With climate change making the weather more predictable and extreme, our gardens need to be able to cope with both floods and drought. A few simple measures will make them sustainable.
Installing a rain water collection system or a gray water diverting system will mean that you can keep your garden watered through droughts. Watering only those plants that really need it will make sure it goes a long way. Grass has evolved to survive periods of droughts, and it will survive being watered. Going brown is its defense, as it goes into hibernation, but it will green up again when water is available. To keep your lawn healthy, leave it longer in hot weather, and mulch with the clippings whenever you mow.
Mulches will reduce moisture loss elsewhere in the garden too, as well as reducing competition from weeds and protecting the soil structure from damage if there’s heavy rain. If you use an organic mulch then it will gradually rot down and add organic matter to the soil – which, magically, will help your soil retain water better and ensure it drains well when very wet. Building up the reserves of organic matter in your soil is the best way to help it deal with whatever the weather throws at us – so make sure you’re making as much compost as possible from garden and kitchen waste.
In natural environments, rain that falls can slowly soak into the soil and its progress into rivers is therefore slowed. In urban environments, with their hard landscape of tarmac and paving, rain is rushed straight into the gutters and rivers and flooding can result. Hard landscaping also increases the temperature in summer, making more irrigation necessary to keep plants happy.
Where you can, alleviate hard landscaping and allow water to drain into the soil. Gravel surfaces can be just as useful as concrete, and there are other alternatives to solid driveways. A sunken area of the garden, into which water can drain from hard landscaping, helps water to drain in the soil and can make an attractive feature as a bog garden. Other ways to slow down water run-off include planting up green roofs and planting trees.
With a little thought and planning, your garden can be a green oasis in even the longest summer, whilst contributing cool air and all-important drainage to your local environment.
Emma Cooper has been gardening, and blogging, since the dawn of the new millennium. She’s utterly smitten with edible and useful plants, and is never happier than when she’s in the garden, up to her elbows in compost. She’s in the process of building a new garden, designed to be both beautiful and productive, although it’s only small. Emma has published the start of that journey in her latest book – The Small Harvest Handbook: Volume 1.