autumn autumn colours climbing plants colours flowering bulbs fruit and veg garden design garden photography gardening grasses grow your own half-hardy perennials hardy perennials light light quality ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs shrubs succulents trees village gardens

A Garden Bouquet for September

September is the month when the first signs of autumn creep in and there is something special happening to the light. Misty mornings give the garden a fresh atmosphere. Darkness comes too early each day. Fruit picking is the order of the day and we get out our pruning kit, secateurs, pruning saws and loppers large and small to tackle the trees and shrubs.

Grasses begin to change colour, some flowers and seed heads are turning redder and more purple others towards the pale tints of biscuit.

2013 09 27_3768 2013 09 27_3769 2013 09 27_3770 2013 09 27_3771

The Blackberry vine is so heavy with fruit that it blocks the pathway and apples hang in thick bunches but seem slow to ripen. At last colour is creeping into the greenness of the grapes. Fingers crossed that the weather is kind to them and therefore kind to us.

2013 09 27_3772 2013 09 27_37732013 09 27_3777

2013 09 27_3774 2013 09 27_3776

This Buddleja is a special one with purple flowers at the tip of each arching branch. The out side of each individual flower is dusty purple-grey but the rich bright purple inside provides a beautiful contrast. Buddleys lindleyana is a very special shrub. A real favourite! And it looks even better alongside a bright orange neighbour in the guise of a Crocosmia. While we are on the subject of bright flowered Crocosmia the yellow one nearby is gentler but still a true bright beauty.

2013 09 27_3778 2013 09 27_3713

2013 09 27_3714

Shrubs and trees are thinking ahead to the winter and painting their leaves in reds, oranges and yellows. The first two photos are of a special Ribes which will give us yellow flowers in the winter. These are followed by deciduous varieties of Euonymus and Cercis “Forest Pansy”.

2013 09 27_3715 2013 09 27_3716

2013 09 27_3719 2013 09 27_3721

On the gravel garden, our Beth Chatto Garden, grasses are starring alongside the autumn stars, Michaelmas Daisies.

2013 09 27_3717 2013 09 27_3718  2013 09 27_3720  2013 09 27_3722

Bulbs usually mean late winter or early spring but these cyclamen and tulbaghia are showstoppers right now.

2013 09 27_3723 2013 09 27_3724 2013 09 27_3729

So off we go into autumn!

bird watching birds climbing plants colours conservation fruit and veg garden design garden photography garden wildlife gardening grasses hardy perennials ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs photography roses Shropshire village gardens wildlife

A Garden Bouquet for August

It is time I took up my camera and took photos of the delights our garden has to offer. This is a particularly important set of photos as we have decided on August 3rd as the date we are going to open our garden for the National Garden Scheme next year. We keep looking for gaps or places in need of improvements be it little tweaks or bigger tasks such as re-laying our main central path in the back garden.

So I went off around the garden with my zoom lens attached to see what’s what in our patch. As it panned out there was so much to see in the back garden that all this month’s photos were taken there. Please enjoy the journey and feel the damp, cool morning air which acted like a soft lens filter giving a delicate misty blue atmosphere to some of the shots.

In the “Shed Bed” the delicate china blue flowers popping out of the spiky spheres of the echinops provide sustenance for our bees and the apple tree trained over an arch will provide sustenance for us. The odd white flowers come from the gentle creamy colours of the hydrangea heads.

2013 08 22_2847 2013 08 22_2926 2013 08 22_2927

Our tulbagias continue to flower in the new slate garden close by and above them the purple sedum foliage hangs from the old gypsy kettle on our old ladder.

2013 08 22_2928 2013 08 22_2929 2013 08 22_2930 2013 08 22_2931

There are lots of plants to look at around the end of the greenhouse where the vine is dripping with grapes awaiting late summer sun to ripen them and paint them in purple and black. The Quince vranga tree has a few fruits hanging at the tips of the branches and the soft pink curled flowers of Sanguisorba “Pink Elephant” brighten the border below.

