It’s Saturday of Gardener’s World Live at the NEC Birmingham. I am sitting in the big van I hired to transport all the plants and gubbins to the show. We woke to sun but it has now clouded over again and is threatening more rain. The weather has been challenging for the outside exhibitors but when I hear people say ‘Enough now. We don’t need any more rain’ I want to say actually we could do with a month of rain to wet the soil to any great depth. I do understand that it is June and it has been very cool and particularly drenching in the last week and everybody wants to be doing summer things in summer clothes but the dry spring, particularly in the South East of the UK, means we are crying out for some gentle-consistency ‘wet stuff falling from the sky’, as my lovely mum used to call it!!
My Beautiful Border highlights the need to collect when it’s wet so we can water when it’s dry. The water butt centre stage, when connected to the downpipe, will collect all that lovely rain and store it until we need to water our gardens and pots. The current rain, although hard when you are planting and mulching a mature border in two and a half days for a show, makes my spirits lift.
Back home in London I have come back to a jungle. All the lovely rain has made the plants and grass go ballistic. Rain is a wonderful substance, so different from tap water. If you watered your garden with the same amount of water as has fallen in the last two weeks it would never have the same effect on the garden as rain. I have been banging on about needing it to rain around these parts for weeks and if you are a gardener you will know exactly what I mean. So having a water butt/s to collect the water that runs down your drains into a butt rather than the sewers for the times when it doesn’t rain is a must, in my opinion.
Rain is so much better for your plants than tap water for a number of reasons. Tap water has both chlorine (in small amounts in the UK) and fluoride. Many plants are susceptible to chlorine toxicity usually seen as burnt leaf edges. The white splodges you can sometimes see on leaves, and which were wiped off each leaf laboriously at the Chelsea Flower Show, is evidence of calcium and magnesium in tap water and while not dangerous to plants they don’t help them either.
After rainfall, plants look greener due to the fact that nitrogen from the air comes down in its nitrate and ammonium forms and is absorbed by plants through roots and leaves. Air is 78% nitrogen and nitrogen is what makes plants green. Rainwater contains more oxygen than tap water so when we have large amounts of rain, like we have had in the last few weeks, plants are less likely to suffer water logging due to rain water being highly oxygenated.
Carbon dioxide when combined with other minerals in the atmosphere create rainwater that has a slightly acidic PH. This acidity helps to release micronutrients such as zinc, manganese, copper and iron all essential to plant growth.
Rain falls uniformly in the garden. I always think on the very few occasions I do water the garden with tap water how long it takes to wet the soil to the same depth as a good downpour will do. And rainwater washes off mineral deposits, dust and pollutants that cover the leaves, particularly if you live in a city or urban environment. The shiny, clean, wet leaves make photosynthesis, the process by which plants turn water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrate which in turn they consume as food, much more efficient.
No wonder my garden has gone crazy since the rain. You feel a sense of relief from the plants. The trees that were starting to drop leaves as quickly as they were opening seem far happier. To be honest, if you were near me, you would feel a sense of relief from me too. The garden and allotment have benefitted from this bounty from the skies, the water butt is full again but won’t be needed for a while as the soil is now thoroughly wet.
It looks like we are forecast some warm, dry weather over the next week in which we can put on our summer clothes, leave the umbrellas indoors and enjoy our burgeoning, happy gardens and containers.
Oh, and I got a silver award for my Beautiful Border – A Resilient Garden in a Changing Climate.