Gardens are a great place to enjoy nature and decompress after a long day.
However, we’re experiencing a record-breaking summer here in the UK at the moment, which shows no signs of abating and while many of us love the heat, it can really play havoc on our garden paradise if we fail to take a few simple steps to protect it.
It’s very important to understand the potential symptoms of dehydration. Heat damaged plants will begin to droop and discolour in the areas that are exposed to the sun, whereas the more shaded parts of the leaves will continue to display a prominent, healthy green.
The yellowing discolouration generally tends to appear first along the perimeter of the leaf and spreads through the vein transforming into browning, crisp leaves – potentially leading to permanent damage and even death.
Once the damage gets to a certain point, it generally cannot be salvaged, but there are a few proactive measures that you can undertake before and during the warmer weather to prevent things like this happening to begin with.
Mow the Lawn Less Frequently
Mowing less frequently in the summer has three distinct advantages:
- Longer blades of grass help to protect the soil from the sun by aiding water retention.
- The longer grass keeps the garden cooler.
- Longer grass grows deeper roots which provides the soil with the nutrients it needs to thrive during the hot spells
If you do mow the lawn ensure you adjust the blade to about half an inch more than usual. It is always better to mow in the morning or in the evening to allow the lower grass blades to acclimatise to the temperature.
Prune Only When Necessary
Pruning encourages further growth, which is perfect in colder parts of the year, but as the shoots begin to form they are left defenceless against the sun and the high temperatures.Restrict your pruning to only the dead, deteriorating and pest affected areas. It’s essential also to use disinfected blades, because, as with us humans, open cuts are a magnet for pests and infection.
Screen Your Plants
Just as we need sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun, your garden needs similar protection. It’s easy to forget sometimes that plants, trees and flowers are living, breathing creatures and they are fallible to extremes in temperature, just like any other animal.
In most cases native trees and plants will not need to be protected. But potted plants, shrubs and young trees may need some form of protection. Shade reduces fluid loss that escapes through the leaves when a plant begins to sweat. This reduces the need for hydration, and with hosepipe bans coming into force in some parts of the UK, this is ideal.
You can use most anything to create your screen; as long as it is reliable and isn’t a fire hazard. Curtains, bed sheets, tarpaulin or even something like a dismantled tent would be perfect.
Of course, you may wish to spring for a specialised plant cover canopy, but if you’re on a budget or you simply haven’t time to lose, anything mentioned above will do.
Weeds are a gardener’s worst nightmare; doubly so in a heatwave. Weeds such as dandelions are perfectly adept at thriving in harsh conditions.
There are two reasons you don’t want these things around during hot weather. Firstly, weeds will suck up all the moisture from the soil and funnel vital nutrients meant for the flowers, trees and plants into their own coffers.
Secondly, they attract pests, disease and infection, which could spread around the garden (particularly prevalent when plants are attempting to fight the weather conditions).
Chop down weeds on sight; if the weed is in an earlier development stage, it’ll be much easier to destroy. If you’re facing a particularly battle hardened weed, cut off the top and the leaves until only the base remains.
Summer is a great time to compost all of these excavated weeds as the higher temperatures break down the seeds.
Avoid Watering At The Height Of The Day
Water in the morning, before 10 o’clock ideally. This ensures the plants retain much-needed hydration as the temperature rises.
If this is not an option, late afternoon is best. This means that the leaves remain dry overnight, repelling fungus.
Watering in the height of the heat can actually scald the leaves (See image above).
Leave the Soil Be
If you mess around with the soil during warm weather, all the moisture that has been locked into the land will be released. This moisture must remain within the soil particles to ensure the plants are cool and hydrated.
It’s important not to dig, weed or plant anything during this time. If you need to plant during hot weather be sure to water well after planting and continue to give the tree or shrub water constantly until the weather has cooled down and the plant has settled in.
As we mentioned if you do find a weed it’s much better to chop off the heads and leaves rather than disturbing what lies underneath.
Using mulch helps the soil by reducing water evaporation. It’s also an incredibly effective, natural weed suppression technique.
Add a considerable layer of the mulch to all of your plant and flower beds, ensuring to leave a few inches around the base of each plant. Use a sheet of newspaper (to prevent weed growth) and pour the mulch over the top. Push the mulch as far down into the bed as possible.
Here is a step-by-step guide for creating leaf mulch, although there are several organic compounds that you could use.
It’s much better to try to plan ahead for a heatwave. Moving flowers and disturbing the soil is a sure fire way to drain out the much-needed moisture and nutrients that the garden needs to survive the sweltering heat.
If you have any questions about caring for your garden during challenging conditions, why not contact us on 01584 380 001 to take advantage of our free advice line?