2013 08 22_2857 2013 08 22_2933 2013 08 22_2935 2013 08 22_2936

In the long “Tree Border ” this lilac flowered clematis is dripping with flowers and the thornless blackberry is heavy with young unripe fruits.

2013 08 22_2862 2013 08 22_2938

The Secret Garden and the Chicken Garden are at their best, blooming brightly with the cordon apples full of ripening fruit acting as a backdrop, many of which are just beginning to develop a flush in their cheeks. The Shropshire Damson tree overhangs one border and its deep purple fruits are weighing down its branches so heavily that the fruits look like they are reaching out to hold hands with the flowers.

2013 08 22_2939 2013 08 22_2940 2013 08 22_2941 2013 08 22_2867 2013 08 22_2944 2013 08 22_2945 2013 08 22_2946 2013 08 22_2872 2013 08 22_2873 2013 08 22_2949

A few new plants are waiting, still in their pots, in the Secret Garden while we decide where to plant them. They seem to be the colours of citrus fruits!

2013 08 22_2950 2013 08 22_2951

Along the central pathway our pears are close to their peak picking time. As I pass each day I look longingly to see if a couple are ready. Surely this is the ultimate gardening experience, eating a juicy, scented pear still warm from the sunshine just seconds from leaving the branch. The few plums look sad and lonely – from all four cordons we have just one clump of fruit. A poor year!

2013 08 22_2878 2013 08 22_2877 2013 08 22_2955 2013 08 22_2956

In the greenhouse the tomatoes are producing prolific amount of fruit in shades of yellow, red and purple. We are picking and enjoying them daily and adding some to the store of produce in the freezer. In the late autumn we shall make them into chutney coupled with our onions and apples.

From the greenhouse door I can look out across the “L Bed” and the “Long Border” through an arch draped in richly scented roses and a delicate china blue clematis. This is a herbaceous clematis rather than a climber, but it does enjoy a good scramble over everything in its path.

2013 08 22_2958 2013 08 22_2960 2013 08 22_2961

2013 08 22_2963 2013 08 22_2964 2013 08 22_2965 2013 08 22_2967 2013 08 22_2968 2013 08 22_2970

This strange fruit is a heritage cucumber called Booths Blond, which Jude the Undergardener tells me is very tasty. I don’t eat them, they are one of the few fruits and veggies I don’t enjoy. This variety certainly looks very different to the long straight regimental cucumbers sold in supermarkets.

2013 08 22_2971

We have been concerned about the lack of butterflies and bees this year but recently they have come back in good numbers. Honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees are all feeding furiously on any simple flowers. The butterflies are particularly tempted by the buddlejas and the marjorams. We garden with wildlife in mind particularly in the choice of plants we grow. Our flowers tend to be simple and  open, just the sort preferred by pollinating insects. We rely on our insects and birds to look after our garden for us. We garden totally organically relying on wildlife to do our pest controlling and pollinating of our crops.

2013 08 22_2897 2013 08 22_2969

As I am writing this the sky is full of House Martins and Swallows gathering together in readiness for their long migratory journey to the African continent. There they will find flies to feed on while here in the UK the insect population will disappear with the onset of winter. These acrobatic flying little birds seem to be celebrating a good English summer!

In the shrubs and trees warblers and titmice are busy feeding up after a period of moult. August and September are when we tend to see our warblers, Willow, Garden and this year even a Grasshopper Warbler. Chiffchaff and Whitethroat tend to be with us most of the year.

conservation fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Odd Harvests

In the last few weeks of last year we harvested two plants that we have rarely harvested before but for very different reasons.

The first crop came from the greenhouse where the plants had been growing away all summer in growing bags after being sown in the propagator early in the spring. We were given the seeds and having never tried them before we decided to give them a go. Tomatillos – the name sounding somewhat like tomatoes and the plants and fruit ending up looking somewhat like cape gooseberries.

Here is the crop, now we had to decide what to do with them. Chutney seemed to be the only answer, but I decided to turn to Google for ideas and perhaps if we were lucky, recipes.

