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The Rainy Outlook?
In this week (the second week of July 2012) the newspapers have carried headlines that one of the wettest months of June may well be followed by a similar July and the cause of this, it is suggested, is melting ice in the Arctic. Well if we have a drought and scorching temperatures next year someone will no doubt explain away this year as either a freak or part of a passing cycle, but for the moment we do seem to be getting a lot of rain. Having said that, I remember talk back earlier in the year of us moving into a phase where we need to buy drought hardy white-leaf plants, previously more suitable to Mediterranean lands, but as the last two companies still with hose pipe bans have just lifted them this last week, we can put that aside for the time being.
What all this goes to say – and we have said it before on these pages but it does bear repeating for the younger gardener (in experience at least) – is that the gardener needs to be ‘water aware’. I have commented before on an old friend of mine whose plants always seemed bigger and better than most and the only thing he seemed to do, that was different, was water his plants every day. Now I know that soil, feeding and species of plant all contribute to growth but the fact is that, despite those who say you only need to water once a week, in times when there is little rain, more water does mean more growth. But if we are into a period of history when, as country, we’re going to get more rain, this requires a little thought.
Keep it in Perspective
First of all some general observations about the amount of rain. Remember that here in Rochford we live less than ten miles from what is considered by many to be one of the driest places in England. That may be the reason why, when so many other places in the country have been giving us pictures of torrential flooding, we have (fortunately) missed all that.

The second thing is to observe the negative tendency that many of us have. Now I know there was recently a report highlighting the number of people suffering from depression in this country, and I know we are moving in tough financial times, but does that mean we have to let pessimism rule over our gardens as well? I say this, and I have recently commented elsewhere on Rochford Life about this, because I keep having conversations with people who are complaining about the awful Spring and Summer we are having.  
Planning for Wet
But let’s suppose for the moment that the weather is changing and we are going to get more rain, let’s think some serious and some less than serious thoughts about what we could do if that is genuinely the case (because much of gardening is thinking about how to handle the climate as well as the soil).
One of the causes of flooding, in those parts of the country that have had rain and more rain, has been that the land has become waterlogged. For those of us who have clay we are in trouble. Clay first expands when it gets wet and then refuses to take more water – thus your garden turns into a lake.  A longer term solution is to have a long-term strategy to break down the clay by regularly mixing in sand, other soil and well rotted compost material until eventually the structure of your soil changes – well, at least on the surface. Maybe some surreptitiously located small ditches or trenches filled with gravel, leading either towards a soak-away, or off your land  (not to drown the neighbour’s land!) or to the nearest rainwater gully might be something to be considered. In other words, handling the excess water is worth thinking about.
A different sort of flooding to be considered comes when you grow in patio pots or containers. In the tropical rain weather, make sure your pots have holes in and you have plenty of drainage materials (pebbles, rocks, polystyrene pieces, broken crocks etc.) otherwise you may have a container full of liquid mud.
Changing the general structure or landscaping of some of your garden may be another thing to be thought about for the long term. A pond, a bog area for wet plants (if you can’t beat it, join it!), slightly raised paths and patios, covered areas for sitting out without getting wet and less lawn, might be projects for the new wet climate.
As far as plants go, growing strawberries means more effort in putting down straw etc. to keep them out of the mud - or grow them in containers where they hang over the sides. Soggy lettuces are not my sort of thing but most other vegetables seem to do well with rain, although I’ve heard someone warning about leaving potatoes too long in soggy soil where they could rot. As far as starting off new plants goes, it may be difficult to sow seeds if they get washed away in tropical rain. The question of germination may be more about warmth of the soil but lots of rain may mean not so good temperatures. The cold frame or greenhouse may come in for even more use. Planting out small plug plants is not very clever in very wet conditions either, so you may need to grow them on under cover a little longer than usual.  One of my favourite plants is the fern and so I rejoice at the rain, because mostly they like plenty of water. At the last count a visitor said I have over a dozen different varieties so that shows my bias. Beyond that, go and talk to those in the know at your local garden centre and see what they suggest for wet conditions.
Well, actually, here we are not. Yes, there has been quite a lot of rain but in reality we’ve also had a fair number of really good sunny days and I had the sun burn to prove it. We have suffered showers but that is all they have been. Two days ago was a classical instance of this. The weather forecasters warned us of thunder storms and heavy rain. Well, I happened to be working in the garden that afternoon and yes, the clouds built up and yes, there were a number of rumbles, but I carried on and finished what I was doing just before it rained – for two minutes!  Yes, it was heavy but it was just two minutes in the whole afternoon!   As a gardener I am grateful that my watering is being done for me.

So let’s keep this rainfall thing in perspective. I recommend you don’t give up buying your white-leaf drought resistant plants and you don’t HAVE to start thinking about growing rice. The vegetables are growing at a wonderful pace this year with this combination of rain plus sunny days. I’m thrilled by it!
There has recently been interesting comment about the clothing being worn at music festivals this summer – wellies and shorts – which reminds us that rain doesn’t necessarily mean cold, it just means wet!  Oh, one more positive thing. With this diet of rainy days, showers and sunshine, I don’t think I can remember such a good time for lifting weeds, root and all! The rain may help the weeds to grow, but they also come out so much more easily. Wonderful!

So there is it, just a few thoughts about handling change of climate. They may be consigned to the archive of fantasies if it all goes the other way, but in the meantime, if you really are consigned to peering out at the torrential rain from indoors, remember gardening is often about planning and wondering and scheming and trying – and failing and trying again, so whatever, have fun in the garden whether it is rain or sunshine. Happy growing!

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Growing Stuff  Articles:  12. Learning to Live with Rain
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In these pages on ‘Growing Stuff’,  we have said again and again that our intent is to particularly help those who are new to the garden or who would like some sort of encouragement with their garden, and so we seek to provide ideas or comments that will achieve the aim of getting our readers to think about what they can do with their gardens.