The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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Coping with the summer heat

This has been the worst heatwave in the UK since 1976 and with climate change, it is not known if this will be a temporary phenomenon or a lasting one.  Climate change is slowly affecting food growing as well as the ability to maintain other forms of life such as bees.  It is estimated that the USA is losing 10% of its crops due to climate change.  My garden which is usually lush at this time of the year is not looking good at all.  It seemed a battle that I wasn’t going to win with my planters looking like this-

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But look at the plants that seems to be green and doing fine- it is the South African native, the Agapanthus and the ‘Indian’ hawthorn- both of which seem to need little water.  Euphorbia are also doing well as they are drought resistant.  Eubhoria.pngPlanters need more watering because the roots cannot access groundwater unlike plants grown on land.  The succulents which can live with little water are also fine. We also have a hosepipe ban on now, but I don’t use it anyway.  I use water that has been used to wash vegetables and fruits.  You can also use cooled down bathwater as long as it is not too soapy.

The RHS says that most gardens are hardy enough to be watered in moderation with repurposed water – known as grey water – even if it does have soap and suds in it, ‘Grey water should be used with care, but can be useful in times of water shortages.  Plants can be watered with shower, bath, kitchen and washing machine water – fortunately, soil and potting composts are effective at filtering them out.  There should be no problem with small-scale, short-term use of grey water to tide plants over in summer drought. An exception is on edible crops, due to the risk of contamination from pathogens in the water.’

I’m going to wait and see what happens next- whether my Mexican daisies and other plants recover.  Which plant lives and which dies will be important to decide my next year’s planting because climate change is here to stay.

or perhaps follow this person who has decided on an almost entirely plastic garden which doesn’t need watering and looks vibrant all year!IMG_8001.JPG

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three benefits of gardening

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I have but a modest little balcony to adorn with flowers and it has given me such valuable benefits, apart from the food I grow in containers.  Here the three main benefits-

1. Exercise- bending, straightening up, kneeling, stretching, lifting (carefully!), lifting up on your toes- all these positions that we use while gardening are also poses used in Yoga, Pilates and other stretching exercises.  With care, these can become a  part of our daily routine- and time saving as well because you can exercise while doing something else .  Gardeners are some of the healthiest and fittest people I have seen.

2. Mental health- The gardener’s concentration skills and calmness are also affected positively by what they do and how they do it.  I suppose that is why Zen monks take such good care of their gardens. It is a two way process- creating beauty with very little (some Zen gardens are just raked sand and stones) which in turn gives the benefits of creativity and calmness. Spending time outdoors is also healing.

3. Building better bones- I recently had a health scare when my blood test revealed very little Vitamin D.  The lack of vitamin D can lead to bone pain and tenderness due to a condition called osteomalacia.  Despite doing Yoga and stretching, I was still suffering from aches and pains (and am due to visit a physiotherapist).  I have been prescribed Vitamin D tablets now.  However, I was surprised to learn that these tablets by themselves do not do much- they still need sunlight to make them effective.  Sunlight has UV light that helps Vitamin D to absorb the calcium from food.  Particularly for women after the age of 30-35 when bones start to disintegrate and for older people, sunlight is essential.  However too much UV exposure can lead to melanoma and pre-mature skin ageing.  So I was scared of going in the sun.  However, if you do your outdoor gardening before 11-00 am and after 4-00pm, when the sun has lost its fierceness, you will be be fine as long as you don’t let your skin burn.  About 5 minutes exposure to white skin is fine while darker skins should be out for longer.

My 81 year old Japanese friend who looks at least 20 years younger, gave me this tip- she exposes her palms and lower arms to the sun for about 20 minutes and she has had no problems at all.  This can be done very easily when gardening.