Creative and imaginative ideas to change rainy day blues in the garden, into a joyful vision of colour, and fun!
Ensure trees or shrubs planted in the last couple of years on lawns or in areas of rough grass have a circle of clear earth around them – this must be kept clear or grass will prevent essential moisture getting through. Mulching with bark or compost will help.
The key to successful planting, whether it be a shrub, tree, perennial or bedding plant is to water in well. Soak the root ball in a bucket until no air bubbles come to the surface, dig the planting hole, fill with water and allow to drain away. Place the plant in the hole, fill with soil, firm gently and water well with a watering can – this will give the plant a huge advantage over one planted with a dry root ball in a dry hole and watered only on the surface.
Hoe beds and borders to get rid of annual weeds, like bitter cress and chickweed. If it’s dry, attack perennial weeds like ground elder and the like with systemic weed killer painted onto the leaves and trail tips of bindweed into jam jars full of the same. Remember systemic weed killers are indiscriminate and will kill anything they contact. If you don’t have time to do this, at least cut the culprits down to prevent them from setting seed.
Pests love warm weather, so be on your guard! Caterpillar and aphid infestations can be dealt with by hand if caught early enough, but should the situation career out of control you will have to resort to insecticides or grin and bear it! Greenfly and blackfly especially love the heat and don’t forget aphids and other sap-sucking insects can transmit viruses so don’t give in to the sympathy vote. Try and attract beneficial insects by growing a wide variety of plants – ladybirds and their larvae are consummate aphid predators, as are lacewings and even wasps.
For recently planted large trees or shrubs, leave a hose trickling around the base for an hour. The same goes for established plants in very dry periods – pay particular attention to camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas which will abort next season’s flowers if they get too dry. Mulch around the roots when moist to help avoid this. Recently planted hedges are best watered with a trickle hose (a length of old hose punctured with little holes) left running for an hour or so.
Water is a precious commodity – instigate good practices such as using kitchen and bath water (as long as it is neither too dirty, greasy nor full of detergent) for watering, collect rainwater in butts (available from the centre) and investigate ways to recycle water for your irrigation. Avoid using tap water for lime-hating plants such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas – they will not thank you for it!
Water thoroughly once or twice a week rather than little and often – this encourages plants to put down roots in search of water rather than coming up to the surface. Remember, though, that containers and hanging baskets need watering every day and sometimes even twice a day if it is hot and windy.
Keep your pond topped up with fresh water – a buildup of algae in warm weather can be toxic, if not fatal, for animals.