Cucumbers need water the most. Credit: Pixabay

Gardening with Pat Duke: Plants that thrive in Mediterranean conditions

Pat Duke

Needless to say there seems to have been little to do in the last week apart from rearranging dust and watering sparingly while looking after the wildlife that shares the habitat.

This week is likely to be more of the same, keeping thirsty plants going and lopping off the heads of any of the more resilient weeds. How dare they actually thrive in Mediterranean conditions.

Given the reality of climate change and more heat waves forecast in August, I’m going to start looking at Mediterranean flowers that thrive in such conditions.

You might already have some knocking about the garden in the form of lavender, geraniums and thyme. Some herbs are great in arid conditions such as rosemary, marjoram and oregano. All these need minimal amounts of water to survive.

You could go the whole hog with some Agave Americana, Pheonix Canariensis or the more locally suited Torbay Sparkler Dazzler.

All these will either fill a space in a bed or look great in a pot covered with grit.

You’ll need to bring the agave indoors for the winter and give it a succulent plant feed now and again.

Even a greedy banana tree such as musa basjoo seems to tolerate drought with a splash of water here and there.

Maximum output for minimum effort is what we’re after here.

The striking agapanthus (African lily) is another low-maintenance showstopper requiring little in the way of moisture. These can be dried after they’ve gone over and still look good in a vase over winter.

The stand out plant of this area is the olive tree.

Olives bring a taste of the Mediterranean to your garden. Credit: Pixabay
Olives bring a taste of the Mediterranean to your garden. Credit: Pixabay

Even if in its formative years, you don’t get enough to make a vat of extra virgin but it still transports you to Greece.

Its grey green powdery leaves and dry grey bark seem to be more uplifting than other shrubs and trees even without fruit or flowers.

Olive trees are also ridiculously hardy here and are straightforward to take cuttings from in summer or winter if you want your own version miniature of the Parthenon on the patio.

Do not worry about the lawn, it will come back in the next shower or two.

On the plot

Not much is growing at a rapid pace in this dry weather.

I stayed indoors after the ‘risk of death’ weather warning only to watch it rain at lunchtime.

Even if there’s rain for ten minutes you can still harvest it, so time might be spent this week rigging up simple water-catching contraptions from the most basic second hand blue barrel stood next to the shed to a more sophisticated (but still easy) guttering attached to an outbuilding that runs into a similar barrel-type container.

One small shed will be filled up several times over the summer and save you the increasing cost of paying for it from the mains.

Everyone knows plants prefer rainwater to the chemically treated version pumped into our homes that always seems to taste like the swimming baths.

Try and prioritise the plants that need water the most, such as tomatoes and cucumbers.

If anything looks like its wilting, it needs a drink.

Anything with deep roots will be resilient and either get through a drought or just require a quick dousing.

Remember, only water in early mornings or late evenings to maximise the benefits of watering or the afternoon sun will burn off and evaporate it.

Hoeing off the top of remaining weeds is an ideal pastime right now. You won’t even have to pick them up.

Given that the plot needs less weeding this week, more time can be spent leaving life-saving food, water and shelter for wildlife so that they continue to do the work for us as well as amaze us in equal measure.

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