It’s May and it’s pretty safe to say that the UK is in a drought. I’ve taken to checking into AccuWeather on my iPhone daily with a whimsical hope that the rain forecast at the end of the week has darkened to great storms. It never has, simply changing to scattered showers or disappearing off the radar completely to be replaced by burning sun. We’ve had thunder and lightning storms, in some cases with great streaks of white flashing across the sky. But no rain. Dry storms with rolling thundery heavens, the vague smell of quenching and soul refreshing humidity, but no fat raindrops. Average rainfall for the year to May is around 9.36 inches. We’ve had 4.32inches, less than half of the spring elixir which normally sustains many plants and wildlife through the summer months. And whilst my pale skin is starting to look like I’ve been dipped in cooking oil, the garden is definitely wanting.
In the past I’ve been a big advocate for using as little water as possible in gardens, never watering my little oasis and instead trying to use as many drought tolerant plants as possible. It’s seemingly worked in the past and, in the most dry of circumstances, I have allowed myself a spot of labour intensive watering can action. Luckily I don’t have a lawn and so the gluttonous and thirsty plant that is grass has not met my eyes with a dusty and barren landscape. But having had very little water this year my garden is starting to crack and die.
I have therefore, I’m ashamed to say, fallen off the no water wagon and started using a sprinkler every few weeks. If you are going to water your little green patch then the way in which you do so is very important to try and conserve reserves as much as possible. Water in the evening when the sun has disappeared behind the tree line and this valuable life force has time to soak into the ground rather than just evaporate straight into the hot air. Meanwhile don’t water little and often….this is disastrous. Rather than creating healthy plants you’ll develop a garden whose roots all lie just below the surface of the soil and therefore dry out quickly and become the opposite of drought tolerant. Instead drench every few weeks to create a system where your specimens will grow sturdy roots plunging into the soils depths. Roots which will become far more drought tolerant than those spreading out over the surface. Use grey water as much as possible, even if you just add up little bits in a bucket to pour at a later stage. Rinsing off washing up, the bottom stale kettle water, yesterdays cat bowl water that has a few floating cat biscuits in it – don’t pour it down the sink, pour it in the garden!
In fairness I’ve got over my water crisis pretty quickly. Whilst watering is not environmentally friendly, I feel duty to the flora and fauna that call my patch their home. To provide them with water, to provide greenery and food. If there are no plants then there are no flowers for the bees. There are no juicy caterpillars for frazzled parents to thrust down fledgling beaks. There are no slugs and snails and worms at the surface of the soil to offer tasty food stops for passing mammals and amphibians. And even if your garden isn’t looking too desolate now, with a hosepipe ban almost certain if we don’t see some rain, gardens of England could be barren tundra by the time September arrives.
You might call be bad for watering, especially with a sprinkler. But I’ll only do it once every two weeks and I’ll take a bath that day instead of a shower. I’ll even go without a bath to offer a bit of life force…I’d rather be a smelly hermit than a gardener with no plants or bees.
*This blog was originally posted at The Guide to Gay Gardening*