This July has seen unprecedented temperatures hit the UK, with the hottest areas reaching a sizzling 40 degrees C during the recent heatwave. Given that we still have August to go, which can also get very hot, now is the perfect time to give some thought to gardening during a summer heatwave.
For many of us, summer gardening is the last thing on our minds when a heatwave hits. Priorities, quite rightly, become keeping cool, staying hydrated and making sure that older and vulnerable loved ones are coping in the heat. However, it can be frustrating to watch lovingly tended plants wilt and luscious green lawns turn to straw. Here are some ideas to consider when the temperatures creep up again and talk of a heatwave comes back into prominence.
Use Water Wisely While Gardening During a Summer Heatwave
Very often, heatwaves can be accompanied by a hosepipe ban or restrictions on the amount of water you are allowed to use for gardening purposes. To make the most of the water you are allowed to use, never turn the hosepipe on the garden at the height of the day. Wait until the evening, or preferably get up early in the morning to soak your precious plants.
This will prevent water droplets from magnifying the sun and scorching the leaves and stems when the day gets underway. It also means that less water will evaporate away from your plants and will, instead, sink into the soil for absorption by the root systems underground.
Help Your Hosepipe
Always maximise the impact that the water you are able to push through your sprinkler or hosepipe has on your thirsty plants. After choosing the right time of day, check your hosepipe thoroughly for holes, damage and kinks. You may be able to repair small patches of damage or wear and tear, or you may need to invest in a new hosepipe. Consider buying hosepipe attachments designed to prevent kinks from taking hold in the tubing. This will prolong the life of the hosepipe and help the water flow through it unimpeded.
Reduce the number of times you mow the lawn in summer to once a week at the most. Raise the blades on the mower too, so that it is not cut so low. This allows the grass the best possible chance of retaining water and avoiding being scorched by the sun.
Bees, insects and small animals will also benefit from higher grass in summer as it provides both welcome shade and additional wildflower sources of nectar. Higher grass will also help shade the soil and retain as much water as possible to travel through the ground to surrounding plants. You can add a layer of mulch too if you want to retain even more moisture during a summer heatwave.
Care For Containers
Plants in containers are particularly vulnerable during a hot spell, as their roots cannot grow deeper down into the soil to look for water, nor can they grow towards the shade if positioned in a sunny, exposed area. Move containers into as cool and shady a spot as you can and make sure that they receive enough water – but not so much that their roots are left to rot.
Avoid planting out new containers in hot weather as the plants will not transfer into their new homes as well without sufficient water and sun-dried, hardened soil will not be as welcoming to them either. Choose containers that won’t lose moisture out of their sides, such as terracotta. Pick lighter colours too, as black and darker pots will retain more heat and thus dry out their contents faster.
Create Your Own Protection
To further protect plants during a heatwave, add shade wherever you can during your summer gardening times. Beach umbrellas, gazeboes and canopies can all be installed to cover delicate plants and removed again once the temperatures fall back down again. Stakes and sacking can also provide temporary cover. Remember to help the wildlife that calls the garden home too, as they will be suffering in the heat too. Put out water for the birds and leave shallow saucers of food out for visiting hedgehogs. Do not be too hasty to clear weeds with flowers blooming, as these offer vital sustenance for insects during hotter climes.