Clouds, Rain and Silver Linings
By: Steve Ott
Current weather is challenging for gardeners, says the UK's leading gardening charity
The recent rains, says the RHS, have helped gardeners but also have caused problems. The rain has meant that, despite the drought orders in some parts of the country, there is no need to water plants. Those with water butts should now also have enough water to help them through any dry summer. But the charity warns that this spring's variable weather has created challenges in other ways.
Rain and clouds have cut light levels which have led to slow growth. Low temperatures have not helped, either. Stinging frosts experienced early in April meant plants got off to a slow start. Another effect is that nutrients have been washed too deep into the soil for young plants to access.
But there is also some positive news, according to the RHS. Weeds have not grown as quickly as they normally would, and it has been too wet and cold for insect pests to be as active as they normally would be in spring.
"On the face of it, things at the start of the growing season were good in the garden," says Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticultural Advisor. "The dry and warm conditions in March were ideal for sowing, planting and maintaining lawns. But the wet April and now May has caused concern. What gardeners ideally need are conditions for good early root growth so that plants are able to seek out water throughout a dry summer. This hasn't been happening."
Despite recent rainfalls, water supplies in the longer term will remain tight and plants could still run short of water later this summer. The imposition of a drought order, although necessary, will potentially make things more difficult. The RHS Advisory Service is busy helping people find ways to boost plant growth so they can survive any summer heat waves.
The RHS advises gardeners to -
1. Keep lawns from getting too unkempt by mowing as soon as it is dry enough for your mower to cope with it, taking off no more than a third of the grass each time until it is back to the right height
2. Remember that when the sun shines newly plants trees, shrubs and climbers will dry out faster than the surrounding soil so be ready to water these even if the soil seems moist
3. Many plants will look yellow as nutrients are washed below the root level. This should be temporary, but applying foliar feeds to green up plants is useful in severe cases.
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