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There might be an official drought declared across eight areas of England, but it is still possible to produce lush-looking gardens even on dry soils. The trick to keep fruits and vegetables thriving? Forward planning and adapting.
According to numerous BBC reports, January to June 2022 has been the driest period on record for the UK since 1976, which is why Tom Hilton, outdoor and indoor gardening specialist at National Greenhouse, is sharing his expertise on how to grow the best fruit and vegetables even while saving water.
Most of us will probably be well aware that all plants need water but it’s not always as obvious as to which ones will still grow even when water is sparse. Keep reading to find out all you need to know…
The best fruit and vegetables to grow during dry weather
Beans, including cupboard staples such as chickpeas and black-eyed peas, are some of the most well-known drought-resistant vegetables to plant in your garden. According to Tom, these are traditionally found in more arid environments, making them excellent to grow in dry spells.
Tomatoes are also surprisingly adept at surviving and thriving, even with a lack of water. Because they are, ‘able to draw water from deeper soil when the surface layer becomes dry,’ as Tom reveals. This means that less water is required.
Peppers, squash and aubergines are also all excellent candidates for low-water growing, especially if combined with a rain-water collection barrel which will keep the soil nutrient rich and watered only when it is needed.
‘While these are all great options, it’s important to remember that careful planning and the right soil composition is still needed despite a plant’s hardiness, and veg such as the tomato still needs a healthy amount of water in their infancy,’ adds Tom.
How to water plants sparingly
Drip irrigation, where the water is released directly onto the roots of plants, is by far the most effective way to water plants, particularly when the weather is warmer. Have you tried this before?
‘Other methods can result in excess water on the leaves simply evaporating, meaning the plants are out of water and you’re out of pocket,’ Tom says.
It is also best to water plants around dusk or dawn as this gives them the best chance to absorb the water before the heat begins to climb. And as the plants grow and mature, this should also slowly reduce the amount of watering they require.
How to best lay out your plants
In dry conditions, clustering your plants together, instead of planting them in a traditional row system, means that the water that you are able to provide will be shared between the plants. Known as companion planting, it also allows the leaves of larger plants to provide some shade and shelter for smaller ones.
Because the plants are able to work together, this should give you the best harvest possible, in Tom’s opinion, especially under the heatwave-like circumstances.
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