How to Beat the Drought in Your Garden

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There’s a lot we can do to minimise the drought in our gardens and yards. So here’s a plan to keep the summer alive.

WHAT TO BUY 

If you’re still buying plants, go for drought-beaters. Petunias, portulacas, tagetes, pelargoniums, marigolds and succulents cope with dry conditions. Mix moisture-conserving gel into your compost or buy compost with moisture-holding additives. Don’t increase feeding — that causes greater stress. And, if you have to ration your water, halve feeding until supplies return to normal.

BEDS AND BORDERS 

If you can water with a hose, do so in mornings or evenings. Reduce evaporation by using porous hose or trickle-tubes, rather than sprinklers. Lay mulch to conserve moisture.

Thirsty work: Water your plants in the morning or evening

GRASS AND LAWNS 

Don’t worry when grass turns brown in drought. Raise your mower blades a notch or two and don’t apply fertiliser. When rain returns, keep those blades high until the grass has recovered. Groomed lawns are thirsty and environmentally unfriendly. Consider converting to a flowery meadow. My tiny lawn is droughtstressed but still flower-strewn and beautiful.

FOOD CROPS 

Give priority to maturing crops — strawberries, raspberries, salads, potatoes. Keep winter crops such as brassicas alive but ration them. Don’t sow winter carrots until the drought breaks. You have until July.

SHRUBS AND TREES 

Mature plants will cope with adverse weather. But rhododendrons and azaleas may need watering. Newly planted shrubs or trees need regular watering.

CONSERVE WATER 

Water plants in the morning or evening. Water containers thoroughly and wait until the compost is almost dry before watering again. Use water butts to gather rainwater from roofs.

You’ll be surprised at how quickly they fill. Bath, shower or washing-up water is fine for plants. And you can use ‘grey’ water from dishwashers if you can gather it from the drain pipes. The RHS recommends using grey water within 24 hours to avoid bacterial growth.

Mild contamination of soils by soap should not be a problem if the water is used in moderation. Softened water is less desirable. It might help in emergencies but long term use will cause a build-up of salt in the soil. When it finally rains, we’re not out of trouble.

Half a day’s downfall may bring only shortterm relief. Soil moisture deficits will need regular rain to replenish, so keep saving water.

PLANTING SCHEMES 

Climate change is likely to result in more frequent droughts. So it’s wise to adjust your planting over time. There are many gorgeous drought-proof plants. These include euphorbias, crambes, verbascums, verbenas, pearl everlasting, pinks and more.

Succulents, echeverias, aeoniums and aloes could be used more, too. They don’t care if rains but in drought, they may be the only plants to stay pretty.

By NIGEL COLBORN | Source: LINK

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