Gardening and the drought

There is no doubt that the drought will have a serious effect on farming and gardening. Lack of water will reduce yields and kill plants if they are not watered. Some gardeners never water their plots saying that there is no need but this year that is just not true and fruit and veg will need water to survive.

Standing by your plot in the late evening spraying everything with a hose pipe will not work. The water needs to be on the soil and not on the foliage. Some say that watering at night is the best as it reduces evaporation,  that is true but if you see plants with signs of severe water stress, i.e. wilting, water then immediately.

In previous years we have used drip irrigation which is often laid under mulch. This works very well as it gets the water to where it is needed and the mulch cuts down evaporation. The system has not been used for a while but is now back in service.

The best plan is not to water a little every day but to soak the ground every few days. Giving just a little water frequently does little good as it does no penetrate very far. The small amount of rain we had earlier this week got no further than the first inch of soil and then evaporated quickly the next day.

For small beds, including square foot gardens and square metre plots, use a bucket and either an old baked bean tin or yogurt container to ladle the water directly around the roots of each plant. I remember my grandfather doing this  more than 50 years ago and it works just fine.

It is also a good time to consider collecting rain water as every garden should have some water butts. We are lucky in that we have 4 huge tanks to store recovered water but that will not be enough if the drought continues.

There are predictions that we will have more droughts that last longer and are more severe so we had better get used to coping with a lack of rain. Now is the time to plan how to manage your plots to ensure a good harvest.