Top Tip

Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - Gardening -

In parts of the coun­try, the drought con­tin­ues — with only spo­radic drench­ings of rain. Where I am, the weather has been dra­matic: Caribbean sun­shine, thun­der­storms... and then drought. Ir­ish Wa­ter tells us that the hosepipe ban will con­tinue through to Septem­ber, so how do we cope in the gar­den? If your lawn suf­fers from a lack of rain, and your fruit and veg plead for more and more mois­ture, what should you do? Well, you have to develop a strat­egy to man­age your wa­ter re­sources in the gar­den.

First thing is: en­joy the gar­den. Get out and use your space, re­lax and start see­ing the po­ten­tial for the fu­ture. Maybe now is when you should start plan­ning for your paved ar­eas, pavil­ions and bar­be­cues. Dur­ing lock­down, we’ve all be­gun to make gar­den im­prove­ment plans.

Sec­ondly, don’t worry about the gar­den. It will sur­vive. Ev­ery­thing in it is much more in tune with the topic that drives Ir­ish peo­ple mad — the weather! Plants have many ways of cop­ing with ex­tremes.

In the midst of win­ter, as I see frozen stems on fo­liage, I can only imag­ine that their veins must be in­fused with an­tifreeze. And at times like this, it must be that they have their own cool­ing mech­a­nisms or re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion plans that we can know noth­ing of.

Here are some handy tips to keep in mind…

When it comes to car­ing for your lawn, sim­ply let the grass shoots grow a lit­tle bit longer than usual and raise the blades on the mower: al­low­ing the ex­tra growth will in turn en­able the shad­ing of what’s un­der­neath and the con­ser­va­tion of mois­ture. Once the rains come — and they will — lawns will mirac­u­lously green up rather in­stantly.

If you can, move tubs and pots full of flow­ers out of the bak­ing sun into a shady place to al­low them to re­vi­talise. It’s equiv­a­lent to us putting some ice cubes in a glass of wa­ter or juice. They will need a lot of wa­ter­ing but the hol­i­day away from the sun should help.

Save the main wa­ter­ing for the fruit and veg gar­dens. Any­thing that swells in the soil (pota­toes, onions, shal­lots, carrots) or above ground (tomatoes, straw­ber­ries, rasp­ber­ries, mel­ons) will need plenty of wa­ter. Hope­fully you’ll have in­stalled wa­ter butts — and felt slightly ridicu­lous do­ing so as the rains teemed down — but this re­source will now al­low for a boun­ti­ful sum­mer/late au­tumn crop. The other long-term job that is re­ally pay­ing div­i­dends at the mo­ment is mulching. Good mulch — home­made from com­posted or­ganic ma­te­ri­als or gar­den cen­tre-bought, such as for­est bark — will cut down on weeding for much of the year but, most im­por­tantly, will now con­serve mois­ture around the roots of the plants and shade those same roots from the heat of the sun when it’s needed.

So if you are ap­ply­ing mulch now, put two to three inches of good or­ganic mat­ter around the base of the plants that are most pre­cious to you, af­ter a good wa­ter­ing. This will keep ev­ery­thing cool and moist. Fi­nally, you don’t need any un­wanted vis­i­tors mak­ing great use of what­ever mois­ture there is avail­able so be sure to do as good a job as pos­si­ble on weeding. Wa­ter is a scarce re­source in the soil at the mo­ment and you want to di­rect it where it works best. All that said, this stage of the year is as much about en­joy­ment of the out­door space as ac­tively gar­den­ing. Trees are com­ing into their own — they can look re­ally beau­ti­ful and pro­vide won­der­ful shade and, be­cause you are out­side, you ob­serve the gar­den much more closely as well as the wildlife that sur­rounds you.

We have swal­lows nest­ing in the roof of our ve­ran­dah. Mum and dad are do­ing a great job sourc­ing in­sect food for the five lit­tle chicks, who are a joy­ful bunch. Their chirp­ing is a de­light, bring­ing some won­der­ful life and song into the space.

Spend­ing time in the gar­den, de­spite some try­ing con­di­tions, is just bliss­ful right now!

Re­mem­ber that your lawn will rejuvenate by it­self af­ter the hot, dry con­di­tions have passed. So don’t waste too much time (or san­ity) wa­ter­ing or feed­ing it.

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