Winter and early spring were relatively dry in the UK yet it was a surprise when we were informed that there would be a hose-pipe ban in the south-east of England, starting this month, to save 5% of our water consumption. Water was privatised in the UK in 1989; my water supplier reports a 25% leak rate, attributed to 44% of London's water system being over 100 years old.
It might seem exaggerated to highlight at this point that the Maya civilisation collapsed after a drought (and it wasn't the only one) when the rainfall over the Yuctan peninsula decreased by 40%. Scientists investigated the chemical composition (which varies depending on the quantity of water evaporated) of slugs and snail fossils in lake basins to estimate that the final drought experienced by the Mayans was not their worst. It's suspected that social and political issues combined with the mild drought to precipitate their demise.
I can't remember exactly when it started to rain heavily - the easter holiday was definitely a wash-out and it's been raining ever since. Nevertheless, the predicted drought is still anticipated.
|bird bath - 25 FEB 2012 left flower bed - 09 APR 2012|
I haven't watered my garden with a hose-pipe much so far; now I'm not allowed to.
The woodland garden fends for itself, tolerating my occasional interferences.
The left border is so shaded by the fence that the plants grow sideways and they never seem short of moisture.
The right border is the worry, exposed to direct sunshine, yet sheltered from rain by the neighbouring hedge. The foxgloves in this bed would have died if they weren't watered last year. Some of this year's plantlets have died already in the dry spell before easter.
|right border 01 APR 2012 - dead foxglove woodland 09 APR 2012 - self-seeded foxgloves|
Some plants do thrive in the right border. Oxalis is a handful of wetness when it's pulled out, hydrated from below by a never-ending chain of tubers but there are also weeds with hardly any roots that survive remarkably.
|unknown weed in the dry right border oxalis as far as the eye can see|
|two generations of sedum cacti seedlings ?|
The other day, I was researching pots when I stumbled across an article about ollas : water-filled, unglazed clay vessels buried in the soil for plant irrigation, confirmed by a picture of a man in Sri-Lanka with a healthy-looking plant. I was about to click over, when it occurred to me that I might need to learn something from him. He applies a technique practised in ancient times where plant roots are allowed to sip sparingly through porous clay instead of drowning them by conventionally excessive watering.
As an experiment, I prepared a similar set-up with a new clay pot (the method may not work with a clogged, aged one), blocking the drainage hole with a ball of putty and varnishing the rim to reduce evaporation from the top surface. I've buried it next to a jasmine, which was definitely suffering from dehydration before easter. If it stops raining and starts droughting, I'll top up the pot, cover with a saucer and report back.
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