And here they are closer up, thin pale green papery sheaths around fruit like green tomatoes. They didn’t look ready to harvest but we had heard somewhere that this is the stage to pick them and as the plants were suffering as temperatures cooled down, we went ahead and plucked them from the stems.

O.K. Back from a Googling session and I now knew that the botanic name for tomatillo is Physalis philadelphica, which makes it a relative of the Cape Gooseberry and a member of the Nightshade family. It originates from South America. In Mexico it is a staple food of the diet and is often used to make green sauces. Here they are called “Tomate Verde” and are most appreciated for their green colouring and sharp taste.

I found recipes for soups, stews, salsas and yes, chutney.

The second “odd” crop is bamboo, odd because it doesn’t often seem to be grown in the uk for anything but decorative reasons and because it is the first time we have seriously harvested our bamboo to use as garden canes. We grow three different bamboos for their different stem colours and originally planted them for their ornamental value, tall and graceful, moving gently adding sound to quiet days.


Growing your own garden canes is a good way of helping the environment. Importing them from China seems a terrible waste of resources.

It was mostly the black stemmed variety that was ready this year. Their stems are tough so I struggled with secateurs before turning to a pair of nicely sharpened loppers and getting the job done. The range of colours is very wide as the photos below shows.


Similarly we harvest our prunings, utilising the large shrubby ones for beanpoles and the scrubbier smaller ones for beansticks. We started to harvest these last week and will continue as we sort out the garden in readiness for the coming growing season.



Peas and beans seem to like to twine themselves around these rougher sticks and poles in preference to the bamboos available in garden centres. And of course we must remember they are self-sustaining, so there is no cost to the environment.

allotments fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Big Parsnips etc.

We are never very good at growing parsnips, but we have been getting better in recent years. With our allotment getting flooded six times this year we were not hopeful of success with our root crops. When the seedling carrots, beetroots and parsnips were just a centimetre or so tall and very delicate they found themselves underwater. When the water drained away the little seedlings just shrugged the experience off and carried on growing. The season carried on with the crops periodically under water. Imagine our surprise when we began harvesting healthy young roots of carrot and beetroot. Once frost had sweetened the parsnips and celeriac we began harvesting them too. By Christmas they were most impressive! I included my secateurs in the pictures to give an idea of scale.

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG We haven’t used excessive amounts of fertiliser to get them to this size just simple organic gardening techniques. Lots of manure dug into the ground, deep mulches of garden compost and feeding with comfrey feed made from our own comfrey plants. Not root crops these but they did delight and surprise us with their size and flavour. Elephant Garlic is not garlic at all but more closely related to leeks. We eat them roasted when they taste of sweet, delicate garlic.



Now we definitely have something to live up to next year. Perhaps the weather will be nearer normal next year and we might even avoid the floods. Mind you of course, the crops above might have excelled because of the floods rather than in spite of them.

allotments autumn fruit and veg garden photography gardening grow your own


We harvested our first apples last month  and have been harvesting other varieties as they ripen. We still have a few varieties waiting on the treesto be collected. The first harvest was from a tree we have trained over an arch, having bought it as a one year maiden. It is a deep red-blushed beauty called “Scrumptious” which is a rather silly name but I have to admit quite apt. The basket weighed in at 8lb 7oz. – very pleasing!

The other variety that we normally harvest in September is James Grieve, which grows in the company of a clematis over another arch. This tree is a reliable heavy cropper and this year’s crop  looked most promising as we waited for it to ripen. We can enjoy the taste of this apple straight from picking and they  stay full of flavour for a few months, but it does not store too well.

The harvest did live up to expectations weighing in at 27 lb with a few of the individual fruit being really large as we can see in the picture below of these two sitting on Jude, the Undergardener’s hand.

All the apple, pear and plum trees in our garden were bought as one year maidens and we have trained them into cordons, over arches and as step-overs. Now after ten years it is so rewarding to see them as such productive trees. Of course apple trees are worth growing for their blossom as well, so they are doubly useful to us gardeners.

