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16 October 2014
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Winter 2004
John Cushnie On...

Saving Water
15 June 2005

As I write this article the last thing on my mind is the liklelihood of a shortage of water for the garden. At present everything needs wringing out and that includes my clothes. In England, especially in the Southern counties, there are already areas with hosepipe bans and it could happen in Northern Ireland. It has in the past.

I don’t know about you but I’m not the type to try and dispense the bath water around the plants.

MulchOne way to conserve the available moisture in the soil is to mulch with bark or gravel to prevent it from evaporating. It is worse that pointless applying a mulch to soil that has dried out. The layer will stop rain percolating through to the soil. Dishing the soil around plants in the area of the roots allows the rain to remain where it is required rather than run to the lowest point where it may be wasted.

Where supplies of water are restricted use what is available on recently planted trees and shrubs. Fork up the top few inches of compacted soil to allow water through to the roots. If you have a pond set containers of plants into the water to soak the compost from the base. Move pots and containers away from the strongest mid-day sun to reduce evaporation.

House plants can be set outside for the summer. Keep them in their pots and plunge them into the borders where they will enjoy their holiday. Rain will mark the hairy leaves of begonia and Saint paulia so keep them indoors but away from strong sunlight.

Water ButtWater butts are a great way to store rainwater directed from the house, garage, shed and greenhouse roofs. Make sure that the barrels are clean. Wrapping an old pair of tights over the end of the down pipe will filter out debris such as leaves.

Don’t use this water to irrigate seedlings. It probably contains fungus spores causing young, tender plants to die due to damping off and botrytis. At the end of the dry spell( if there is one) empty the barrels and clean them out with a fungicide.

If the worst comes to the worst you can turn the garden over to Mediterranean plants such as citrus and olives!

It may not happen but if it does don’t moan. Would you prefer a wet summer?

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