Easy Watering in Times of Drought

This time of year, watering can become a major trauma on the plot. I can almost hear the squash and celery plants screaming at me to come over and flood their roots.

I rarely make it to the plot more than once a week so I’ve made efforts to increase the water retention in the soil around the most thirsty of plants. The celery, squash and butter beans have all been planted into trenches that were filled with partially rotted kitchen waste in the spring. In addition, the squash have been set into valleys so that I can tip a bucket of water around each plant without it running off to nurture the surface weeds.

Watering on allotments can be a contentious practice. Effin Frank will forcefully inform any newcomer to the site that they shouldn’t “effin water them plants or you’ll effin burn the effin roots”.

He could be right if watering means a scant drizzle from the rose of a watering can. The trick is to drench a plant if you’re going to bother watering at all. Send the roots downwards rather than encouraging them to stick close to the surface where the soil will bake in hours.

At home my problems are much greater. Most of my garden plants are in pots and although I technically ought to be able to water my plants daily, they rarely get considered from one week to the next. When I see the pathetic wilting of the entire plant I rush out with my jug of water and attempt to saturate the compost. It’s a futile effort. If you’ve ever let a pot plant dry out (I’m sure everyone has) its darn tricky to get the compost to absorb more than a thimble full of water. The rest whizzes through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot and nourishes the weeds in the cracks between the paving slabs.

Drip IrrigationI was recently sent an easy watering kit to set up amongst my pot plants and it has proved to be an ingenious way to re-saturate dried out pot plants and deliver a steady drip of water during the summer months.

You get an awful lot in your kit for the money. The drip irrigation kit I used was just under £30 and provided enough drippers for 20 pots and huge length of the main supply pipe, with connectors to allow you to cut and split the supply so you can water pots in different areas.

Easy watering drip irrigation kit

I set it up before I went away on my summer holidays and I have arrived home to find my pots looking extremely healthy, which never happens when I go away.

I’m extremely happy with this kit but if you keep your pots on different levels it takes a bit of faffing to ensure a steady drip to all pots.

Pros

  • accurately delivers drips of water direct to your plant
  • most efficient way of watering pot plants without run off

Cons

  • takes a while to install, laying out the feeder pipes, cutting out the dripper pipes and inserting the connectors
  • can lead to different rates of dripping if you have pots at different levels

Saving Water in the Garden

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Wild and Fluffy Food

I’ve been inspired by John Lewis-Stempel’s “The Wild Life“, to resurrect my fascination with wild and local foods. Although I haven’t actually foraged much further afield than Borough Market, I am currently preparing a pot of slow cooked, wild, rabbit stew. I might not have shot it myself but I was rather perturbed when I noticed bunny fur remaining on the quartered carcass. De-fluffing the tea brought me a bit too close to the harsh realities of our carnivorous lifestyle but that can only be a good thing.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to persuade any one else to join me for a serving so I’ve taken the precaution of preparing a backup leek and potato soup.

Back to the book, John committed a year of his life to eating wild produce hunted or foraged within the grounds of a derelict farmhouse that he and his wife had bought to renovate. It sounds like a hell-ish challenge. He started in game season so he had plenty of meat to hand but had to grub around for meager offerings of greenery. He managed to poison himself more than once by over-reliance on dubious quality produce.

His ingredients list for February reads:

Pigeon, rabbit, squirrel, dandelion, corn salad, nettles

He was pretty strict about the source of his food and so beyond the stuff he gathered or shot on a daily basis he would have to rely on foods he’d managed to preserve or dry such as nuts, oils, rosehip syrup and copious quantities of alcohol.

I think I was particularly inspired by his ability to keep himself stocked up with daily supplies of alcohol as well as his ability to stomach some of the concoctions brewed. Home brew wine is rank at the best of times and I don’t think oak leaf wine would fare any better than the usual culprits. Dandelion and Burdock beer sounds delightful though and I was impressed to discover you can turn the brew around in about a week.

The book is illustrated with many historic and authentic hedgerow recipes which must have taken some time to unearth. We have Chickweed soup, Stuffed Bistort Leaves, Fat hen pancakes with horseradish and as I’ve seen them lined up next to the rabbits at Borough Market, perhaps this one will do for next weekend:

Herby Squirrel Burgers
Serves 4

1lb/450g lean minced squirrel
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp hedge garlic, chopped
2 tsp equal parts wild thyme and wild chervil
pinch salt

Mix together the egg, meat, herbs and salt in a bowl.
Shape into flattened patties and fry in goose fat. Serve with a green salad.

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