At the time of writing we were still in the grip of the recent long-lasting heatwave and so it seemed sensible to me to put down a few words about trying to keep your garden healthy and happy during a long period of dryness and heat.
Whilst we all know that there are plenty of drought tolerant plants available what we need to know is how do we keep our lovely lush shrubs, roses and perennials in good health.
It is painfully obvious that the answer is water but how do we get the water into the plant for maximum benefit?
A few simple rules to remember that might help are;
- Where possible apply your water directly to the soil under your plant, it does NOT need to be applied onto the foliage (unless we are dealing with plants that are very small in which case it would be impractical to try and apply water beneath the foliage). Water droplets on leaves in hot sun will act like small magnifying glasses and cause damage.
- Water early in the morning or late in the evening where possible but if you need to water during the day please try all the harder to keep foliage dry.
- Remember that when soil has become dry (whether in a pot or border) it will not re wet easily and although you are pouring lots of water on you will sometimes find if you push a finger into the soil that it is still VERY dry an inch or so down! The best thing in that situation is to apply water, walk away, then return a few minutes later and reapply, continuing until you are happy that sufficient water has penetrated the soil!
- In extremes of heat it is always wise to check the temperature of the water coming out of your hose as a rolled-up hose left in direct sunlight for a few hours will produce very hot water for a few minutes which could do damage if applied onto the foliage of a delicate plant!
- If you have put landscape fabric, stones or even lawn up to the base of a newly planted tree or shrub be aware that all three are going to seriously reduce the penetration of water into the root zone and so it might pay you to put in a short length of piping or similar to get the water to where it is needed while the plant is still reliant upon you for its water!
- A useful rule of thumb is to remember that the larger a leaf is, the more it will transpire (lose moisture into the atmosphere) and therefore a plant with tiny leaves will be more likely to cope with hot dry conditions!
- Although the heat alone is drying our gardens it is useful to remember that on a cloudy but warm and breezy day the drying effect is even greater so don’t be fooled!
- DO however remember an important lesson I learned as a newly qualified horticulturalist which was that if a plant is underwatered but is not beyond the wilting point then it can be revived, a plant that is OVERWATERED is not coming back so do be careful not to put too much water on your plants too!
Happy Gardening and don’t forget to wear a hat and keep yourself well-watered!