Prepare your garden for hot weather
With July seeing record breaking high temperatures, some of us worried about the welfare of our gardens. Dry soils and lack of consistent rain meant that our efforts to keep fragile plants alive were boosted to make sure we didn’t lose any of the hard work we had put in. The memory of droughts and hose pipe bans in previous years can leave us gardeners worried as we know how quickly the weather can change. Every drop of water matters and no matter how it is being used we all must ensure that we do not waste any of it. Hopefully you have a water butt installed already and are capitalising on the intermittent downpours and storms that we have had, but if you do not we have other ways to make sure your garden survives a hot summer.
In high summer, the sun can kill plants if they are not properly looked after. To take care of greenery, avoid watering when the sun is up as you run the risk of singeing leaves and blossom. Any water that is out in the sunshine acts like a magnifying glass and heats up very quickly, you do not want this happening to fragile plants. In addition, the sunshine evaporates any water quite quickly so any efforts you have made may be lost. Unless you are an early riser or a night owl, it can feel daunting that plants need watering when there is no sunshine as there are more daylight hours during summer. To combat this, you could set up timed sprinklers or irrigation systems and keep a steady flow of water to the soil, therefore avoiding wetting leaves and flowers. You can also put a gazebo or tarpaulin over more fragile plants for a few hours during the day, in case the weather is very hot and you can see your garden wilting.
Finding out how long the root of your plant is beneficial in hotter weather as plants with longer roots will need less frequent watering. Plants with long roots pick water up when the soil feels dry so let it dry out slightly before watering again as the top layer of soil is not indicative of what lies beneath. Plants with shorter roots (e.g. tomatoes, lettuce) will need regular but shallow watering whereas trees and bushes will need deep watering to access underneath the top layer of soil. Younger plants are easier to teach and training them early to expect a certain flow during the summer is best. Try to avoid watering in the day time when a plant is young as it will encourage roots to grow near the surface of the soil.
Against other advice, it is better to let your grass grow slightly this is because longer grass provides shade for soil and preserves any water under the surface. Also, over cutting grass will force it to grow, plants are under some stress in very hot weather and making grass grow quickly may cause it to become straggled and thin. If you know the type of grass you have, you can get quite specific on how long it should be. Carpet and couch grasses are best at 3cm, buffalo and kikuyu types are good at 5cm. If you have cool season grasses like rye, Kentucky blue grass and fescues, these are to be kept at 10cm long to protect them. After mowing, resist the urge to rake after mowing as the cuttings keep the soil cool and moist. These cuttings will also break down naturally, providing nutrients for the grass and soil.
It is important to keep blades on mowers and strimmers sharp as blunt blades do not give a clean cut. This can cause grass rot and could stress your grass out when it desperately tries to repair itself when it already under pressure from the weather.
Mulch And Compost
Bare in mind that when adding compost to soil it must be evenly spread and you do not add too much. Due to compost operating at high temperatures, it can burn plants if too much is put down. Some gardeners add water to fertiliser before adding it to plant beds to keep the soil underneath damp and the compost cool. Soil finds it hard to absorb nutrients in hot weather so note that it may not be soaked up as quickly as in other months.
Mulch is fantastic to add in boiling hot weather as it protects and keeps soil moist. Keeping mulch quite bulky will help conserve water and will stop the sun from burning the ground beneath. You can make mulch from shredded weeds and bark from tree cuttings. You can also cover certain areas with aggregates or cobbles, rock gardens not only look beautiful but they help retain moisture in the soil beneath.
It can be hard to keep on top of your garden when the summer is in full swing as you may have to change your gardening habits quite quickly. With weather in some places changing day-to-day, gardeners need a contingency in place to prepare themselves for sudden droughts and temperatures their green spaces are not used to. To make sure your blooms and plants survive any harsh weather, keep your focus on shading soil and watering in darker hours. We may have the worst behind us soon, but it can’t be bad to prepare ourselves for next summer as temperatures could get higher.
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