Monday, 30 July 2018

Some like it hot (but not all): Winners and losers of the drought 2018

After 2 months with hardly any rain and heatwave after heatwave it has become apparent which plants can cope with the stress and which plants are suffering on my allotment.
I have not planted any proper moisture lovers such as Astilbe as my allotment is generally on the dry site. But this year is so exceptionally dry that even plants which have been fine so far with my drier soil are suffering.

Some plants are only still looking ok because I water them every few days, others have not even tried to flower or have gone to seed very quickly. The worst affected plants have gone back underground already and I hope at least the root system survives. Some of the vegetables have bolted very quickly or have not produced anything usable (radishes or calabrese for example).

Echinacea purpurea, a pretty plant but suffers in a drought

But luckily there are also lots of plants which don`t seem to mind too much if the weather is dry and hot for a long time. I only water these plants occasionally and they look completely fine, even happy one might want to say.

Centaurea, Echinops and Verbena cope well with heat and dry soil

Below is a list of winners and losers on my allotment, including vegetables and fruit.

Winners (ornamental plants)

Achillea, Eryngium & ornamental grasses do well in drought
Achillea: All my Achilleas look completely happy and flower well, with hardly any watering

Alliums: I have Allium sphaerocephalon and A. cernuum flowering at the moment and they like the hot and dry weather

Aster (most of them): Some are a bit shorter this year which is actually good as a few toppled over last year but most are looking fine

Catananche and Dianthus
Catananche caerulea: some of the plants look even better than last year, I think they thrive in dry and sunny weather, it also helps to keep them more compact

Centaurea: All of my Centaureas (C. dealbata, nigra, scabiosa and macrocephala) look good and don`t need much watering

Cosmos: An annual, looks good and flowers well with hardly any watering

Dianthus: All pinks on my allotment are doing well, including Dianthus carthusianorum, Dianthus knappii and D. deltoides

Echium: I have Echium vulgare, E. pinninana and E. russicum and all are doing very well

Echinops: Looks very good at the moment and bees love it

Eryngium planum
Eryngium: Another plant which likes it sunny and dry, the deep tap-roots help to find moisture

Euphorbia: All my Euphorbias are doing well, not a sign of drought stress

Fennel: Have not watered the fennel all summer so far as they are self-sown plants and all still looking good

Inula: I have several Inula including Inula magnificum and I. orientalis. Despite the large leaves they don`t seem to need much water, have not seen them flagging at all so far and they have flowered well

Kniphofia is doing well
Kniphofia: All my Kniphofias are doing well and flower their socks off and I have quite a lot!

Monarda fistulosa: Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa, seems to cope much better with dry soils than the more common M. didyma, my plants still have fresh green leaves and flower very well. So if you have dry soil I recommend to plant wild bergamot.

Ornamental grasses: Most of my grasses are coping really well with hardly any additional watering. The only grass which is suffering is Deschampsia caespitosa which normally grows on moist to wet grasslands. Even Molinia looks fine.

Cosmos, Ricinus and Tithonia
Ricinus communis: The Castor-oil plant looks happy and grows well despite having large leaves but it is only grown as an annual here in the UK.

Tithonia rotundifolia: An annual plant, grows and flowers well in the heat

Verbascum: All my Verbascums grow well and flower with hardly any additional watering

Verbena bonariensis: Grows and flowers well this year on my allotment. Its relative Verbena hastata, which self-seeds a lot on my allotment, does well in most areas as well despite normally needing moister soils

Other plants doing well are Lavender, Thyme, Nepeta, Gaura, Malva and Calamintha

Monarda fistulosa still looks fresh and green


Winners (vegetables & fruit) 

All vegetables need regular watering (I don`t normally water fruit) but these do especially well this year: Tomatoes, sweetcorn, pumpkins & squash, courgette, swiss chard, endive, chicory, most fruit

I have so many apples this year!


Losers (ornamental plants)


All these plants need lots and lots of additional watering and even with this some have disappeared underground, hopefully still surviving.

