How to take care of your plants and flowers during a heatwave
The recent hot weather has brought with it plenty of sunshine and clear skies, but the unusually warm temperatures can be detrimental for your garden.
Plants, grass and home-grown fruit and vegetables can all be impacted by too much sun and a lack of rain, but there are ways to keep your garden healthy, hydrated and thriving during the warmer weather.
Provide a layer of insulation
Adding a top layer of bark or compost mulch to your borders will provide some damp insulation to lock in much-needed moisture.
Cover any surface roots to stop them from burning, and be generous around vegetables which require a lot of water. Make sure to do the same with your potted plants, too.
You should also try and move your potted plants out of the sun wherever possible, but if your garden lacks shade, you can also use netting or net curtains to keep them cool.
Water your garden at the right time of day
During a dry spell, you should water your garden - including your lawn - either in the evening or first thing in the morning.
Watering your garden in the middle of the day teaches your plants to expect moisture during the hottest part of the day, which could then cause them to flop, so it is important to avoid doing this where possible.
Sitting plants in saucers or trays allows any water that drains through the plant to collect in the bottom. It can be reabsorbed by the plant as it needs it.
The saucer will also collect water if it rains and will, again, prevent excess water from draining away.
However, do not leave plant pots in saucers during rainy weather - only do this during the summer and dry spells.
If you’re going on holiday or won’t be able to tend to your plants for a while, move as many of your containers and pots as possible into a shaded spot.
Make sure your lawn gets enough to drink
It is best to water your lawn when the soil becomes dry, but before the grass turns yellow or brown, if possible.
If the ground is very hard, using a garden fork to poke holes into the lawn can then help water to seep through when you do water your grass.
You should try and ensure that the water reaches a depth of 10 centimetres (four inches) after each watering. In the middle of summer, one square metre (one square yard) of grass needs around 20 litres (five gallons) of water every seven days.
Cut flowers at the right time
Hot days are not ideal for cutting flowers from the garden, but if you must, set your alarm and cut them at the crack of dawn (ideally around 4am) before they flop in the heat.
Keep an eye on new plants
Newly established and potted plants need the most water to help them grow, whereas already established plants can be self-sufficient throughout a heatwave (for at least for a few days) without a huge amount of watering.
Do what you can to help wildlife
Amphibians need to be able to retreat to cool water during hot spells, so if you have a pond or water feature, it’s important to keep an eye on the level of water.
You should also keep bird baths filled in order to provide a vital lifeline for thirsty wildlife. As natural water sources begin to dry up, birds, bats and bees will all be feeling the heat and will need a drink.
Filling extra shallow containers with water and leaving them in your garden will help to keep all kinds of wild animals healthy, not just birds.
Harvest your fruits and vegetables at the right time
Ripe crops of fruits and vegetables can consume a lot of water, so picking, preserving, and freezing them regularly will help the fruits on the plant which are yet to reach maturity to get as much of the available water as possible.
Root crops can stay in the ground until you’re ready to use them, but other vegetables should be harvested as soon as they are ready.
You should also keep an eye on tomato plants and remove any tomatoes that are still forming, as they won’t have time to mature and will drain energy from the plant.
Regulate your greenhouse temperatures
Good weather can sometimes result in greenhouses becoming extremely hot. Although warm conditions can help to ripen some crops, if temperatures remain high, plants can dehydrate quickly. You can look out for tell-tale signs, such as brown patches at the tips of the leaves.
By allowing a cool breeze into your greenhouse, you can moderate temperatures. Open doors, windows and vents to provide fresh air to any growing fruits or vegetables.