Spring is in full swing! But it has been a very dry start . . . 

Now that we are in May, Spring has well and truly arrived at Clayhill.  The sun feels warmer and brighter, the leaves on the trees are a deep green and ducklings have started appearing.  Through April we have had frosts overnight for almost two weeks, maybe a little longer.  Luckily, it doesn’t look like it has caused too many problems.  The most notable weather activity (or inactivity) has been the lack of rain.  April has been a very dry month here and It seems to be the case that spring is much drier than it used to be.  April showers have been non-existent this year, and I am sure this has been like this for the last few years.  We have also had quite a few very warm days recently which have really dried out the containers and turned the soil into concrete!  I tried planting a pear tree in the walled garden and was only able to take about an inch of soil off the surface as it was so hard!  I have started to increase the watering of the containers during the drier spells and just started using liquid feed on them to give them an extra boost through the growing season.  As well as the container plants I have also had to water some of the trees and shrubs that I planted in the ground in the autumn and winter.  Even though the soil retains moisture better than the containers, young plants need an extra bit of care until the roots have established enough to take full advantage of the moisture and nutrients available.   This has meant that watering has taken up quite a bit of my time recently.  That said, as we have moved into May the weather has taken a bit of a turn.  The rain has returned and there have been a few days of strong winds.

Some of the progress that has been made recently in the walled garden has been with water conservation in mind.  Mike has finished the roof on the shed and kitchen garden, so he has been able to fit the guttering.  There is quite a lot of roof space which is perfect for harvesting rainwater.

The guttering will drain into a large 1000 litre water container by the shed. We already have a container connected to guttering from the house and have also added another one for rainwater off the garage.  So, in total we will have approximately 3000 litres of water capacity.

The final step is to fit a pump to one of these and have an automated irrigation system for the raised beds.  All the pipes are in the raised bed ready to go.  This will hopefully make watering much easier, and the added bonus of using rainwater is that it is generally better for plants then tap water.

As we are aiming to be as green as possible at Clayhill Arts, harvesting rainwater is an extra step.  We are going to be installing more water containers around the site where there are gardens so that our reliance on water from our well is reduced as much as possible.

Chris Drew

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