Many Geraniums are not doing well at the moment

Anemone hupehenis/japonica, Cirsium rivulare/tuberosum, Crocosmia, Dahlia, Digitalis purpurea/lanata/lutea, Echinacea purpurea (its relative Echinacea pallida is coping much better, growing in drier habitats in North America), Geranium (most but G. psilostemon seems to be fine), Dahlia, Geum (some), Helenium autumnale (some plants have completely disappeared), Leucanthemum superbum, Phlomis tuberosum (has not done well at all, not even flowered so far), Physostegia virginiata, Persicaria amplexicaulis, Sanguisorba, Rudbeckia (all Rudbeckias need lots of watering to keep them from flagging and getting brown leaves), Solidago rugosa, Zinnia

Some Digitalis look sad now even with watering (the picture is from last year)
Sanguisorba menziesii looked pretty in May, now only brown leaves left
Rudbeckia nitida needs lots and lots of water to keep it looking good

Losers (vegetables & fruit)

Even with regular watering these did not well this year: Cabbages, radishes, carrots, celeriac, lettuce and most other leafy greens, peas and beans, also raspberries (but I did not water them as there was not enough time)
Potatoes did mostly well but some of the earlies had a much reduced yield. The second earlies and maincrop seem to have done better.

Drought-resistant planting with Achillea and grasses

As I think we might get this dry and hot weather more often now I will focus more on planting drought-resistant plants. Less resistant plants will get a good layer of mulch in spring to help keep the soil moist for longer but in the long-term it is better to plant more of the resistant plants as it saves on watering as well.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Hot sunshine and lots of watering: My wildlife allotment at the end of July 2018

What a difficult year for growing things this year proves to be, first the cold and wet spring, now a never-ending heatwave and no rain for months. The last proper rain we had was at the end of May, since then just a few drops which evaporated as soon as they hit the ground. It is getting more and more difficult to keep the plants on the allotment alive, without endless watering most things would be dead or dying by now.

I don`t have much time to water during the week but the weekend is mostly about watering now, there is not much other gardening to do at the moment as the grass on the paths is brown and the weeds have stopped growing. I water 2 1/2 hours each weekend day early in the morning to make the most of the cooler hours, lugging endless watering cans from the water trough to the plot. I cannot water everything, the potatoes and fruit bushes have to go without water, I mainly target the vegetables such as pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, sweetcorn and the flowers which need it most  such as Rudbeckias. Some flowers seem to cope quite well with the drought, namely Achillea, Echinops, Eryngium, Kniphofia, Dianthus, Verbena, Centaurea and ornamental grasses. In future I will focus more on these drought-resistant plants as I think we will get this extreme weather more and more often now with climate change.

Below are some pictures of the allotment, still looking good in the heat (but who knows for how long as no rain forecast until mid-August now and more heatwaves coming):



Lobelia cardinalis growing in a small bog planter
Echinacea purpurea with ornamental grasses, mainly Stipa tenuissima
Echinops ritro with Centaurea macrocephala and Verbena bonariensis
Yes, I do grow vegetables as well, here courgettes and tomatoes with Echium pinninana in the background
Achillea and ornamental grasses still doing well
Origanum vulgare in the foreground with grasses, Inula orientalis and fennel
Echinops ritro is always a hit with bumblebees
Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are still doing well, each flower only lasts a day!
Dianthus carthusianorum with Echium pinninana in the background
From left:Serratula bulgarica, Inula magnificum, Kniphofia 'Tawny King', Stipa gigantea, Verbena bonariensis and Rudbeckia grandiflora (in the background)
Echinacea purpurea, Verbena bonariensis and grasses
Veronicastrum virginicum with Rudbeckia grandiflora
Eryngium planum and Verbena hastata
Eryngium planum likes it dry
Eryngium planum and Ratibida columnifera
Echinacea purpurea looks very pretty at the moment
Echinacea purpurea and Allium sphaerocephalum
Echinacea purpurea and the grass Eragrostis eliottii
Verbena hastata doing well in the heat
Echinacea purpurea is quite long-lived on my allotment, all plants are raised from seed
Echinacea purpurea with grasses, Verbena bonariensis, fennel and Rudbeckia grandiflora
Echinops ritro is a great plant for dry soil, always looks good with grasses
My apple 'Bountiful' is truly bountiful this year!
Eryngium giganteum still looks good even after flowering has finished
The allotment seen from the back
Berkhea purpurea has pretty daisy flowers
Kniphofias are doing well, this is Kniphofia 'Papaya popsicle'
Rudbeckia grandiflora with Eryngium planum
I have grown Rudbeckia grandiflora from seed acquired via the Hardy Plant Society seed distribution scheme and I am very pleased with it
The allotment still doing well despite the drought
This female Common Blue was very interested in a patch of Lotus corniculatus on my allotment

