How to look after your garden during a heatwave
It's a scorcher this week with our mini heatwave here in Ireland, what's seldom is wonderful, but your garden will start to feel the effects if not looked after correctly. The threat of a hosepipe ban may be looming as we are now being urged to conserve water. Our horticultural team have put together a list of suggestions on how to look after your garden during this extremely dry spell.
1. Identify the 'hardier' drought resistant plants in your garden.
Have a walk around and see what is still thriving or surviving in the drought in your garden. Now is the time to take garden notes: what does best in the heat and lack of water? What is struggling the most? See what has died or is dying and decide if you feel it’s a high priority to save it or let it go. Letting it go means that you can plant up the area with more waterwise species or more of what is thriving in your garden to keep the cohesion.
2. Install shade netting over susceptible plants
The high temperatures and sun can seriously damage more susceptible, shallow-rooted plants like many vegetables and flowering plants. Erect shade cloth on gum poles or use umbrellas to shade the strugglers in the heat of the day.
3. Avoid watering things that don’t need it
An obvious one, but avoid over watering plants that are doing ok. Over watering causes the plant to send out more shallow roots rather than deeper ones and so will over time cause it to become a less hardy plant. Being tough on the strong ones actually helps to promote tougher plants!
4. Identify and water susceptible plants
Give those plants that you definitely want to keep but that are struggling deeper watering by watering can or with collected water in the evening as a supplement. Watering in the evening means the water can penetrate deeper without evaporating and encourages the plant to send down deeper roots.
5. Create small reservoirs
Collect plastic containers with lids, such as juice and milk bottles. Poke small holes in the bottom and half-bury them next to your plant, fill with water and cap. This slow release method also encourages deep rooted plants. Focus this method on fruit trees or large shrubs that have been planted in the last year that are looking frazzled.
6. Keep your garden free of weeds
Weeds are generally tough and so compete with your specimen plants for water. They need to be kept under control in your beds right now. Keep up a weekly weeding regime.
7. Stop or reduce any fertilizing
Fertilizer stimulates growth and therefore plants will need more water as they send out new tender leaves and shoots. Forego bushy and green right now and get comfortable with beige and bare on some of your plants. It’s hard to watch, but many of the plants are perfectly adapted to survive by dying off or hardening.
8. Trim back plants
Those that have become leggy or floppy should be trimmed back. They will need less water and regrow compactly.
9. Look at your pots
They dry out very quickly and the soil inside can get baking hot, frying your plant to toast! Move them into the shade to prevent burn-out. If many of them have already died or if they are too heavy to move, plant them up instead with flowering succulents.
10. Cut off flowers
Seems drastic but this reduces the stress on the plant. Producing flowers uses up a lot of a plant’s reserves and so trimming them off actually encourages deeper root and stronger leaf growth instead. Use the flowers indoors in your vases.
11. Mulch now
Avoid bark nuggets and stone which can actually heat up the top surface of the soil. Rather choose a nice 50 to 75mm thick layer of organic compost which will help to improve the soil structure and aid water down to the thirsty roots of your plants. A thick layer will help to shade and cool the soil and plants roots too.