EARLY WARNINGS

First published in Ann Janes St Albans & Harpenden Review: Photograph of the Author by

Have you enjoyed the recent sunshine as much as I have? It really puts a spring in our steps and for gardeners is a wake up call to start getting to grips with preparing for the coming months. How many of you were caught out with Saturday night’s frost? During the week I had put out the plants that have been over wintering in my hallway, fortunately they are still in a sheltered position so hopefully won’t have suffered too much. It’s a sharp lesson that we need to be ever watchful.

Following the lack of snow and rain over the winter months I suppose it was inevitable that there would be warnings of a water shortage, but it seems increasingly probable that there will be a hosepipe ban. With this as a strong possibility I will have to rethink just how many pots I will plant up for the summer. Water is a very precious commodity and using it wisely is something we should all take very, very seriously. It is in all our interests to remember that every drop counts and to use it carefully everywhere.

Rainwater is free and commonsense tells us to collect and store it when it does pour down. Make fitting water-butts to your drain pipes a priority. At the same time fit guttering to your garden shed and greenhouse leading to a water barrel. Even really small outhouses will collect a surprising amount of water. A good tip is to site water butts in the shade and fit with a cover or lid of some sort as this will help to prevent any possible problems with mosquitoes. Where possible grey water (water that has already been used in your home for bathing or washing) can be stored in a separate container or used straight onto the garden providing that it doesn’t contain lots of soap or detergent. Dishwashers use huge quantities of salt so this water should never be used on the garden. There is quite a lot we can do ourselves to counteract the devastating effects of drought. A good start is to dig in generous amounts of bulky organic matter, spent mushroom compost, garden compost or well rotted manure will all do a good job to improve the soil structure which in turn will help the soil retain moisture.

A deep mulch spread over the soil in spring will help to lessen the effects of evaporation. Materials that can be used include chipped or composted bark, garden compost, well rotted manure or gravel. Old carpet or black plastic will do a good job on your allotment where appearance isn’t so important, this will also help to suppress weeds.

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