Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Hose pipe ban: Five ways to conserve water and keep plants healthy

Most people know that water is an essential requirement in the garden but following a recent decision to impose a temporary hosepipe ban on millions of householders in the north-west of England, gardeners all around the country have come to realise that this Summer has the potential to wreak havoc and leave nothing but scorched foliage in its wake.  There are, however, many ways of preserving your beloved plants without the use of a hose.  A few of the methods I regularly use are discussed below.

Collect Shower Water: The addition of a couple of buckets in the shower works wonders for collecting water that would otherwise go to waste.  My black plastic buckets may not look stylish but they are most certainly practical.  Most people will turn the shower on each day and wait for it to warm up.  In my case this cold water fills half a bucket for each shower taken, which is immediately used to water the plants growing in my garden.  

As a general rule water that has been used for washing should not be used as it may include shower gel, shampoo residues and other content which may prove problematic for plants and soil.  This is classed as greywater.  Greywater, which comes from used shower water, washing machines, dishwashers and the kitchen sink, can be used in the garden but it typically requires additional modifications or practices.  For more information please see Reusing greywater from the Environment agency.

Collect Rainwater: Harvesting available rainwater seems to be a logical step when looking to conserve water as it is more than abundant in the cooler months of the year. Water Butts are the favoured option for storing rainwater, with many local authorities providing them at low prices (Check your local council website for more details).  Water butts are easy to install and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours making them suitable for most gardens.  

If you have a surplus of water collected from the shower you can store it in the water butt too.

Drought Tolerant Planting: Plants that thrive in drought conditions and have low water requirements are invaluable when water is at a premium.  Gardens that incorporate such drought tolerant plants may see some decline in warm conditions but they will look considerably better than those that do not.  

For more information please refer to the RHS website

Apply Mulch: Garden mulches come in many forms and can range from simple organic matter, such as compost or manure, to man made substrates, such as recycled car tyres.  Whatever mulch is chosen the principle is essentially the same, to reduce the effects of sun, which may cause water loss by surface evaporation and reduce the effects of drying winds.  Plus annual mulches also reduce the growth of weeds that would compete for available moisture. Organic mulch will also help to further improve soil, improving soil structure and allowing soil to retain water more effectively.

Correct Watering: Believe it or not, there is an art to watering.  Watering at the wrong time of day can mean that water is not delivered efficiently and it may even render the whole process useless.  It is best to water plants in the evening as this will ensure that plants can absorb water over night when temperatures are cooler.  It will also ensure that water penetration is not affected by sunlight.  Watering early morning is also acceptable.  All watering should be thorough as opposed to the little but often approach and a thorough watering will ensure that plants require less frequent watering.  Sprinkler systems should be avoided where possible as they are wasteful and drip or trickle irrigation should be the favoured method if necessary.

A combination of approaches will maximise your water saving credentials although there are a whole world of approaches available that will suit your garden and approach specifically.  

Do you have any tips or techniques for other gardeners?  If you could suggest one method what would it be?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Ryan’s Recipes: The Humble Pea

Peas in my garden

The humble pea is a beautiful little thing, the plant isn’t half bad either and come to think of it I actually love pretty much the whole Pea family.  The problem with this lovely legume is that beyond steaming, blanching or mushing (I doubt that’s the correct culinary lingo) it fails to inspire creative cooking practice in homes across the nation.  Unless of course you count adding pea shoots to salads a culinary feat.

As the pea season is in full swing I thought I would share one of my favourite pea recipes.  Not only does this recipe pack flavour and celebrate the humble pea but it is also very easy to prepare.

Pea and Tarragon Soup
400g shelled peas or frozen peas 
1 Large onion, roughly chopped (Shallots can also be used)
1 Medium potato, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp chopped French Tarragon leaves
Butter (The real stuff)
Stock (Vegetable or Chicken)

Add a knob of butter to a pan and fry the onion until tender being careful not to burn it.  Add the potato along with the stock and simmer until the potato is very soft.  You can test this with a fork or by tasting.   Add the peas and tarragon to the pan and simmer for a further 3 minutes. Blend the soup with a hand blender or food processor until you create a smooth soup.  Season with salt and black pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.  It’s that simple!

Do you have any other Pea recipes?  I would love to hear your experience of cooking this soup.

In other news the Postcarden competition winner has been announced and you can view the result by clicking here.
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