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.

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