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    10-point plan to beat the drought

    Hosepipe bans from April 5 will affect half of Britain’s gardeners. Forcasters say the outlook remains dry — but even if torrential rain falls for weeks on end, the East would still be in drought.

    The ban, confined mainly to Southern and Eastern England, will remain until reservoirs fill and rivers flow normally — and that’s unlikely before next winter, so we’ll just have to cope.

    Climatologists warn that hotter, drier summers are increasingly likely, so as well as dealing with the current drought, we need to make changes in the way we garden. So here’s my ten-point plan to beat the drought:

    1. SAVE water — a no-brainer, but an essential first step. Gather and store rain water in butts or tanks. ‘Grey’ water, from the shower and kitchen sink, should be hoarded, but be cautious about dishwasher or washing machine effluent as strong cleansing materials can harm plants.
    2. MAKE every drop count.Minimise evaporation by watering in the cool morning or evening. Water at the roots. Avoid sprinkling or using a watering-can rose except with seedlings.
    3. MINIMISE soil moisture loss. Don’t dig too deeply. Cover bare soil with mulch, and encourage plants to cover the ground. Leave hoed-out weeds lying on the surface.
    4. REPLAN your summer show. Water guzzlers include lobelias, bedding salvias, mimulus, impatiens, begonias and pansies. Petunias, gazanias, pelargoniums and silver cinerarias are drought tolerant but hardy annuals such as marigolds, cornflowers and poppies are better.
    5. REDUCE evaporation from containers. Water-gel mixed into a quality growing medium conserves moisture. Hanging baskets dry quickly. Big tubs take longest to dry out.
    6. GROW crops under horticultural fleece to cut evaporation and repel airborne pests.
    7. DON’T thin out lily leaves on top of ponds until late summer. Top up ponds with rain water or buckets of tap water.
    8. REVIEW long-term planting.Roses, clematis, fuchsias, rhododendrons and many spring shrubs prefer moist soil. Buddleias, lavenders, broom, rock roses and yuccas positively thrive in drought. And cardoons, Phlomis russeliana, Verbena bonariense, Eryngiums, Catananche, most bulbs, many grasses and almost all herbs love it dry.
    9. COMPOST everything. It’s laborious, but essential for good gardening.
    10. DON’T despair. If treasured plants die they leave gaps — a new planting opportunity.Here are some gems to get you started: Grevillea ‘Canberra Gem’, Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’, Anaphalis margaritacea and Lotus hirsutus.

    Next week, I’ll explain how you can get your grass through the hosepipe ban. Drought turns grass brown and some environmentalists claim there’s no place for traditional lawns in an eco-conscious garden. I disagree and will explain why.

    Read more: HERE

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