Gardening when it's hot and dry
I don't know about where you live, but here May and June have been very dry and increasingly warm in Hampshire. We don't have a hosepipe ban here yet, but other parts of the country are already subject to restrictions. I think it's only a matter of time before we roll away the hosepipes for another hot summer.
As the hot spell continues, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this is likely to be the reality of our summers now. This could be the "new normal", and it's worth thinking now about how to garden for the rest of the summer.
So how can we garden well in this weather?
Firstly, think about what plants and animals you need to look after. Put bowls of water out for the birds and other critters that may need a drink. Don’t use metal bowls as they will just heat the water up even faster which will evaporate it away. Putting a stone or two in will help beetles and other crawling insects get safely in and out.
Water late at night or first thing in the morning. Use grey water from your household if you can, water butts if you have any, or from an outside tap to fill up gardening cans. Don’t use the rose sprinkler on your watering can or hosepipe.
"Put the tip of the can right at the base of the plants to get the water right to the root ball."
It's better to give plants a solid soaking every so often rather than a superficial sprinkle every day. Prioritise what plants you water; young trees, recent plantings and small seedlings are likely to need more water than well-established plants and shrubs.
Keeping planted pots at their peak
Move plants in pots to the shade and out of the wind to give them a break from baking. If you’re not expecting visitors for a while, you can gather pots and hanging baskets together in a shady corner or side alley. Even a table will do!
Gathering pots together makes it easier to water them and reduces moisture loss through wind evaporation. It'll create a moister and cooler micro-climate than having lots of pots dispersed round the place. You can always move them back into prime position if you have people over.
Think laterally - create shade where you can!
If you’re not able to move your pots, pop a parasol over them to reduce the amount of sunlight they are exposed to. A couple of days in partial shade won’t harm even the most fervent sun-loving plant. If you don’t have a parasol, do you have a garden table you could use?
Emergency plant care
If you have any plants that look at the point of giving up the ghost, don't panic! Plunge them in a bucket of water to get the rootball properly wet. Don’t leave them longer than overnight as the roots need oxygen to breathe.
Herbaceous perennials (that's the technical term for plants that disappear in winter and spring up every year) can lose a lot of water from their leaves through transpiration. If your perennials are looking very crispy, you can take the drastic step of cutting back to almost the base of the plant. This will stimulate new growth and reduce the number of leaves the plant needs to support. New growth will appear in a couple of weeks.
Here's some plants that were crispy on top and looked like they were dying - I cut them hard back, watered them and new growth came through.
Looking after yourself
Finally - stay safe in the heat. There's no way I would do any serious gardening on days of high heat. Stay cool, wear suncream, sip water and nip outside in the morning or evening. A 5 minute mooch and deadhead in the evening is the perfect way to wind down. And you can start planning your next season
Want to know more?
Contact me if you want help in adapting your gardening style and garden to our changing climate