Climate change is making unpredictable Scottish summers even more unpredictable. Although most of our plants hate long wet summers, protracted periods of drought can be fatal. Carefully planned landscaping projects may help protect our plants against the worst effect of drought, but short-term measures also help.

As a general rule, we should plan major changes in autumn, so I’ll look here at differences we can make now. Water butts connected to downpipes from the roof are a valuable resource. We always have too much water in the depths of winter when watering plants is the last thing on our minds. During dry spells, they empty all too readily but every drop of stored water helps. Try collecting water from as many places as possible. Tap in to downpipes on sheds and outhouses. The water butt next to my little potting shed is handy for watering plants that I’m hardening off or growing on till large enough to plant out. And one near the workshop in the terrace is useful.

The larger a water butt the better, but don’t go overboard. A full one weighs a ton so be sure the ground it’s standing on can cope with it. Two years after installing a beast of a butt next to the greenhouse, I saw its concrete base had sunk a little lower than the rest of the path.

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However environmentally-sound water butts are, they’re none too picturesque, unless you lash out for one like the Manhattan Twist. This elegant water butt, standing 900mm and storing 100 litres, is topped with a low planter which you can use to soften it. This could work well in a small patio.

Even during a drought, don’t waste water. Have a jug next to the sink. When running water and waiting for it to become hot enough, put that waste water in the jug, tip in the remains of a water glass or a basin used for washing vegetables.

I know I keep banging on about the soil, but fertile, well-structured ground absorbs and retains water and takes much longer to dry out during dry weather. When mulched, you lose no precious water through evaporation. The water feeds roots, not the air.

The deeper and more extensive the roots the better. Trees, shrubs and other perennials are more likely to survive and need little or no attention.

Annual ornamentals and veg are a different story as is anything newly planted. Some very thirsty plants, like tomatoes and courgettes, need daily watering, but many of the others in the open ground only need it once or twice a week. Give them a good soak, passing the hose or watering can two or three times over the ground to let the water sink in gradually. And be sure to water the soil not the leaves.

Plant of the week

CHAENOMELES X SUPERBA ‘PINK LADY” is an exceptionally pretty Japanese Quince with deep pink, bowl-shaped flowers. It eventually grows to two metres and has glossy green leaves; fruits form in late summer that make an excellent jelly. All Chaenomeles need well-drained soil so ‘Pink Lady’ is perfect for training against a wall where there is a rain shadow.