic mulches can make moisture concentrate near the soils surface and root-groth concentrate there also. Not helpful in a long drought when roots should be searching out moisture at depth.
Using waste water from washing-up,or baths but not from washing machines or dish-washers. Best to dilute it about 50:50 – as the phosphates in the detergents can burn new roots at high concentrations.
It also helps if plants are grown in gritty, more loam-based composts. Marina Christopher of PHOENIX PERENNIALS of Medstead, nr Alton, Hants, grows her plants in such compost, also the stock at The Plant Specialist in Great Missenden, Bucks is produced this way.