Next time I will post some photos from the allotment in August, hopefully everything still surviving in the heat, including me!

Monday, 18 June 2018

My wildlife allotment in early June 2018

It is now nearly a month since my last post, summer is always very busy and there is hardly any time for sitting in front of a computer. But I always find at least some time to take photos so you can see the progress.
I am quite pleased with the allotment this year, many of my plantings are looking quite beautiful now, most plants are growing well and flowers are opening everywhere nearly on a daily basis. Turn your back for a few days and you might miss something!
I have also grown a lot of plants from seed last year, planted them over winter and now seeing them flower for the first time is exhilarating. I even have some plants I forgot to label properly when pricking them out of the seed tray so I have to wait now until they flower to see what they are.

We had a lot of dry weather recently, the last proper rain was a few weeks ago. Summers here in the Thames valley seem to be getting dryer now with long periods without any rain. I have tried to adapt with planting more drought-resistant perennials. Most ornamental grasses are quite good for dry soil and many plants from steppe and prairie areas are suitable as well. I only really water the vegetables and newly planted things. Everything else has to survive on its own which saves me a lot of work.

Below are some pictures from the  allotment.

Alliums and grasses (Nasella tenuissima)
Rambler rose `Albertine` looks magnificent this year
Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica)
Grecian foxglove (Digitalis lanata) growing together with yellow Achillea and other perennials
The smaller of my two wildflower meadows on the allotment
The larger meadow with ox-eye daisy, bird`s-foot trefoil and red clover flowering
Ox-eye daisy and Briza media
Fox-an-cups (Pilosella aurantiaca) with meadow buttercup and red clover in the meadow
The larger wildflower meadow
Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris)has pretty flowers
Early bumblebee visiting the Knautia arvensis flowers
Common carder bees like the meadow cranesbill flowers
The caterpillar-like flowers of Sanguisorba menzisii
The allotment at the beginning of June
Sisyrinchium striatum is a bit invasive but has pretty flowers
Arnica chamissonis is growing well
Allium cernuum, grown from seed, is flowering for the first time this year
Leafcutter bee (Megachile) is visiting fox-and-cups
Aster tongolensis and Dianthus deltoides
Euphorbia coralloides looks pretty, adding a soft yellow colour to the plantings
Euphorbia coralloides and Dianthus deltoides
The oldest part of the allotment, now fully planted up with no space left
Echium russicum, a perennial viper`s bugloss
Eryngium giganteum flowers
More Eryngium giganteum in a sea of Nasella tenuissima
Meadow cranesbill (with Dianthus barbatus in the background)
Pretty yellow Aquilegia with Tanacetum parthenium
Dianthus carthusianorum with fox-tail barley (Hordeum jubatum)
Eryngium giganteum
Garden bumblebee drinking nectar from Anchusa azurea

Naturalistic planting with lots of grasses and perennials
Californian poppy and Armeria pseudameria
Digitalis lutea, a pretty shortlived perennial foxglove
Digitalis lanata
Lots of flowers and grasses (with Trifolium rubrum in the foreground on the left)
Tassel flower (Emilia javanica), a new annual for me which has very pretty flowers

Some like it hot (but not all): Winners and losers of the drought 2018

After 2 months with hardly any rain and heatwave after heatwave it has become apparent which plants can cope with the stress and which plant...

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