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Thursday, 26 July 2018

Drought

Having managing to break radio silence yesterday, it really is time I got myself back into the routine of blogging before too much time passes and it feels too difficult to catch up . . .

Whilst the rest of the country revels in almost unheard of warmth and sunshine,  I have spent July in a stressed 'funk' which I am only just hauling myself out of. My problem? Something as simple as the weather. No, make that “the bloody weather”. The UK is having something of a ‘wonderful summer’. Yeah, right - it might be wonderful if you are five years old and can play in streams but it has not rained properly at Bag End since the beginning of May and it is having a hell of an effect on the garden.

After ten years of pain, expense, injury and downright hard slog I finally thought I had the garden “just about complete”. Well, let’s be honest, a garden is never really complete but I was at the point where I believed I could - and intended to - kick back for the rest of the season, relax and enjoy what we have made here.  2018 was due to be my consolidation year, the season when I took a step back and reflected on the plants, the different areas, and just slowed down.

Before I went to Scotland, Management worked so very hard with me and we pretty much got to the end of the list of jobs which needed to be done. My break in the campervan was a punctuation point - working hard until I went away, the plan was that once I got back “summer” would kick in and I could loosen up, enjoy sitting reading in the garden, go for gentle walks, maybe (whisper this) learn how to be relaxed and retired. I never expected that the incredible sunny & dry weather in May would continue, and continue, and continue.

Since I returned I’ve been ‘fire fighting’ with watering plants that were in desperate need (but you cannot keep a garden this size completely hydrated with a hose, and definitely not when you are on metered water …), I have dug up and moved a few plants that were suffering really badly, I have cut back others and fixed up shade net, and in places I have just given up.  The cyclamen bed we created near the Big Pond is probably lost, and a lovely laburnum tree in the same area is completely devoid of leaf, reckon it is dead.  The Gunnera in my (plastic lined) bog bed are collapsed, scorched and sunburnt, and ordinary “tough do-ers” like astrantia, geranium, astilbe are crinkled, dried, shrivelled corpses.  Water levels in the ponds have dropped alarmingly, and in the two smaller ponds I've been forced to add water.  The 'Big Pond" is at least 12" lower than usual and rough calculations based on π r 2 suggest we've lost 25m3  of water to evaporation.  I'll say that again Twenty-Five Cubic Metres.


It is, frankly, bloody depressing and I have not been happy. To be fair, in some places the garden is managing OK, and it is obvious that the tons of organic material and thick mulches applied over the years have made a difference, but three months without rain is unheard of.  In the last week we have had a couple of showers but nowhere near enough although we might get rain tomorrow . . . but the forecast regularly says that and nothing falls out of the sky.

I have often joked we live in “wet” Cumbria, not “west” Cumbria and the plants I chose for the garden are all adapted to take that into account. Even with 5,000 litres of stored water in tubs & water butts I was completely out by the end of May. We have refilled them with hoses so goodness knows what next year’s water bill will be, but next week even that will be out because a hosepipe ban comes into force on 5th August. That makes a lot of people very angry; United Utilities have one of the worst leakage rates in the country, estimated to be the equivalent of 130 litres per household per day - that is the equivalent of me using the washing machine three times - every day.

Anyway, M. and I had a good sit down and a talk about it at the weekend and I have a sort-of-vague-amorphous-plan in my head of things I can do in future which, if this happens again, will help us (and the plants) cope.  In respect of this season, what dies, dies. It can be replaced with something more resilient.  I am not going to knock myself out in future years trying to fight the climate.   I have ideas about how to ‘weather proof’ the garden a bit, and M. and I will work on that gently over the coming months.


So I do feel less stressed and beaten back by it, but the watering is taking ages, I do the net house one day and the greenhouse the next, at least I am not having to cut the grass.  But that is why there have been no blog posts, and no Daisy updates.

However, I cannot publish this many words without some pictures, and I am not in the mood to take photos of the garden.  Here's some of Daisy who has also struggled greatly in the last couple of months.



Our current routine is for me to take her out as soon as I get up, and M. takes her for a second walk immediately after breakfast before it is too hot.  After that we hardly see her until about 5.00/5.30pm.  She is hiding away in her bed, or in a shady bit of garden if she wants to be close to one of us.



