Gardening scheme leads water fight against droughts

WATER A GOOD IDEA! -- three of the users at Brooke Farm, who are adopting the new irrigation system. They are (from left) Ian Sheward, Laura Monahan and Imogen Price -- DISPIC NHUD12-0942-2
WATER A GOOD IDEA! -- three of the users at Brooke Farm, who are adopting the new irrigation system. They are (from left) Ian Sheward, Laura Monahan and Imogen Price -- DISPIC NHUD12-0942-2

A GARDENING project in Linby for adults with learning difficulties is spearheading the battle against droughts blighting huge swathes of the country.

This week, Nottinghamshire was added to the list of regions labelled ‘drought zones’. Water shortages could potentially last until Christmas and beyond.

But at Brooke Farm on Main Street, which is part of the Notts County Council horticulture and work training programme, they are already doing their bit to conserve and make better use of water.

For staff and users have spent the winter extending the automated irrigation system used to water summer bedding-plants and tomatoes in their five greenhouses.

A substantial amount of water is lost through evaporation and run-offs when plants are watered by hand, as they were previously.

But the automated system targets water at the benches rather than the plants, meaning less water is used but plants still get the same benefit.

A timer system means watering can take place at night when less of the water evaporates, and the frequency of irrigation can be varied according to the weather.

Bark chippings are also being used around raspberry canes and blackcurrant bushes, which helps to reduce moisture loss, as well as preventing weed growth.

Ian Holland, team leader for horticulture and work training, said: “We don’t draw water from any bore holes or reservoirs, so we are not directly affected by the drought designation.

“But we are still committed to reducing the amount of water we use.

“We’ve not monitored how much water has been saved since we introduced the automated irrigation system but the amount of excessive water and run-off in the greenhouses has reduced.

“In the future, we’d like to do more to reduce water usage, extending our use of water butts and harvesting more rainwater to re-use on our crops.”

Brooke Farm was launched in 1981. Its users grow and sell fruit, vegetables and plants and run a small shop.

Last year, the Dispatch exclusively revealed that the lifeline project had been spared in a round of county council cuts designed to reduce its budgets by millions of pounds after a reduction in funding from government.

Now Brooke Farm is the main base for the horticulture and work training programme.