How to survive a heat wave

MAKE A MULCH. Pine needles allow water through but keep the soil cool.

MAKE A MULCH. Pine needles allow water through but keep the soil cool.

It is easy to see the effect of the heat wave on the garden; wilting plants, soil that dries up within hours of watering and virtually no new growth.

All one can do when temperatures are consistently in the mid to upper thirties is to be strategic about watering, protect young plants and keep the soil as cool as possible.

Gardening is always an act of faith and under these conditions one just needs to remember that when the temperatures drop, and the rain comes (hopefully) that garden will recover. Just remember that 15mm is the equivalent of one good watering. Less than that means that one still needs to water. Until then here are some strategies to keep the garden going.

Wise watering tips

  • Water early in the morning or late afternoon. The nights are so hot that the leaves will dry off and not be affected by fungus disease.
  • Roses and azaleas will appreciate a brief spraying of their leaves with water at midday. This cools them down and relieves a little of the leaf stress.
  • Plants in containers must be watered every day.
  • Water seed beds and new transplants daily.
  • Sink two-litre plastic cold drink bottles into the soil next to particularly thirsty plants. The cap end should be buried at root level and the broader base cut off so that water can be poured in. Fill the bottle daily. This gets water directly to the roots.
  • Loosen hard, compacted soil so that water can penetrate.

The trick is to make sure as little as possible is lost through evaporation. Bare soil bakes dry in an instant and the only way to prevent it is by mulching. Spread a five to 10cm layer of organic material on the soil surface, around plants and on the surface of containers. Mulch keeps the soil cool and moist for longer.




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