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Drought Conditions - Helping Your Hertfordshire Garden
It's been a tough few weeks for gardens in Hertfordshire. While hot days may be nice for us, hot weather and almost no rainfall can be spell disaster for a a garden. So here are some handy hints to help you manage your garden watering.

First of all - does the garden need watering?
If plants have been in the ground for 5 years or more, there should be no need to irrigate as plants should be well established and able to source water as the root systems will have settled in well. Check the soil too. Dig into the ground with a trowel, if the soil is damp a few inches below the surface level then there is generally no need to water. If the soil is dry at spade depth then watering is needed.

Handy Hints
It sounds silly but many people don't know how to water properly and tend to water the foliage of plants rather than directly onto the soil under the leaf canopy. Directing water right towards the base of the plant is the most efficient way to water. If you have a spray gun, use the 'shower' setting to get the right flow of water rather than eroding the soil with a strong blast of water.
Watering is best done either early in the morning or in the evening when less water is lost to evaporation in the heat of the day. Watering in the cooler hours really does save on water wastage. 
Remove any weeds or unwanted plants that are competing for water and nutrients with the plants you actually want to keep.
If you've got lots of pots, if possible, move to a shadier position where transpiration rate of the plant will slow down in the darker conditions. 

Mulch and work that soil
Add a layer of organic matter to the soil if you can. Adding organic matter improves soil structure and moisture retention. This can be applied at any time of year and is vital if planting in the autumn to improve soil structure before the plants are planted.
One of the most efficient ways to conserve water and reduce soil temperature around the roots is to mulch. Can’t say it enough - mulch, mulch, mulch!
Mulch is best applied on moist soils after planting and watering to a depth of 5cm. Mulch as well as preserving water around the roots of plants also reduces fungal infection on plants from water stress. Mulch can be applied in beds, borders and containers. Keep any mulch away from the plant stems.



 
Organic Mulch
Organic mulch eventually combines with the soil over time increasing organic matter, improving soil structure and moisture retention.
Strulch - A light and easy to use garden mulch with a neutral pH lasting up to 2 years. Available in 150L bags
Composted Bark. A fine grade composted bark of 0-8mm. Neutral pH. Available in bulk bags, loose and 50L bags. One of our Rhododendron growers recommends the use of composted bark on Rhododendrons.
Border Bark. A larger grade bark 8-25mm mix of conifer bark. Great for use on larger beds. Available in bulk bags, loose and 60L bags
Bark Pine Mini Mulch. Small neat pine chips perfect for use on smaller beds and to cover soil surfaces in containers. FSC sourced. Available in bulk bags, loose and 70L bags
 
Irrigation Systems



 
At the moment there is no hosepipe ban on the horizon, so hoses can still be used to irrigate newly laid lawns and new plantings.
There are many choices of hose, nozzles and spray pistols many of which are adjustable to suit the material you are watering. Strong jets tend to misplace soil and reveal roots to the elements thus making root stress even higher and water uptake harder for the plant in the long run. Use a gentle setting to ensure the best water penetration to the soil.
 
Lawn sprinklers are great for watering large flat areas such as lawns as the name suggests. There are some excellent options on spikes that can be inserted into the lawn or on tripods where the height can be adjusted. Check for coverage when looking at sprinklers - range can vary from 64m2 to 320m2
 
Drip Irrigation is a great idea for newly installed planting as irrigation sprinklers can be placed directly at the base of the plant reaching the roots effectively and efficiently. Drip irrigation is surprisingly easy to install or you could try one of the starter kits. These are just the thing for containers.
 
Dripper tube provides a quick, simple and efficient method of watering plants. Each tube / pipe has integrated drippers long the pipe length to deliver water directly where needed.
There is also an option for a self-regulating dripper tube that contains a self-regulating mechanism that ensures irrigation is delivered evenly along the length of the tube.
 
Drip irrigation is most effective when connected to an irrigation timer which can be programmed to deliver water at certain times of day thus eliminating stress and time.
 
Provender Nurseries are currently running an offer on certain irrigation products. Have a look on this link - Irrigation Offer.

Planting Trees
Trees can still be planted at this time of year even under these conditions. We would recommend using a Root Rain Metro or Piddler Tree Irrigation system to get water right down to the roots where needed.
 
Plant Choice
There is a lot to be said for the old saying’ right plant, right place’. If this weather is to continue over the next few years then it may be time to reconsider some plant choices that may make dealing with this kind of weather less stressful.
Plant drought tolerant plants. Think Mediterranean / Think Beth Chatto Gravel Garden/ Think Native. Mediterranean plants are used to dealing with dry, hot conditions and as such will require less water to establish. Plants that are native to the UK are also used to adapting to conditions in the UK climate. There is a huge list of plants that will tolerate this hot dry spell including plants such as LavandulaCistusPerovskiaRosemarinus, many HerbsAlpinesGeumIrisNepetaStipaPittosporumBuddlejaBuxusDigitalisEuphorbia,TrachelospermumEryngiumVerbascumConvallariaArtemisiaSedumErigeronSarcococcaPapaver and Osteopsermum will all thrive in hot dry conditions. There are many other choices to select from too.

Plan Ahead
Water butts. It may be a little too late for this season but you can install one now ready for use later in the year / next year.
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