CLIMATE change is already affecting us all and we must act now to reduce carbon and other dangerous emissions. Over the last year, even in douce little Scotland, we’ve seen the changing climate turn normal weather patterns upside down, with storms, flooding, droughts and record-breaking temperatures.

So as gardeners we should be prepared for whatever the elements throw at us: supplement water supplies during a drought, give our plants the best chance of surviving downpours, or change our planting regime if necessary.

If you have mains water, only a severe drought will impact your supply. But water butts for the garden, topped up by downpipes from the roof, eke out diminishing reservoir levels.

Living in the countryside with my own spring water, I anxiously monitor its flow during a drought, especially after one spring feeding our storage tank ran dry a few years ago. You certainly come to value water and since the surplus feeds my irrigation system in the kitchen garden, nothing is wasted in our house.

How water affects a garden depends on the type of soil, and the steps we take to modify the ground is also affected by the plants we want to grow. We may even need to choose different species if the ground becomes unsuitable.

Water passes straight through gritty, overly free-draining soil, so the simplest solution is to grow plants that thrive there: rock roses, Mediterranean herbs, or asparagus, for example. Their roots would rot in wetter ground. The top of my potager is perfect for these grit lovers.

And I quickly discovered that asparagus couldn’t cope with a corner of the kitchen garden with the heavier clay-like ground you often get in new build properties. Some crowns quickly died and others lingered on miserably till I put them out of their misery.

As ever, we all crave ‘the moist, free-draining, moderately fertile soil’ the seed catalogues assume we all have. This perfect ground does its best to both retain and drain away moisture as required, but even this struggles in torrential rain.

We can aspire to the catalogue model by improving both gritty and clay soil. Add compost and other organic material. This suits a larger range of plants and the increasingly varied climate conditions we’re experiencing.

Nothing offers us total protection against all these extreme conditions, but some techniques are good for dealing with many situations.

One method is mulching. Mulching, one of my favourites, deals with wet and dry conditions. It acts like an overcoat, reducing the impact of heavy rain, while also retaining any moisture already in the ground. I need to water soil beneath a mulch much less frequently and even in very dry weather, the surface remains friable.

Excessive rain also runs off hard surfaces, like slabs and paving and this will almost certainly saturate the soil as it washes into beds. Two years ago, we replaced a random slab path with a properly grouted one. Because it sloped gently towards a herb bed, the soil in the bed was inundated during February’s incessant rain. Needing much drier conditions, thyme, oregano and winter savory all died.

But the rosemary was safe in its container. Some slates beneath the pot let surplus water drain away freely. This also works with planters on the patio, and during dry weather, the pot feet are replaced by plant saucers to capture any water we use.

So if the ground sometimes becomes too wet for existing plants, replace with the likes of hemoracallis, hardy geraniums, bulbs, asters or rudbeckias. Visit the Scottish Green Environment Forum [] for some other suggestions designed for its project: 10,000 Raingardens for Scotland.

Plant of the week

Delphinium ‘Piccolo’ has clear blue flowers that are well spaced on 1 metre high stems. This growth habit requires less staking and means ‘Piccolo’ can better cope with Scottish summer rain and wind.