Coping with drought


Drought is not often a word which you’d instantly link with Britain, but the current hot, dry spell is certainly creating problems on our allotment site.

However it isn’t the end of the world and there are certain steps we can take alleviate the worst of the effects.

Where possible every plotholder should have water butts to harvest any rain that does fall.

If you do decide to water your allotment, the best time of day is during the cool of the morning or evening.

Water the roots of the plant and concentrate on giving plants a good soaking once or twice a week, as opposed to giving your plants frequent light showers, otherwise you’ll encourage the roots of the plant to seek water near the surface of the soil, as opposed to deep down in the earth.

Ensuring that your soil is always covered with a layer of mulch will help to retain moisture and suppress weeds; the mulch could be garden compost, composted manure, leaf- mould or a geo-textile etc.

It’s not always possible to predict drought conditions too far in advance, but if possible choose plants for your allotment that originate in a hot climate and so have evolved not needing very much water.

Or select ones where the edible part of the plant grows below the soil – meaning its roots (and the crops) all benefit from deep water.

For example
Carrots – never water , it will lower the yield
Potatoes – water only when the flowers have just opened, but otherwise there should be enough moisture in the soil to sustain the plants
Parsnips – watering doesn’t benefit the crop
Jerusalem artichoke – never water, otherwise you encourage the formation of leaves and not tubers
Rosemary and Thyme – woody herbs which can withstand dry seasons
Beetroot – don’t over water as this will increase leaf size not root size, but don’t allow the soil to dry out completely
Brussels sprouts – established plants will only require watering during exceptionally dry weather
Kohlrabi – the root system of this is plant is well developed for sourcing water and so can withstand very dry seasons
Onions – after the plant has been established, they require little watering and never after mid-July as this will delay ripening

There are some plants which survive very well during wet weather and as such require a lot of watering during a drought. Therefore it is best to avoid the following – celery, courgettes, marrows, pumpkins, squash, rhubarb and spinach.

Source: The National Allotment Society


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Stephanie Hafferty

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