Outside the Backdoor

Observing what can happen in your own garden even in suburbia!


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Watering wisely?

It’s just over two weeks since I shared the Burnt Garden with you and we’ve actually had some rain – not a lot, but enough to refill both water butts – hoorah!

Is it me, or did it take a while for the gardening press and media to catch up with the fact that many of us gardeners are really struggling with heat and drought this summer?  And I know it’s not just been a London and South-East thing.  Friends in Scotland were bemoaning the lack of water back in the Spring, long before the high temperatures took hold here.  Finally, about a week ago, the emails starting arriving advising us to ‘water wisely’, but just what does that mean?

I mentioned that the recent rain had filled our two water butts.  We are now carefully rationing this new bounty to ensure that we can continue to use rainwater to water our blueberries, other acid-loving plants and, most importantly and unseasonably, our Christmas tree!

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Although in doing this, I am conscious that this year most of my promising blueberries have ended up feeding the local blackbirds!

We can also use the rainwater to top up the pond in due course.  We are now having a serious discussion as to where we can site further water butts because clearly, if our summers are going to continue like this, we need more than two!  However, I’m sure it doesn’t take me to tell you that water butts are large and usually ugly beasts but needs must!

We are also told not to water established plants and trees but, as I mentioned before, I am very worried about our birch tree and my fears were given credence by the tree consultant who I called in to give it an honest assessment.  When I said that I had drenched the root base weekly, he told me that it was no where near enough in order to prevent the tree being stressed further and possibly dying.  He pointed out that the roots probably run under most of the garden so, rather than just soaking the immediate area around the trunk, I should be watering every evening on a very wide scale and encouraging my neighbours to do the same.  So Operation Birch has begun, resulting in a very strange area of bright green grass nearest the tree whilst the rest of the lawn still currently looks like the Sahara!

I am convinced that everyone thinks I’m wasting my water trying to revive the lawn which, of course, is not the case!

Whilst most of the gardening advice is to focus water around the roots and to give a deep, focused soaking, this isn’t going to work for the tree, so I have developed a 15 minutes and then move on approach to using a sprinkler.  This is a real time saver.  Wherever I set my sprinkler, I know water will benefit the tree along with anything else planted nearby.  To avoid over-drenching any one area, I have been known to set the oven timer!  I can then nip out between other tasks and move it on.

Finally, I suppose it is worth reminding ourselves that some plants are really enjoying the heat.  My tomatoes, which were sown late due to the Beast from the East (oh, how that seems a lifetime ago!), are now ripening and it looks like being a good crop.

The watering can is constantly to hand to give them a dousing every evening.  Recently someone was advising reducing the leafy growth even before the end of summer and given the need to save water, this seems sensible, so I am snipping off bits of tomato when the mood takes me and when I can bear to step inside the greenhouse!  I think it would be fair to say that, with the heat we’ve had, I’m the one who comes out looking like a tomato!

 

 

 

 

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Gardening brain

It’s hard to put my finger on it but there’s always a point in early February that seems to switch on my gardening brain.  Whilst I will be the first to put my hand up in shame and admit to being a bit of a fair weather gardener, it’s not just that the short dark days of December and January offer little encouragement to go outside, there’s something inexplicable that triggers in February that says come on, it’s time to start planning, buying, putting ideas into action.

This year it hit me yesterday morning.  I opened up the February edition of Gardeners’ World Magazine and saw trigger words such as ‘sow’, ‘seed’ and ‘prune’, and before I knew it, I hadSun_Gold_Tomatoes_(4866993719) a giant list for the garden centre today!  Not that it was the most exciting list, principally consisting of large bags of stuff – compost (multi-purpose and ericaceous) and manure, plus tubs of poultry manure.  However, there was also the promise of things to come with a bag full of seed potatoes (Arran Pilot) ready to chit and a sachet of Sungold tomato seed to be sown later this month. l discovered Sungold by chance some years’ ago before they became every chef’s favourite.  Somehow they manage a unique depth of flavour that balances both sweetness and sharpness, making them the perfect tomato in my opinion.

As soon as I was home it as out with the rose food and the manure to get our roses off to the best start for this year.  Then it was on to pruning a giant overgrown shrub.  This would have been a lot easier without the gale force winds which made the bush a constantly moving target!  Meanwhile John could be seen attacking the buddleias at the far end of the garden, reducing their twenty foot high branches down to two foot high trunks.  Now they are ready to go racing skywards once again.