Thought for today - Blog Post 30/06/2020 Weather patterns & Rain
As is so often the case with our weather patterns nowadays, the old and predictable annual journey through the seasons is all but gone. The days of April Showers and March coming in like a Lion and out like a Lamb are seemingly no longer with us. October used to always be very wet, with November cold and crisp; neither are normally so now.
Most months had a character of commonly seen weather associated with them. We could easily enough make an informed guess on the month just by looking at the weather outdoors. I'm not lamenting this. It is a shame that things have changed and inevitably our impact on the environment is largely the cause, but whatever the reason and our feelings, we just have to accept it. That is not to say we shouldn't try to protect and restore our batter and bruised environment: We most certainly should.
What I am thinking about more than anything is that in light of the moving feast of variable weather that we are presented with, that we must be thoughtful with our gardening responses. Some years, we are unable to put out our bedding plants until the 'traditional' third week in May. In others, we can do this much earlier and in some later would be better advised. Our timings and the way in which we choose to grow plants will have to evolve with the changing weather we encounter.
One area that we must consider is in the use of water in the garden. Historically, water has never been in short supply in the UK. It has been miss-managed and poorly stored, intermittently causing shortages, but this is just through incompetent planning and lack of infrastructure, not a shortage of average rainfall. The fact remains that it rains a lot in the UK and when it rains we store inadequate amounts of it for when it isn't raining.
That has been our historic problem, our future problem will be the same, but more pronounced with drier, hotter summers and wetter, cooler winters predicted. If we fail to store water, we will have problems. I was waiting for it to happen this year and sure enough, during lockdown the warning came through the media that 'we may have hosepipe bans...'. This was bound to happen with more of us gardening while stuck at home and a hot dry March increasing demand for water. We may yet experience these bans, but if the summer progresses in the same manner as it has, that may not be such an issue. June has been at times cold and often very wet.
On several days, at times consecutive days, I have not had to water my plants, or so I thought. On Saturday, my children and I turned out one of our bags of Charlotte potatoes (see below) that we had been growing. The plants were healthy and we had a modest, but high quality haul of spuds. What surprised me though, was just how dry the compost was (sorry, didn't take a useful picture of this) in the bag, when we emptied it. I had been (when it wasn't raining), soaking the bags with water at least once a day. Clearly though, despite watching water come out of the holes in the bags, the days where I hadn't watered were enough for the compost to dry significantly. This is a trap for gardeners of any level of experience.
Over the years as a garden centre employee, I had lots of customers ask why the newly bought plant had failed to thrive. Despite much of their protesting that they did everything possible to keep them alive, much of the time it was because they had inadequately watered their plant. Often the reason given for not watering a newly planted shrub or herbaceous perennial daily was that 'it was raining, so I thought it would get enough water!' The reality is often very different.
Any easy way to test for yourself is to dig a small hole in your garden after rainfall. You'll most probably find (assuming it hasn't been raining for days or weeks on end) that only the top 1-2" 2.5-5cm of soil is noticeably damp or wet. Generally speaking rain doesn't permeate particularly deeply in short periods. If it rains every other day don't assume your plants are getting much water at all. Unless you have a very humus rich or improved soil, chance are that rain will do little more than wet the top layer of soil and make the foliage look lovely. New plants need focused watering regularly until established and developing water searching roots at least. Plants in containers really need your help to keep them adequately hydrated.
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