The apple below is Red Falstaff a variety we have trained as a single-stemmed upright tree. It sits to the left of our greenhouse door, where, coupled with Scrumptious on the right of the door, it gives the impression of  being one of a pair of sentinels guarding the doorway. We harvested our Red Falstaff a few days ago and the fruit has developed much deeper red blushed cheeks. In total though the little tree produced only half a dozen pounds of fruit.

The green fruit below is a Bramley apple, the only pure cooker we grow. It is not the best of croppers as we made the mistake of training it as a step-over. Bramley is a tip-bearer so when we carry out the formative pruning necessary with step-overs we are effectively cutting out most of its future fruiting buds. However it does give us a small crop every year, so it has forgiven me my ignorance. We stew this cooking apple and then freeze them to use in pies in the winter and spring. As we do not grow many cooking varieties we tend to use wind falls and any damaged fruit of eaters as cookers or as ingredients in chutneys or mixed with blackberries in jams.

Ashmeads Kernel seen below however is a most successful step-over tree, with a dry textured skin and nutty flavour. This apple is one of the last to be harvested in late October  but will not be at its eating best until December through to February, when its flavours will have fully developed.

We grow some heritage varieties which tend to produce fewer fruits but are usually better flavoured, such as Cornish Aromatic, Beauty of Bath, Pixie and King of Pippins.

The photo below shows the unusually shaped, boxy fruit of Cornish Aromatic with its green skin with a few freckles of slightly deeper green.

Any apples whose flavour improves with keeping ,we store in shallow trays with individual fruit wrapped in newspaper to make sure no fruits touch each other. If an apple does go bad when in store then this barrier of newspaper will stop it spreading too quickly.

The act of picking fruit evokes our senses, the touch of the skin as we twist the fruit from the tree, the scent of the fruit in the hand and the subtle variations of reds and greens to delight the eye. And then of course comes the taste, in some cases best straight from the tree in others the tastes matures with age, reaching a peak months after being plucked from the tree. There is also the sensation of the first bite, the crunch, the juice running and the balance of taste between sweet and acidic, and the hints of fruits shared with other fruits, strawberries and pineapples.

Our pear trees were a great disappointment this year. Out of our four cordons only one produced any fruit at all but just look at the size of them!

birds climbing plants photography Shropshire trees wildlife woodland

Through the Garden Gate – part two – getting lost!

From the pool we could look back at the wood we had just left and enjoy a different view of the hill that we usually look at from our garden and over which we watch Buzzards riding the thermals created by its slopes.

Well we may never have been more than a mile from home on this walk from our garden gate, but we did manage to get lost. The footpath signs kept disappearing, or that is our excuse. Our wander took us along sections of the long distance path, “The Shropshire Way” and on a local path “The Chris Bagley Walk”.

Leaving the fishing pool we followed the valley of the stream that fed it. The grassland here was rich and was being enjoyed by dairy calves, who watched our every move as we passed close to them.

The valley widen out but the wooded slopes and tiny stream running through it kept it intimate. The fields of grass on which the calves fed was a lush green but was devoid of wild flowers, a sad sign of modern farming practices. we followed the path until it took us up a gentle slope away from the stream and up into a wood which was partly coppiced.

On the slope up to the wood we spotted this Scarlet Pimpernel in flower on the pathway beneath our feet. Although only a tiny flower its orange petals glow so it can be seen from a distance. We now lost the footpath and had to consult maps on the smart phone, which rescued us nicely.

The wood gave away its past. Signs of the work of woodlanders abound. Their homes were now mere ruins covered in Ivy as Mother Nature reclaims her woodland. A clearing showed signs of coppicing.

The darkness of the wood and its cooler atmosphere was in stark contrast to the brightness and warmth that greeted us as we left it behind and returned to farmland. The path narrowed and took led us around a field edge where the sterility and silence of the arable farming on our left clashed with the natural exuberance of the hedge and the wildflower filled verges.

