Sea­sonal ad­vice and gar­den­ing events

Ruth Goudy has some top ad­vice on wise wa­ter­ing and drought tol­er­ant plants

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

IT IS FIVE O’CLOCK in the morn­ing and I have wo­ken to the sooth­ing sound of rain. For the first time in ages the tem­per­a­ture brushes coolly on my skin and I feel like I can breathe again.

My dog fol­lows me as I tip­toe down­stairs. We cud­dle up to­gether in the con­ser­va­tory and lis­ten to the steady pit­ter pat­ter, and the birds joy­fully wel­com­ing the rain with their dawn cho­rus. Mock me if you will, but I can smell the rain. It is a rich musky smell, like fresh lawn clip­pings and newly dug earth.

Please do not mis­un­der­stand me. I am a lover of sun­shine and heat in sum­mer. Our fam­ily spends as much time as we can at Felixs­towe and Low­est­oft beaches. I en­joy bask­ing, read­ing my book in the sun, and swimming in the sea. But this spring has been in­cred­i­bly dry. Our wa­ter butts were empty by mid April and our gar­den felt as if it were made of con­crete.

Suf­folk is renowned for miss­ing out on rain that the rest of the coun­try re­ceives. So of­ten those rain­clouds from the west are empty by the time they reach us. Many of us gar­den­ers have de­vised ways of mak­ing the best use of our wa­ter in times of drought. Here are some of our sug­ges­tions.


Wa­ter­ing in the evening gives the plants have a chance to ab­sorb the mois­ture overnight. This is the time that tem­per­a­tures are at their low­est so that the wa­ter does not evap­o­rate be­fore it has sunk in. Wa­ter­ing dur­ing the day may harm your plants. The sun­light re­flect­ing on the fo­liage can cause the leaves to scorch.


When you wa­ter make sure that you wa­ter the soil that they are grow­ing in rather than the plants them­selves. It is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to wa­ter well every few days rather than lightly every day. Sim­ply put, if you wa­ter lightly you will only be damp­ing down the top layer of earth and not the roots of your plants. You may find that the roots even­tu­ally rise to the sur­face to seek wa­ter. If the ground has had a good soak­ing it will soften and the roots will be en­cour­aged down.

Hang­ing bas­kets are slightly dif­fer­ent. It is im­por­tant not to let the bas­ket dry out. Wa­ter every day to keep the com­post moist, and make sure the wa­ter is not just run­ning over the top leav­ing the roots dry.


Rain­wa­ter is best. It might be sum­mer now but it is the per­fect time to set up a wa­ter butt. Then it will be in place to catch any avail­able wa­ter and be­come a store over the win­ter ready for next year. Re­mem­ber, it can still be dry dur­ing au­tumn in Suf­folk. Your plants pre­fer rain­wa­ter that does not have all the chem­i­cals in­cluded in tap wa­ter. This is es­pe­cially the case for plants that live in lime-free (er­i­ca­ceous) soil such as camel­lias, rhodo­den­drons, mag­no­lias, ac­ers and pieris. We, like most peo­ple, have a wa­ter me­tre so we also re­cy­cle our wa­ter in a small way. We use the wa­ter that we have peeled the veg­eta­bles in to put on our plants (mi­nus peel­ings!), and we use a ‘friendly’ wash­ing up liq­uid so we can pour the wa­ter at the end of the wash­ing up onto the lawn and pots. Every lit­tle helps and our small gar­den seems grate­ful.


How easy this is to say. Beth Chatto’s gar­den is one of our favourites. She is fa­mous for adapt­ing the gar­den to the con­di­tions within it and we all need to take a leaf out of her book. Don’t be afraid to ask at your lo­cal nurs­ery about which plants are more drought tol­er­ant. You will be told that all plants need wa­ter, and they do, but some need less than oth­ers. Many of the alpines such as se­dums and arme­ria thrive in poor, dry soil, laven­ders en­joy it, cis­tus, cytis­sus and ly­ch­nis man­age well, to name but a few.

So, here’s wish­ing you a hot, sunny and fun-filled sum­mer, and your gar­dens some re­fresh­ing rain. Would it be too much to ask for sun dur­ing the day and rain at night? Paul and Ruth Goudy run Kiln Farm Nurs­ery, Kes­grave. www.kil­n­

Paul wa­ter­ing the gar­den. Photo James Fletcher

Ruth Goudy

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