We are certain the problem is the heat and nothing more sinister because around 8.00pm each evening she goes into manic mode, wants to leap around and play and often spends much time shouting at us just because she can.  So that's the entire family who would like this heatwave to stop, pretty please.





16 comments:

  1. I'm not worrying about the garden - just watering the greenhouse and beans and a few pots of flowers.
    No way to water the rest so no point in fretting. It either comes back or it doesn't

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    1. Thanks Sue, I agree with you completely. Doesn't mean it has not been stressful seeing much loved plants such as the Gunnera keel over.

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  2. Our poor cats are not enjoying this heat, they are out early and later in the evening, we ensure we do not disturb them when they rest in the day, but both are out of sorts. We have had one hours rain in the last 10 weeks, I do water our small garden, but the trees and shrubs are showing signs of dehydration

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    1. Yes, "out of sorts" that is an excellent way to describe our four-paws.

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  3. It is getting ridiculous. And I so agree with the appearance of a raindrop on the Met Office chart, only for it to disappear again just as quickly. Maybe, just maybe, this weekend. Like you I had majored on moisture loving plants. But what do we replace them with? Next summer we could be back to torrents of the wet stuff.

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    1. Thanks Jessica, there seems to be no end to this, is there. I was messing around on Google and quite surprised to learn than Devon gets as much rainfall annually as we do - there was me thinking you lived with a much gentler climate.

      As for what to replace our casualties with, I am leaning towards shrubs which, once established, should be able to better withstand the challenges we're facing.

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  4. Moss takes herself off when it is warm and in the evenings finds herself again and is full of bounce. three - four weeks ago when there was a promise of the hose pipe ban, I went into my garden and apologised to her, then stopped watering - what survives ... survives. We have had no real rain either, but have been 'promised' thunderstorms tomorrow - but we need long slow and deep rain to help hydrate the earth.
    Hang in there Jayne, don't let this get you down, yes you have had losses but you will be surprised what is quietly waiting to bounce back when the rains again xxxx

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    1. Hi Kate, I remembered when you wrapped up your hose. I too have apologises to my plants, and promised to put down as much compost and mulch over the next few months as I possibly can.

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  5. As Kate says Jayne, hang in there. Weather is probably our most fickle problem the world has to face, (especially for gardeners & farmers)but we learn to adapt, even if it means some of our favourite things have to make way for another hardier one. Your lawn will come back with the first shower, and it is something I definitely don't water. We also had to top up our pond this summer and do that from our water tanks. Take care & lots of huggles to you all.

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    1. You're quite right Susan, some of my favourite perennials are going to need different locations where they can cope with either a wet or dry summer.

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  6. Annie isn't enjoying this heat and doesn't even bounce around in the evening. She sleeps in our bedroom and we have the electric fan blowing all night. Annie is sleeping flat out on the floor within feet of the fan. I have been thinking about you and your lovely garden and knowing you must be thoroughly disheartened seeing your plants suffering. There may be some relief this weekend as it promises to be cooler with thunderstorms forecast. I have just messaged my Japanese daughter-in-law hoping that her family in Japan are alright as the heat is so much worse there. Take care Jayne x

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    1. Oh poor Annie. We tried a fan but Daisy is not bothered and moves away from it. The last few weeks have been very disheartening, but I've moved on - and I bet I'm the first to complain when it is no longer so warm I put shorts on each day!

      Hope your DIL's family are OK.

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  7. We are fed up of watering the allotment but no point worrying as it won’t change anything. A few gardens that we have visited lately are also suffering and the bowling green on a local park should be renamed bowling brown.

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    1. Hi Sue, I expect allotments everywhere are suffering, but grass will bounce back as soon as we get some water.

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  8. Oh Jayne. Fingers crossed your garden doesn't suffer too badly and that your grass recovers quickly, especially after all your hard work.
    I've been really careful with water recently (not that I'm ever wasteful) and only watered the tomatoes in the planter.
    I do hope you've had a good downpour this weekend. X

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    1. Thanks Jules. A few days on, and things are (hopefully) much better as we've had showers on and off for the last three days. Not nearly enough to bring us back to normal, but right now anything is welcome :)

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