This was modern agricultural practice at its worse. We crossed over several of these fields and saw no signs of life apart from two Wood Pigeons flying overhead. The only flowers were a few yellow Rape plants from a previous crop and brave purple flowered Vetches attempting to clamber the Barley stalks close to the path. Years of pesticide and herbicide use coupled with monoculture has wiped out wildlife from these acres of land. To illustrate the point a small group of Swallows flew over the crop in search of insects, but it was in vain and they quickly moved on. At least until the footpath signs disappeared once more and we relied again on the smart phone maps to rescue us.

The path crossed one of these fields creating a narrow band of green which cut through the drab grey-yellow of the Barley. The only good part of crossing this desert was the rattling sound that the ears of Barley made as our elbows brushed past them.

Walking across the field we aimed for a style in the distant hedge. It seemed a long way across as there was little to look at or to listen to. The style in the hedge turned ou to be a double style, one each side of a thick, dense, tall hedge. there was a different world awaiting us on the other side. The grassland here was full of clovers and there were many different grasses, not just the ryegrass we had walked through earlier.

We were now within the land of our local organic dairy farmer. The hedgerows had deep verges full of wildlflowers, thistles, mallows and vetches. No hedges had been removed and the fields were much smaller.

As we passed through to another field we were hit by a sweet. rich aroma from the hedge. It took us a while to find the source – a Sweet Bryony clambering over an Elder.

It was downhill now all the way home and we enjoyed lovely views through gaps in the tall hedges.

As we left the final field of pastureland we spied our house across the hayfield. We had to pass our big old oak tree which we admire from out back garden. As we walked along the fence to the garden gate we called out to the chickens. They looked totally confused – we were the wrong side of the fence.

conservation flower show garden design garden photography garden wildlife gardening hardy perennials July meadows ornamental grasses ornamental trees and shrubs photography RHS The National Trust wildlife

A Day at the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

We have been to the Chelsea Flower Show, Harrogate Flower Shows and The Autumn and spring Malvern Flower Shows but the one we enjoy the most is always the one set in the grounds of Tatton Park. Luckily this is the RHS show closest to home. Although Chelsea is often called the greatest flower show, having visited once we have no desire to go again. But we frequently go to Tatton.

Tatton Park Show is described as “the North’s greatest garden party”. We enjoy its large show gardens, its “Back to Back” gardens and children’s gardens but most of all those designed by young garden designers. This is where the UK’s garden designs of the future lie and the standards are always so high. The designers have to be under 28 and this year their brief was to design a garden based on the theme of “colour”. We were so pleased when we learnt that the designer of our favourite one of these gardens had won the accolade of “RHS National Young Designer of the Year”. Tristen Knight designed this garden using recycled materials and it was full of interesting and original ideas and design feature. The colour of his planting of perennials and grasses was beautiful, all orange and biscuit. He studied for a BA in Industrial Design and Technology before training in garden design at Writtle College. He spoke with great enthusiasm and excitement about his garden and he told us about the materials he had chosen and how they were all items from building sites. For example the rill was formed from a an “H” beam and the flexible screening was created from scaffolding boards. I found it hard to take photographs that did justice to this brilliant young designer’s work. We enjoyed his garden and talking to him about it.

We moved on to the main large garden show gardens, some of which we liked whereas others we did not like at all. But that I suppose is what design is all about. If we all liked the same plants and designs wouldn’t gardens be boring?

I begin looking at this set of gardens by featuring our favourite, a garden based on circles achieving a wonderful peaceful atmosphere through the planting which was light and wispy. It relied heavily on grasses to do so, with one planting area consisting of just grasses and one variety of allium.

It received the Best in Show award!

This show garden featured decking curves and colourful planting choice.

The next sequence of photos illustrates the wide variety of show gardens at Tatton. Enjoy the tour.

Once we had enjoyed the large show gardens we made a bee line for the garden designed by students and staff of Reaseheath College, partly because their garden is always so interesting with elements of attracting wildlife but also because this is the college where I followed some of my horticulture training several decades ago. This year their garden excelled, with such vibrancy in the planting and in its features. Again the design integrated beautiful features created to attract wildlife.

