Garden plants: gardening work to do as heatwave and hosepipe ban loom

Chris Bonnett is the founder and CEO of Gardening Express

Combating heat stress and keeping plants well irrigated is one of the biggest challenges for gardeners when temperatures hit the 30s and it’s no different here in the nursery. Here are my insider tips on how we do it.

We are fortunate to have staff on site 24 hours a day which allows us to run our irrigation all night to get the most out of the water when the sun is not out and dry things instantly.

You may not be able to water your plants at 3 a.m., but if you can stick to first thing in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler, you’ll save water and your plants will appreciate it.

At high temperatures it is best to give the soil a very good soak, this may take time, but the plants will do better if they draw water from deeper than the top surface of the soil.

They will also become more resistant to hot conditions because the roots will not become sluggish near the surface of the soil and will go deeper in search of water.

In extreme heat and sunshine, even if the soil is moist, some plants still wilt. This is because they simply cannot absorb water as quickly as they lose it through the foliage – so you need to check that they are actually dry before you start with a good soak.

READ MORE: ‘Don’t throw them away’: How to ‘instantly revive’ plants damaged in hot weather

If you’re short on time, you should invest in a soaker hose to lay around plants in flower beds and borders.

Simply attach them to a regular garden hose and these will gradually seep through their walls to supply the plants with water for a few hours until the tap is turned off.

The beauty with these is that they are slow and steady so water isn’t wasted and you can leave them on a longer time to give the borders a really good soak too.

It is also important to conserve water, especially if there is a risk of restriction. Help your soil retain moisture by providing a thick protective layer of mulch, like chipped bark, around your plants. Homemade garden compost is also excellent, especially for a vegetable patch.

This prevents the water you apply from immediately evaporating and, as a physical barrier, it helps keep your plants’ roots as cool as possible, which they will appreciate.

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If you have a lot of planters on your patio (hanging baskets, etc.), they run an additional risk of drying out, unless you have a high-tech irrigation system that turns on automatically.

Without one of these, it will be a matter of watering them twice a day in hot weather.

There are steps you can take to prevent drying out.

The simple act of placing deep saucers under the containers and refilling them morning and night can do wonders, as the plants can draw water when they need it.

This is only for hot weather, as the roots will rot if left in water for long periods of time. Only top up if there is no more water.

For baskets, a good tip is to plan ahead and include a tub of ice cream (no holes!) in the bottom of the basket when planting. Simply fill and cover with compost and plant the basket in the usual way, it will then fill with water and act as an internal reservoir for the plants in hot conditions.

Another great tip for patios right now is to place potted plants in larger containers, they will provide shade to those they are in and insulate them from the strongest sun.

When using this pot-in-pot method, it’s best to avoid dark colors if you can, as they absorb heat and can actually fry a plant’s roots, so opt for lighter colors if possible. .

If you provide liquid food to your plants when you usually water, avoid doing so at these temperatures as it can add additional stress to them.

Organic products are generally acceptable, but be careful. You put extra stress on the plants to deal with them when they need to focus their energies to deal with the heat.

Like people, plants will also appreciate shade, even those that are often considered sun lovers. If they are not acclimatized to these conditions they will still suffer, so shade can really work if you can put that in place.

Frost protection fleece is what is often used in the winter to insulate the plants from the cold, but if you are able to hang it over the plants in the summer ((even doubling up a layer for lighter material) , it will really help to protect the plants from the harshest of the sun’s rays, helping to prevent burnout of soft and sensitive foliage.

If you have particular plants to protect, a simple and quick solution to provide some shade is to install a parasol from a garden set to protect them, provided that there is not too much wind.

These can easily be moved and installed to protect a sensitive plant in a garden border or collection of patio pots.