Drought damage in the garden

by Adam Pasco

Looking out onto my back garden, a great swathe of lawn is brown. I've had brown patches develop in the past during very dry periods, but nothing like this.

Adam Pasco surveying the drought damage on his lawnI've never known a drought like this one in my part of the East Midlands. Much of the forecast rain over the past few months by-passed my garden, but I hope others benefitted.

Looking out onto my back garden, a great swathe of lawn is brown. I've had brown patches develop in the past during very dry periods, but nothing like this. Yes, I know this is really the grass protecting itself, and that it will grow back, but for now it looks dreadful.

The lawn is really the least of my problems. Many well established shrubs carry crisp, brown leaves, and one has lost them all completely. What is normally a beautiful flowering shrub called Viburnum 'Mariesii' produced little bloom in May, since when the foliage has simply dried up and dropped off.

Again, I'm hoping that as this is a deciduous shrub this is simply its way of surviving drought. By losing its leaves it protects itself from dehydration, and when moisture does arrive (as it surely will) a new flush of foliage will grow. For now, though, it's hardly helping create the sort of summer spectacle I usually enjoy.

As editor of BBC Gardeners' World magazine I rely on my garden to provide a practical photo studio in which to take pictures to illustrate the magazine. Virtually all the pictures in the What to do now section of the magazine are taken in my garden. It's not massive, and I don't have any help looking after it, so it has to be run just as anyone else working full-time would run their garden.

No, I can't water the whole thing just to keep it looking like a show garden. That would be totally impractical, unrealistic and artificial. Gardeners' World magazine is about 'real' gardening, and sharing problems and their solutions is part of the relationship we have with our readers.

Yes, it does take me a good hour a day watering my patio pots, baskets, outdoor tomatoes and greenhouse, but the rest of the garden has to fend for itself.

The consequences of this are that coping with the weather, whatever it delivers (or doesn't), are what gardening is all about. As they say, we're all in the same boat, although this year it is certainly grounded on dry land in my neck of the woods.

Oh, how I dream of a normal British summer, whatever that may be.

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Gardeners' World Web User 26/07/2010 at 08:50

It's really interesting reading this as a new gardener. (Although not really a problem up in Aberdeen - so far) The first thing I would do would be to go out and water it, I would be concerned that it wouldn't grow back. So much to learn!

Gardeners' World Web User 26/07/2010 at 18:30

We have a group of 4 lilys growing in our garden which are over six feet tall is this a record

Gardeners' World Web User 26/07/2010 at 19:09

Living in the South East, I can sympathise with you Adam, we have missed all the rain for two months now, and some of the less established shrubs are looking a bit sick. The lawn is awful, dried to a crisp, but it will come back when the rain returns, I hope. Still, looking at the positives, not having to cut the grass does give me more time to tote water to the tubs, containers and baskets, which look fantastic, obviously enjoying the weather and my water carrying labours. No doubt we will be moaning about the wet or cold soon. The real irony is that, I spent a lot of time putting drainage under the lawn in the spring. Oh! and sorry Bob, but my lilies are at least seven feet high this year. Whats going on with them, they normally struggle to make four feet.

Gardeners' World Web User 27/07/2010 at 10:07

My tiger lilies were unusually tall but nothing to do with the weather as i grow them in the conservatory to avoid the lily beetle - must be the bulbs having the tall gene in them, I think. The drought was long and hard in Bristol too and I watered the essentials as I saw it but was pleased to see my new asparagus plants have made it and the runner beans are recovering. With veg. I think the secret is lots of horse manure in the soil.

Gardeners' World Web User 27/07/2010 at 15:31

Can't agree with you more about the value of adding manure to your soil, happymarion. I am a fan of using peat-free composts as mulches around veg (and flowers), but these do not add the 'quality' or organic matter to soil that manure does. They are often so coarse, and don't create enhance the humus content of soil that manure does. Home-made compost is also good, but again this is different to manure. What do others think?

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