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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Pottering about

EACH month KATE JACKSON, the head gardener at the World of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness, shares her gardening experiences and advice with us.

IN today’s column I’m going to return to a gardener’s favourite topic of conversation, the weather!

On this wet and rather chilly day I can’t help but compare the difference between the weather today and that of a couple of weeks ago, when we were experiencing glorious sunshine and summertime temperatures.

Maybe I’m not the only one to notice that the rain tends to arrive when the school holidays begin!

Still I’m glad to see it hasn’t put people off from stepping outside and visiting the garden. With waterproofs on and umbrellas up the children are as eager as ever to find the hidden answers to the questions in their garden activity sheet.

Any adults in the group can usually be found sheltering under cover in the greenhouse admiring the garden from afar. After all, even in the drizzle the spring flowers manage to put on a bright and cheery show.

The rain certainly is welcome in the garden and you can virtually see the plants respond immediately and start to grow. Rainwater really is the best thing for plants, especially sweet peas, garden peas and broad beans. These seem particularly sensitive to the chlorine and other compounds like salts that can be found in mains water.

It’s thought that the chlorine kills many of the important micro organisms that live in the soil and thereby reduces the availability of plant nutrients, this in conjunction with the salts and other compounds present that alter soil pH, work in combination to adversely effect plant growth and health.

So, my advice to all you keen gardeners out there, is to install a water butt in your garden. Not only will it help to reduce the burden on our overstretched mains water supplies but the plants in your garden will also benefit as will you.

We are very lucky here to a have a private water supply in the kitchen garden that supplies the polytunnel and is treated using a UV filter so will be pathogen free.

The only time I would advise using mains water is on your seedlings which can be very susceptible to “damping-off”.

This is a catch-all term for a variety of fungal infections that can kill an entire tray of seedlings in hours. Water with rainwater once they’re passed the potting-on stage and are less vulnerable to attack.

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