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Will you suffer a summer flowering garden gap and drought?

Six garden pleasures to enjoy and drought problems to avoid this spring and summer

From May through to at least September we can bask in the hope and even the reality that the garden is ready to be enjoyed. The suggestion of a drought feels like a welcome change after the chilly start to the spring! Evenings, weekends and daytime too. This is the time of year that anything seems possible. Dining outdoors; swinging in a hammock; entertaining friends; barbecues; garden games; and relaxing. Take some time out to sit in the sun when it appears, then save your gardening tasks for the cloudier times when you'll be glad of the shade. It's time to get the hammock out! The garden is calling. The marvellous month of May can bring the most glorious weather and the best thing about it is that the summer is stretching ahead with delightful temptation. Evenings are long and balmy, scents of spring flowers are heady and everything is bursting forth. For those with a pessimistic outlook, the longest day is still a month away (20 June) and we are still gaining light with every passing day. The gradual crescendo takes us gently towards the summer solstice which will see us enjoying 16 hours or more of daylight.

The sun has got its hat on. It's spring and anything seems possible. The conflicting terminology can be a bit confusing. Is the solstice the first day of summer or midsummer's day? It really depends on how you view it. It actually heralds the beginning of summer, so take heart! It begins on June 21 at 12.24am precisely. Meteorologically speaking, summer is based on the annual temperatures rather than the position of the sun. The term solstice comes from the Latin solstitium which means something along the lines of sun stands still. In other words, the sun reaches its northernmost point, hence giving us the most light. And because the plant Earth is like a giant heating rock, a bit like a night storage heater, the warming effects of the sun continue to build long after the peak. Only in astronomical terms can you view this time to be the middle of summer because it is half way between the summer and winter solstices.

Spring and summer in the garden; country walks; scented flowers. The feel-good factor! Everything in the May garden is full of energy and blooms should be coming thick and fast.

Alliums, spring blossom, flowers and lush, lush green in the garden during spring. If we have prolonged sunshine, however, the garden will begin to fade in June. Many people then experience a garden gap after the vibrant spring displays we've all been enjoying.

The colour can disappear from a garden when temperatures have been hot. The best way to avoid the summer gap is to ensure you have plenty of drought-resistant planting. Then, when lush-loving spring flowers are over, there are happy drought-lovers ready to take over.

Rosemary is happy in a drought. This herb can grow without much water. Xeriscaping is the art of gardening without relying upon supplementary water. Larger landscaping projects might incorporate swales and retention ponds combined with gravel or mulched gardens and resilient plants. The system saves water from the plentiful times so that it can be used later. In a smaller garden you might want to employ similar principles. Mulched flower beds help to retain water. Rainwater collection using butts or ponds will enable you to keep the essentials watered during dry months without turning on your mains tap. You might even install a ">small pond which collects your rainwater.

Design your garden to be sustainable so that it collects rainwater which can be re-used. Drought resistant planting Some of our best-loved plants are actually those that can cope with prolonged dry periods, once established. Think of Lavender, Sedum, Kniphofias, Rosemary and ground cover such as Delosperma and Mesembryanthemum. Many of these are Alpine in origin where conditions are poor.

Sedum 'Purple Emperor' is a variety of this highly successful, drought- tolerant and popular succulent plant Silver-grey foliage helps to reflect the rays of the sun and other plants have tiny hairs which help to trap moisture which might otherwise evaporate.  The foliage of Achillea, Echinops, Eryngium and Lychnis are fine examples.

Lychnis is a garden favourite that doesn't mind a drought Some plants have succulent leaves or stems in which they can store water to act like a built-in water butt. Entire gardens can be designed around a drought-resistant theme and they are every bit as beautiful as conventional gardens, if not more so.

Lavender is a garden favourite that loves dry, inhospitable places. Growing vegetables, however, is a little different. Most need an average of 6 hours of sunlight but they do need water too. Lettuce, peas, carrots, kale and Swiss chard can tolerate some shade. Fruiting plants such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and peppers need around 8 hours of sunshine. Leafy vegetables such as spinach and greens can cope with just 4.  There are very few that are able to grow in complete shade although some, such as spinach, is less inclined to bolt if is in partial shade.

Vegetables do need water. Grow them in the garden and water them well. Vegetables, soft fruit and fruit trees all need water. So do pots and hanging baskets. In an ideal world they will be the only areas that need a visit from your watering can during the summer.

Your pots and containers will need watering regularly but water-retaining granules will help to conserve moisture Organise your garden into different zones and you will find that the hydration task isn't too time-consuming. You don't even need to worry about the lawn. Grass will re-grow, even after a hot, dry summer. Work with nature rather than against it and your gardening will be a lot simpler.

The lawn might turn brown through lack of water, but it will recover.

By Perfect Plants


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