I always dread hearing a hosepipe ban announced, for legal reasons. And why is that, you might ask? Well, it’s on account of Murphy’s Law, which states that “although several weeks of sunny weather may create the expectation of a good summer, a declaration of drought will immediately be followed by dark clouds, heavy rain and a chance of localised flooding”. So the hosepipe ban came into effect earlier this week and we haven’t had a dry, sunny day since. I rest my case.
The recent lockdown has caused green fingers to sprout throughout our island nation – even on the hands of those formerly indifferent, if not actually opposed, to gardening. Green fingers lead to green shoots – and a lot of newly planted specimens that need watering. Mass gatherings might still be banned but nobody told the hundreds of hopeful seedlings – so how to make the best use of water just now? Here are my suggestions.
Firstly, don’t waste any water at all. Anyone caught emptying half a kettle of previously boiled water down the sink should be firmly smacked (although I do not condone or advise violence in any shape or form, obviously – legal reasons again ). Show them, instead, how to empty it over the potted plants nearest the back door, who will be glad of it.
• Water early in the morning or late at night, when it’s cool, so that less water will be lost to evaporation.
• Prioritise – plants in containers are likely to dry out quickest so look after these first, followed by anything planted in the last year.
• Give plants in the ground a good long drink once or twice a week, instead of a light sprinkle more frequently, to encourage deep root growth, which ‘trains’ them to seek out water for themselves.
• New ornamental plantings should have a good deep mulch, applied onto damp soil, to retain water and slow evaporation on dry days.
• If you have children, explain that the last three months without sporting activities will have dire consequences for their muscles, and the best way to counteract this is regular lifting of medium weighted objects, such as a watering can.
I’ve tried the last one myself, with mixed results – but if you have youngsters it’s definitely worth at least giving it a go. A ready supply of Magnums in the freezer is a good idea if you want to adopt the dual carrot and stick approach – but unless you have iron willpower, the consequences of this are unfortunately all too obvious.