Flushed with good ideas

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Rosemary and lavender are just two of the plants that have thrived during the prolonged dry spell

As I write, the dry weather continues and very little rain is forecast for the coming weeks. It must be causing havoc for our farmers and other businesses that rely on natural rainfall to thrive. Water companies are imposing hosepipe bans, and our reservoirs remain worryingly low.

I was listening to local radio this morning, and they were talking to experts about the impact of the dry spell, and sharing ways in which we as individuals could help. I found some of the information useful and informative, so thought I would pass it on.

Having said that, I’m not sure I can bring myself to follow the tip about only flushing the loo once a day. That’s a sacrifice too far for me. I might instead order a free ‘Flushsaver’ offered by Yorkshire Water which is a kind of bag that when placed in your cistern, allows you to save between one and two litres per flush (but they are only suitable for single-flush toilets rather the increasingly common dual-flush systems that enable you to choose a short or a long flush depending on your…er…deposit).

One of the things they were discussing was the garden-proud Englishman’s seemingly unshakable need to water his lawn, no matter how diminished our domestic water supply is. Who cares if our reservoirs are so depleted that the villages that were deluged to create them are beginning to reappear? Does it really matter that our country is on the brink of a national emergency? Keeping our lawns looking pretty is far more important, surely?

That kind of attitude is quite staggering when you know that watering your lawn is completely unnecessary. Established grass is quite resilient, as its roots are deep enough to cope with dry spells. Yes, it will go brown and crispy for a bit, but that is a small price to pay if the alternative is a nationwide crisis. Come the next downpour, your lawn will bounce back to its verdant self. If we overwater our gardens, the plants’ roots remain close to the surface where they are vulnerable, rather than reach deeper where the soil is more moist and the roots are protected. A bit of tough love will teach them to become more resistant to extreme weather.

The expert on the radio was quite scathing about people who selfishly keep dousing their gardens. We take this essential resource for granted because we normally experience so much rain. But we cannot afford to do that any longer. She also explained that keeping the grass bowling-green short is not good for it either, and suggested allowing it to grow to a longer length as it will encourage the roots to grow deeper and therefore the lawn will become more able to cope in drier weather.

She advised a more selective approach to watering rather than to just let rip with a hosepipe like a killer on a shooting spree. Selectively target where you put the water, and prioritise the things that actually need it to survive, such as salad and vegetables, or things that have been recently planted. Those that are already established will bounce back when the rain returns, which it inevitably will. And on the subject of our unpredictable, see-saw of a climate, if you want a garden that looks colourful whatever the weather, choose differing floral species that thrive in a variety of conditions, whether it is sunny and warm, or wet and cold. Then whatever weather prevails will determine which flower grabs the limelight, and you will be blessed with colour all the time. At the moment, begonias, geraniums, lavender and rosemary are relishing the long dry sunny days.

Common sense should tell you to water in the evening too, as the plants will benefit from it all night long, rather than it evaporating in the heat of the sun. Laying down mulch will also keep valuable moisture in the ground. It of course makes sense to make the most of the rain when it does come, so have plenty of vessels in your garden to collect it, such as water butts, buckets and troughs.

During my research, I discovered an article featuring an expert from the Royal Horticultural Society who offered tips about how to use water wisely during a drought.

His name was Mr Gush.

Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 19th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 17th August 2022

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