F.E. Green was clearly feeling the same on The Cottage Farm in 1912:
Under the glittering rays of the sun our little stream has dried up, and even the treasure pool that lies under the willows has not enough water in it to tempt the brood of wild ducks to emerge from their hiding-place in the adjoining copse. The pump handle of the forty-eight-foot well has to be lifted a good many times before a drop of water gaspingly gurgles out. My two Kerry heifers have calved, and their calves seem to find it easier to get a drink than do their mothers. The cattle, poor things, career about with tails uplifted, flying almost daily their signals of distress. So dry and hard is the ground that the earth itself opens in great cracks, gasping, as it were, for breath, and moles unable to burrow are constantly captured by the cat and the dog. Hoeing has become like working in a quarry. Butter can only be kept hard by leaving it suspended in a bucket of water right down in the cool depths of the well. Churning may be easy, it is true, but to send the butter by post has become practically impossible.
Of course, where holidaymaking is concerned, perhaps ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’! Maybe it would be better not to struggle against the frustrations of August and, instead, head off to some quiet location for some R&R. Heath Robinson and his co-author K. R. G. Browne were certainly enthusiastic about holidays as you can see from these illustrations:
For dealing with parched plants in hot August weather, Heath Robinson proposes a surprisingly modern solution in How to Make a Garden Grow:
On warm, sunny days it is only necessary to throw water, to which a dash of orange bitters may be added, upon them from time to time. Gardeners who object on political or moral grounds to paying a heavy water-rate will find second-hand bath-water quite suitable for this purpose, a slight soupçon of soap being appreciated by phlox and fuchsia alike. In very hot weather the gardener who adopts this expedient will have to take rather more baths than he perhaps considers necessary, but he will have the consolation of knowing that he is simultaneously refreshing his violets, giving the local Water Board a nasty smack in the eye, and imparting to himself that pinkly glowing appearance which is the hallmark of the Well-Scrubbed Man.
As bath-water that has been carried about by hand in saucepans and fire-buckets lacks the energizing qualities of that which is pumped direct from bath to consumer, Mr. Heath Robinson has designed an apparatus (see diagram) whereby the healing fluid, having finished job A in the bathroom, can be transferred without delay to the garden and encouraged to get on with job B. This gadget is so simple that a child can make it – any child, that is, who has the necessary pipery, bellowage and mechanical turn of mind.
An important operation this month is watering the room plants in pots and others in boxes on the window ledges. Some cultivators get wearied by the incessant demands thus made upon their time, and accordingly allow water to accumulate in pans under the pots so that the plants may use the surplus by capillary attraction as the soil in the pots becomes dry. But those who try to avoid trouble in this way soon find that they have brought other and more serious troubles upon their heads. A vase containing stagnant water in a dwelling-room very soon commences to give off an offensive smell, and becomes insanitary, while the plant, with part of its root system under water or in water-logged soil, is deprived of oxygen, and therefore becomes sickly. In hot weather, such as may be expected to continue during August and September, the best plan is to take a plant of which the roots are dry and stand it in a bucket of water for half an hour or so, after which it may be lifted out and allowed to drain before being returned to the pan or vase. Watering will not be needed quite so frequently if care is taken to soak the soil thoroughly on each occasion.
August is frequently a very trying month by reason of the hot sunshine and consequent necessity for frequent waterings. The cultivator can help the plants a great deal, first, by taking away all faded flowers before they have the chance to form seeds, picking off dead leaves at the same time, and secondly, by taking care to prevent the roots getting parched occasionally. It is not always practicable to give liquid animal manure to plants in the window boxes, owing to the objectionable smell, but an occasional sprinkling of chemical fertilizer on the soil before watering will serve as a suitable substitute.
We must not let plants develop seeds, this being a very weakening process. Some of the trailing plants, such as Nasturtiums, Canary Creeper, and even Ivy-leaved Geraniums, that are getting too stalky may have the longest growths pruned to a point where they branch; this will have the effect of keeping them more compact while still encouraging new growth. The latter point is important, for the good appearance of window boxes depends upon keeping the plants in a growing condition, suggestive of youth and vigour rather than maturity and decline.
Like any English Rose, I am definitely in need of regular watering during August as, like Walter White’s plants, this keeps me ‘in growing condition, suggestive of youth and vigour rather than maturity and decline’! As a child I used to love trips to the beach. It was so exciting to drive up the hill to Burton Bradstock beach, anticipating the first glimpse of the sparkling sea as we reached the top. When it is hot there is nothing more refreshing than sea bathing – it cools you to the very core. We used to put on our swimming costumes under our clothes so that we could leap out of the car, race down to the beach, strip off and plunge into the waves as quickly as possible. However, these days, I think I would prefer to use Heath Robinson’s contraption for modest sea-bathing!