I doubt many would want to be out and about in the current weather, but spare a moment to think on your plants. You may think that they will be loving all this rain, but understanding that a plant needs air as well as water, you a chance to stop the rot, before you have to expensive replacements. If you garden is well and truly sodden, now is the time to get out there and address some immediate issues.
The lawn is still growing, given the mild air currents, but it will be sitting wet – something it hates. If your garden is on anything but sand, its roots will be struggling to breath and you will need to slit or aerate the lawn. First sweep away all the debris that has collected. Then, grab a fork. Starting at a corner where you will not have to walk over it twice, insert the fork at a 45 degree angle and lift the turf slightly. It needn’t be by much, just enough to allow an air pocket. Remove the fork and repeat. The best method is to create a zig-zag of forked columns or rows across the lawn. Once you have done this, a light dressing of compost would be welcome. Try not to walk on the lawn for a week or so, to let it settle.
Alternatively, you could just use the special shoes or aerating machinery that is available, but given the amount of water that has fallen, and given snow is approaching, I am not sure this will suffice.
If there are any areas in your garden, where shrubs sit wet, try to fork the roots to give them air. Some trees even – such as the Southern Beech (Nothofagus spp.) – will rot quite quickly if in wet soil leaving you with a dead plant and an expensive headache to replace.
It’s all doom and gloom in the news just now, with the imminent arrival of a hosepipe ban, especially in my area of the UK, East Anglia when a ban will be imposed on 5th April 2012. So I have been thinking about my vegetable plot this year and making plans to scale down production for the coming season.
In some ways I should be expanding my plot this year as there are stories in the media which indicate that the price of vegetables, particularly potatoes, are set to rise as crops in this area may fail or be greatly reduced, but to be honest, the thought of planting lots of seeds, growing them on and planting out, only to have them die because I can’t give them sufficient water is a bit soul destroying, so I have decided to manage just one of my raised beds and plant a little of several things.
Packing the plants in tightly will help a little, as water evaporates from bare soil quicker than in a bed where the plants cover the ground and the one I will be using is near the greenhouse and therefore has access to a water butt, so this should also be of help in the coming months.
I will also choose varieties carefully and not include some of my family favourites - runner beans for example (or in fact any bean), which are hugely popular in my house, need a lot of water to yield a good crop so may not be a good choice for this year.
However, vegetables from the beet family and kale family, such as swiss chard and several herbs such as rosemary, thyme and lavender are all good choices as they need less water than fleshy types. Tomatoes don’t need a huge amount of water, although they must be watered regularly - little and often - otherwise they will not thrive. Other tips to ensure a healthy crop include adding compost to the soil, a mulch to stop evaporation and to water your crops at night rather than in the morning and certainly not in full sun.
It’s going to be a challenging season this year, so keep following to find out how I get on! And however you decide to deal with the drought, happy gardening!
-- Jane Dubinski