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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Rain stops play

A month ago, if you’d said to me that I’d be struggling to garden due to the rain, I’d have laughed out loud!  Whilst I would be the first to admit that we desperately needed the rain, I am forced to admit that the weather has not been very typical of July and, as a result, my timing when it comes to getting things done in the garden has been absolutely rubbish!

On one occasion I chose a particularly bad moment to attempt to plant a rather beautiful salvia given to me by a friend the previous weekend.  Dark purple with striking silvery leaves, this salvia is a plant that shouts ‘summer’.  

Having decided on a location, I started preparing the hole.  Admittedly the sky was very overcast but it didn’t look full of the deluge that descended just as I was positioning the plant in the hole!


On another occasion I was forced to take shelter in the greenhouse.  Fortunately I’d just grabbed the tomato food so was able to use my time wisely whilst trapped and emerged having both fed the plants and tied in any wayward shoots.

Trying to decide when to administer liquid feed to various pots and plants in the border has also been challenging.  The pots look quite sodden whereas less than a month ago we were ensuring they all had trays underneath them to capture every valuable drop of moisture.  Now I’m trying to rescue plants from drowning!  Just because a pot is wet, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need feeding, especially as heavy rain like this is liable to wash out any nutrients from the pot.  So I decided to splash around a few cans of liquid seaweed just as the rain began again!  There’s no doubt that you do feel a bit daft watering in the rain!

And then there’s been my misplaced optimism about entertaining outdoors.  Last July we spent a glorious evening entertaining friends out on the patio surrounded by plants and lanterns.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to do it all again this summer?  Sadly the weather has had other ideas.  For a start, a gale force wind blew out all my candles and lanterns and, whilst it wasn’t exactly cold, it wasn’t what you would call a warm, balmy evening either!  Best laid plans eh!