To finish my first post about the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show I want to share a couple of photos of children’s gardens celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee. In the next post we shall visit the Floral Marquee and the smaller show gardens.

allotments fruit and veg garden photography gardening grow your own hardy perennials July ornamental grasses photography

A July Harvest

Today we visited the lottie to harvest veggies to use fresh and to store in the freezer for use in the less productive days of the winter and early spring, together with bunches of Sweet Peas and Dianthus.

This year we have grown four different Courgettes including this round one, and little saucer-shaped patty pan squashes.

These sweet green peas are eaten in their pods and are wonderfully crunchy and juicy to eat raw or cooked. The dark purple roots of Beetroot are great boiled and used in salads or pickled to use in the winter. They are also ingredients for the sweetest of cakes and relishes. The Broad Beans are a variety called Green Windsor which gives green succulent beans to eat now or freeze for later.

Purple Sprouting Brocolli is one of our favourite crops on the lottie but this year they are ready so early. We usually harvest them from December to April but have already been picking them for a month or so. Strange season!

The last harvest this year off our Rhubarb. The plants have served us well this year and we have enjoyed rhubarb pies and crumbles, and have lots in the freezer to make jam. We tend to freeze lots of our fruit to use in jams, relishes and chutneys, which we make when the weather deteriorates and we can’t get in the garden.

A lovely big, crunchy, sweet white cabbage and a failure of a cauliflower – a bit small and not very white!

Once we returned home after a welcome refreshing cup of tea, and then took to the garden to pick a flowery harvest. Dramatic grasses and bright blooms of Calendula, Achillea and Anthemis mingle with purples of Alliums, Marjorams and Nepetas to give us a wonderful bouquet for our lounge fireplace.

Sweet Peas and Dianthus scent the house, their sweet and clove-like aromas permeating every nook and cranny.

This very natural soft display links the long leaves of grass, Arundo donax variegata, with Lavenders, Linarias, Verbascum, delicate smaller grasses and daisies.

allotments community gardening fruit and veg garden photography garden wildlife gardening grow your own July meadows natural pest control photography roses Shropshire

A Wander around the Allotments in July.

July on our allotment site has been a month of rain resulting in regular flooding. Now as the rain has disappeared for a while things are drying out. Amazingly potatoes are being dug up out of flooded plots and have given reasonable crops but on others crops have rotted below ground. On our own plot we have been harvesting good crops of carrots, beetroot, garlic, cabbages, broccoli, broad beans, peas and salad leaves. We regularly pick tayberries, rhubarb and gooseberries. Strawberries however are rotting before we get to pick them and even the blackbirds are missing out.

We shall as usual start our lottie wander on our own plot to see what is going on and with our new sign, the old one having fallen apart.

Our crops are mostly looking well and the “Bug Borders” bursting with colourful flowers, alive with bees, hoverflies and lots of other useful insects.

But in between the colourful lush plantings of veg, fruit and flowers standing water sat getting stagnant.

And this is our poor grass path.

Things are getting easier though and we have managed to get on the soil without damaging the structure too badly, so we cleared any weeds, loosened up the soil surface and sowed more crops such as beetroot and radish and planted out our seedling leeks.

Now we can start our wander around the site looking at what is happening on other plots and in the communal areas.

The Spring Garden and Summer Garden have come through the terrible weather with flying colours.

Of course the Willow features have enjoyed the wet around their feet and look so green and fresh, but they need a lot of pruning to keep them in trim shape.

The meadows are flowering nicely now and flowers are giving colour on lots of the plots.

I shall finish this wander with a good idea. How about this for an idea for trying to foil the dreaded carrot rootfly – simply grow them up in the air hopefully above their maximum flight height.

allotments community gardening conservation drought fruit and veg gardening grow your own Shropshire

Our Wise Watering Campaign

On our allotment site this year the management committee are running a Wise Watering Campaign, with the aim of reducing the amount of water used by plot holders. We were ashamed to hear that our site uses more water than any other in Shrewsbury. When we looked into the situation we were amazed that only 18 of the 68 plots had guttering and water butts attached to their sheds to catch rainwater run-off. Many plot holders turned to their hose pipes too readily to water their crops. Something had to be done.

