Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Dryness warning from RHS

“The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is warning gardeners that soil dryness levels have already reached level often not encountered until late July/August. The recent low rainfall has led to soils having a moisture deficit of 4 inches. This means that 4 inches of rain would be needed to restore the soil to full moisture capacity.

“It would have to be unusual rainy now to fully replenish the soil so vulnerable plants may need supplementary watering”, says Guy Barter RHS Chief Horticultural Adviser. “Most established trees, shrubs and climbers should have sufficient roots to withstand this level of dryness by using water stored in the soil from winter rain, but as summer rain is seldom sufficient for newly planted trees and shrubs I would suggest that ones planted in the last two years will need watering every 10 days even if there is some rain now.”

The RHS advises that early flowering perennials that have finished flowering can be left to die back. Late flowering perennials will need watering unless the soil is particularly heavy and moist. Raspberries, strawberries and other fruits are likely to respond to some watering. Lawns can be kept green by frequent watering but it is questionable if this is a sensible use of water, when brown lawns will quickly green up when the rain returns.

“If at all possible it would be useful to group containers, especially hanging baskets that can be very vulnerable, in light shade which will help reduce drying out,” says Guy.

The RHS suggests that watering the soil is best practice rather than watering plants and to do this consider making ‘ponds’ round individual plants so that the water can really soak in, ideally wetting the soil quite deeply, say to 25cm (10ins). Through watering like this supports plants for 14 days. Merely wetting the surface wastes water, encourages weeds and can lead to surface rooting making the plant more vulnerable.
Watering advice is found on the RHS website.

“Having your own compost heap will not only help reduce the amount of waste going to landfill but also will give gardeners an ideal medium to help make their soils even better for plants,” says Guy. “The RHS has some
useful information on compost production on our website.”"
This information was supplied by Eoin Redahan at the RHS.


Rose Mdm Alfred Carierre is now blooming over bird feeder arch.


Although I am planning a break from blogging over the summer I don’t intend to fully fall of the blogging grid. Many thanks for all your kind wishes :-) Lol... you could be right John and Frank! I’ll get my last lot of nestbox video footage sorted one rainy day and another posting I have in mind. However, until I’m back to full blog rambles I’ve realised that this could be an advantage to some (definitely not all) of the organisations that contact me.

Like many other bloggers, I get quite a few suggestions of material for posting. Some like the RHS above send me press release type mail. I don’t mind that at all. Other companies offer deals on link exchanges where they ask me to write about them or a current campaign and offer text provided by themselves… well I say they ask 'me' but often it is clearly an automated mail system and bloggers are just another advertising medium. I usually follow the links given to see but in 95% of the cases I don’t go any further.

The RHS warning above I do fully support. We have had a very dry May/June here in Scotland and only now we are getting a few showers. Seeing as I am trying to keep this brief I’ll just highlight three points on dryness in my own garden. That’s’ the plan anyway ;-)

Even established plants can suffer when it’s dry. My clump forming Bamboo shows its displeasure at dry conditions by dropping leaves. The birds highlight this for me as they dig through them for food and spread them all over my lawn.



Watering wisteria when it’s dry over the summer will help flowers the following year. I read/heard that somewhere. I do agree with that. I should point out here that my photos are not really supporting the dry theme of this post as we have had a much needed shower of rain overnight! What a difference it makes to the foliage of plants.



Many plants like summer bedding and container plantings do need regular watering and I have no advice to pass on from experience there. I tend to put plants in pots that can survive the dry like Sedums… in my hanging baskets too. I do have Hostas in pots tucked in cool corners in my back garden too.



During dry spells, my watering regime has always been to help my plants find water themselves by forcing them to become deeper rooted. I do this by watering very heavily at the base of plants with watering cans or my hose. I don’t tend to use a sprinkler/spray on my hose or rose on my watering can.

On average, during a dry spell I’d water my garden after 10 days or so depending on the heat that has accompanied the dry. This works for me although I should also point out that I have a gravel mulch on my front garden and a carpet of ground cover in my cooler back garden which does help to retain any moisture.

On the other side, if a forecast for rain is expected I do go out with the sprinkler on my hose and dampen the ground and foliage first. Lol even when the rain starts… my neighbours must think I’m mad!

Oops… I am in danger of making this too long!! One final point I’d like to add on dryness in the garden… water for birds to bathe and drink. Bird baths do dry out during dry spells too. I have one outside my kitchen window and don’t always get round to filling it up either! In my case drinking water and water bathing can still be found at my small pond nearby.

Addressing the dried up bird bath problem, my ground tray nestled in plants (as a second source for birds bathing) has had a quick summer make-over and a very simple one too. I removed the stones, swept it out and filled it with dry garden soil. I’ve never seen it being used yet but now the birds can have a dry bath to keep themselves free of parasites during these long dry periods of summer.



Hope this info helps this summer. If you’ve any tips to share for particular plants or watering regimes please do share them in the comments below. Butts for collecting water are probably the biggest tip I’d guess and most valuable for ponds too as they evaporate in the heat. Small ponds have a bigger problem as there is less volume. I’ve had to top up mine so the pump doesn’t get exposed and damaged.

Enjoy your warm sunny days, hope it doesn’t get too hot for you, your plants, birds and wildlife to handle :-D


The photos above were taken in my garden (early morning) on June 29th 2010.

16 comments:

Gerry Snape said...

thanks for the advice but especially the nest box pics this spring. Have a good summer. G.

Southern Lady said...

