CLIMATE change continues to bring us yet more unpredictability; more drought, more rain, more heat, more wind, thunderstorms and raging seas.
No plague of locusts just yet (thankfully) but I fear for our renowned freshness and greenness.
Pastureland in all counties, along with lawns, woodland and peatlands are set to suffer in the coming years from drought and excess heat, but can anything be done by keen gardeners to ease the situation?
Well for starters, perhaps we should rethink our gardening attitudes or we may be forced (eventually) to content ourselves with a whole new palette of plants, those which can withstand heat and drought during summer and autumn, and persistent rain and wind in winter through to early spring.
Plants vary greatly in their susceptibility to drought, and thoughtful choice can avoid or reduce the need for irrigation.
Many grasses and plants with fleshy, hairy or waxy-surfaced leaves are generally well adapted to withstand drought, as are a great number of plants native to the Mediterranean and Australasian regions.
Established trees and shrubs have searching root systems, and these will generally extract enough moisture from deep beneath a dry surface
Change is something gardeners have always accepted. Down the decades it was never an option to opt out.
We accepted change when the violent storms of 1987 and 1997 felled thousands of ornamental parkland and garden trees.
We came through the severest winter in decades during 2011 and we changed species over four decades ago when over 30 million trees were lost in these islands to Dutch Elm disease.
Even today, with threats to our ash and chestnut trees we try every trick in the book to rid ourselves of pest and disease.
We were asked to change (again) when most of the garden chemicals we grew up with were withdrawn or discontinued.
No more original 'Roseclear', 'Nimrod 'T', 'Brushwood Killer' or 'Benlate'.
No ‘safe’ pesticide yet for use on wireworm in vegetable plots, no cure for leatherjacket or chafer grubs in lawns and precious little in the control of vine weevil.
Newer formulations arrive to take their place but they’re not as good as the originals.
The one exception is fish, blood, and bone meal.
Bone-meal you will remember was discontinued following the serious outbreak of foot and mouth in the early 2000’s.
Today, it’s back in a safer, cleaner, micro-pelleted form and may be purchased in buckets (of 10kg weight) for €15 or less at garden and Co-op outlets.
Make sure you choose the micro-pelleted variety for a powder form is also available.
To combat summer drought mulch beds and borders this month.
Use any kind of rotted organic material.
Garden compost will do fine, so too leaf-mould, pine-needles, stable or horse manure, composted seaweed, even bark chips.
These will incorporate into the top few inches of soil over the coming months giving worms the thrill of a lifetime whilst making it superbly more moisture retentive.
It will hold this reserve for drought periods and provide valuable nutrients to the soil structure.
You'll get more of a return from mulching than any other form of garden husbandry.