Here in my Sussex garden, 1.5mm of rain fell last night. Woohoo! No, really - it's cause to celebrate! It's the first rain here since 16th March.
But it means that only 73mm of rain has fallen here since 1st February, less than I normally get in February alone. Yes, it's definitely drought-zone here, and my garden is showing the signs, as I know it will be for many of you out there. I see that even parts of Yorkshire are now officially drought-ridden tooi.
Of course the impact is being felt far beyond gardens. Many of my collegaues who work on wetland reserves are getting really nervous - their breeding birds need soft mud to probe for food, not a parched dustbowl.
It's time for all of us in affected areas to play our part in conserving supplies, and the garden is of course a key place where water savings can be made.
Obviously hosepipes are now out, but the key thing is collecting those little bits of rain we do get. I'm sure many of you already have a water butt, but do you have room for more? Don't stop at one: get a butt for every collecting point you have! I have three, but I'm thinking a fourth is needed.
Charlie Dimmock's advice this week of watering in the cool of the evening is really important, when little is lost to evaporation. And watering right in at the base of plants rather than sprinkling wildly over the surface means that the plants get the precious drops where they need it.
And steel yourself if you can to tolerate a less-than-perfect green lawn. Grass is perfectly able to cope with dry conditions if only we can put up with it going yellowy for a while.
And now if definitely the time to consider whether any of the water-greedy plants you like to grow would be better replaced with drought-resistant plants. Beth Chatto's dry garden in Essex is a wonderful example of what can be achieved without supplementary watering using wildlife-friendly plants such as Nectaroscordum, catmints, Aquilegia and sages. I took this photo in May 2005 - isn't her garden inspirational?
But while saving every drop in the home and garden is key, sparing a drop for birds can be vital. I'm having to top up my birdbath daily it is in such demand. And now the added value of having a pond is really kicking in - birds are in there daily bathing, which included this Chiffchaff fresh in from the Med indulging in a long soak among the Water Mint.
It could be a tough year, for people, for gardens and for wildlife, in which we finally recognise that water is actually our most precious resource. Good luck with stepping up for nature and doing your bit to help.
Be careful that the cleaning products aren't changing your soil PH, Taffy2. I've tried catching the waste water from showers/baths and found it was affecting plants. I've been working on muching around as much as possible. We have a ban as of today so it will be important in the coming months, especially as I put in hawthorn, privet and beech hedging to atttract more birds!
I visited the Beth Chatto garden only recently, Adrian. Really inspirational and heaving wiht birds!
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