We had already fixed guttering, downpipes and butts to our communal buildings and we use this captured rain to water our communal gardens, so we began our campaign by encouraging members to follow that example. Jude, Mrs Greenbench aka the Undergardener, in her role as secretary to the committee has been trying to source grant money to help purchase more water butts. Amazingly our local water board did not even bother replying, but there are still a few irons in the fire.

I was asked to write an article for our newsletter, “Dig It!”, giving advice on how to water efficiently and a summary was sent to all plot holders. I wrote a much extended more detailed article which I posted on the allotments’ website. (see and click on “Wise Watering”)

Our initial emphasis has been on using watering cans instead of hoses and encouraging members to add guttering and water butts to their sheds.

I thought I would give a few ideas here too, for your interest and wondered if anyone had any further ideas that we could use.

I emphasised the importance of improving soil quality and adding humus and fibrous material, which would help moisture retention after rain or watering, and allow the plants to take up moisture efficiently. We sell municipal compost and farmyard manure on site.

The best time to add manure is in late autumn or early winter and for compost early spring. I suggested also that compost should be used as a mulch after periods of rain to hold this natural moisture in.

Mulching under fruit bushes is always useful as a lot of moisture is needed in the production of fruit. Old straw, hay or farmyard manure when added as a mulch will also slowly break down and feed the plants as well as improve soil texture.

Another important way of managing the watering of your plot is to ensure it is always free of weed material. Weeds will use up moisture that would otherwise be available to crops. Using a hoe regularly is the best method to employ as keeping the surface loose helps rainwater get below the surface.

Growing your fruit trees as cordons on the windward side of your plot cuts down on evaporation. Alternatives are flower borders or a row of root artichokes.

Strong, healthy plants will survive dry periods better and newly planted quality plants will establish without regular bouts of watering. To ensure plants are as healthy as possible feed them with natural, organic feeds rather than chemical based fertilisers. Growing your own fertilisers is even possible. Comfrey can be grown and regularly cut, soaking the leaves and stems in water for a few weeks produces a free and effective feed when watered down to the colour of weak tea. The leaves can also be utilised as a mulch placed directly below fruit trees and bushes.

The way the plants are watered is also an important factor in determining how much water is used. Watering with a hose all around rows of plants is wasteful as most of the water lands on the bare soil and not where plants can use it. To ensure that plants can take up and use as much water as possible, it is best to water from a can without a rose and direct the flow of water towards the base of the plants.

When your potatoes need earthing up, add a layer of fresh grass cuttings before the soil as this will help retain moisture as the potatoes are forming.

I tried to work out the most water-efficient way of planting out our vegetable plants and used runner beans as an example. The first point is to ensure your plants are strong and healthy.

Take out your planting hole and fill with water from a watering can – I also add some comfrey feed to this. Let the water drain away and repeat the process.

Place the plant in the hole and water yet again after firming soil back in around it.

Add a good layer (at least 2 inches deep) of compost to keep the moisture in as the plant establishes. This helps the plants settle in as it is getting its roots down.

Form a trench alongside the row of plants to collect any rainfall and direct it towards the plants.

Before you decide to water your plants take out a trowel depth of soil close to your plants and see if it is moist below the surface. If it is then do not water. This water in the soil down to about 6 inches is the moisture that plants will be using. Conversely if you water the surface it will just attract roots upwards to search for it. Remember then that watering over the soil surface with a hose will make plants shallow rooting.

There are lots more ideas on the website. In this year of drought following last year’s almost desert levels of rain, our water table in this part of Shropshire around the allotments is about 2 feet lower than it should be so however much rain there appears to be falling we need lots more.

I would love to hear of more ideas that I can share with our allotmenteers!