It is hot and dry here in North Carolina too. Thanks for the tips on watering. Carla

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We are having a short break from the very temps and dryness you have suggested here. I hope you get some rain soon. It just makes me wonder what is July and August going to be like?? Scary. I hope you are enjoying your summer even though it is hot and dry.

shirl said...

Hi there Gerry, Carla and Lisa ;-)

Gerry, just thought I’d pass on the RHS info hoping others would find it interesting too. Delighted to hear you enjoyed seeing inside the nestbox. It was fascinating to watch live. Thanks, wishing you a good summer also… enjoy many more tea parties ;-)

Carla, oh… I have a feeling it will way hotter and dryer with you there. I guess you get used to it. Over here, its not the norm although in saying that after having such a harsh winter I guess we should have expected this. Happy watering :-D

Lisa, again being over in SW Indiana I guess your temps too will be way hotter than ours also. I bet you and your garden are enjoy your break from them. That’s always the thing with weather it likes to keep you guessing. Bet July/August won’t be that bad here… rainy even. Hope not for all those on holiday. Thanks, yes we are although it has been too warm to work on my pond when I’ve had the time to do it! That’s the way it works though isn’t it ;-)

Rosie@leavesnbloom said...

Shirl I am so glad that you posted this information. I didn't realise that plants as old as two years in my garden would still need some manual irigation. That means I've got quite a few to water.

I try not to water the lawn but on Saturday I went out and spiked it with the garden fork and then put the sprinkler on it for 2 hours. It rained on Sunday! but atleast that part of my front garden was able to absorb most of Sunday's rain.

Thankyou so much for passing on this info. :) Rosie

Shady Gardener said...

Have a wonderful summer! I'll be glad when you return. :-)

ShySongbird said...

Hi again Shirl :) I didn't put any annuals in this year so reducing the need for watering. As it has been so dry lately I am glad of this as watering can be a chore but of course next year I may change my mind again :)

I don't water the grass at all having learnt from experience that however parched, it always greens up again after a good downpour.

The birds have been desperate for water here this week and I have had to fill the birdbath up constantly.

An interesting post as always Shirl with lots of good advice both from yourself and the RHS.

Have a lovely weekend... whatever the weather :)

Linda said...

I'd share some of our rain if I could - we in the Pacific north west (USA) are having the wet, wet, wettest year ever...it's raining now!

Midmarsh John said...

I can well imagine that 4 inches of rain will be needed. Maybe you got some today? I give those plants which need it a good soaking about once a week but the rest have to make do.

Enjoy the summer - not just giving the garden a makeover but putting your feet up and enjoying the sights and sounds.

Anna said...

We could certainly do with some more rain in these parts Shirl. Interesting advice from the RHS - my strawberries have not read the manual because despite being in raised beds and not being watered they have produced an incredible harvest :) Have a great summer.

shirl said...

Thanks, Shady :-) I don't expect I'll be offline all summer. It’s hard staying away however tonight I gardened until 11pm! Got a lot done too… pity I’ve been an evening feast for the Scottish midge!! Wishing you a great Summer too… free from insect bites if possible :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Rosie, you’re welcome. I didn’t realise this either :-)

Yes, watering a lawn is always a big task. As you say, forking it first after dry spells is the way to go. It is amazing how quickly the lawn greens up after rainfall though isn’t it. I’m guessing you won’t need to water your lawn for a while now after the rain we all had at the weekend!

shirl said...

Hi again, Jan :-) Yes, I can imagine no annuals would save you a lot of time on watering. That’s what I like about gardening you can try something different every year… and I usually do ;-)

Yes, I agree the transformation in a lawn from dry dust to lush green is amazing after rain… watering never seems to do that does it?

Yes, my pond has been popular just now. I bet the birds have really appreciated the water you have been putting out.

Thanks, I often get info from the RHS and don’t always get round to passing it on. I thought this one I should.

Thanks, we had a good weekend and the weather took a bit of a change with torrential rain and strong winds. It’s way cooler now thank goodness and the plants are happy again too.

Wishing you a good week :-D

shirl said...

Hello there, Linda :-) Thanks for stopping by. Oh dear… you don’t want wet, wet wet… just wet when the garden gets dry will do nicely ;-)

Thanks for the offer… however we got some wet, wet, wet at the weekend. I was driving in it at one point and nearly had to stop the car as I had almost no visibility. It was scary at the time.

I’d send you some sunshine if I could although we are expecting rain tomorrow hence the late night garden workout tonight ;-)

shirl said...

Yes John, you were quite correct! A considerable amount too in short bursts. As I said above, I was caught driving in it and nearly had to stop the car.

Meanwhile back in my garden the plants all enjoyed their cool showers. There was quite a difference in temps in the house last night too… much more comfortable. Yes, I’m a bit like you in my watering regimes.

Thanks, I plan to :-) Maybe I’ll even do some sketching in the garden… I always mean to find time for that. Lol… tonight I was on tidy up mode in the garden, grass cutting, weeding and sweeping all the way to 11pm. I have the midge scars to show for it too… I’m still itchy yet as I type this!

Wishing you a good week. I’ll pop by your blog sometime soon to see what you’ve been up to. I’m guessing you’ve had some interesting hedgehog visits :-D

shirl said...

Ah… Anna, we had enough rain here at the weekend that I could happily have shared some with you! Although we had such strong winds too that it dried up quickly too.

Lol… that’s what I love about garden plants… they don’t read ;-) Enjoy your tasty stawbs!

Thanks, wishing you a great summer too. I’ll be by your blog sometime soon to see what you’ve been up to :-D