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Summer Gardening in Dry Conditions

During a heatwave it’s best to conserve water (and your energy!) and concentrate on the plants that really do need watering on a regular basis. Our Longacres team have put together their 10 top tips for best practice in your garden:

  1. Assess soil moisture: by digging down a trowel’s depth – if cool and damp you needn’t water. If dry, then either use a hose or watering can to soak the base of the plant. Two or three good soakings of water per week is far better than little and often, as plants then become dependent on this and grow shallow roots rather than search lower in the ground for moisture. Windy conditions dry plants out even if it’s a cloudy day so keep an eye on all plants especially bedding and newly planted shrubs and perennials. Patio containers: compost turns paler when dry, and pots will feel light, as well as the obvious signs of plants wilting.
  2. When to water: when the weather is hot – it’s best to water plants in the cool of the evening, ideally once the sun is not on the plants rather than the morning so that the water has less chance of evaporating (unlike during the day). Don’t water the foliage, direct the hose/can at the base of your plants, where it’s needed.
  3. Plant type: established (planted 18 months to two years ago) trees and shrubs will be more resilient to dry spells as their root system is mature and can access water in the soil, whereas newly planted bedding and young plants will need extra attention until established. Plants in containers can dry out faster than those in the ground. Keep a particular eye on plants in terracotta pots which are porous. Glazed pots are better.
  4. Equipment: seep hose or drip irrigation systems; use a timer and check the weather forecast to ensure you turn it off if rain is due. Longacres also sell watering cones and reservoirs to slowly water plants – useful if you’re away for a few days.
  5. Mulching: a layer of mulch over moist soil will help protect plant roots from extreme temperatures, plus reduce water evaporation and suppress weed growth. Ideally this should be carried out in spring or autumn when the soil is already moist. Well-rotted organic matter (such as Country Natural is ideal. A thick layer at least 5-7.5cm (2-3in) will be most effective. Alternative products such as chipped bark or garden compost can be used. Make sure you don’t cover the stems of trees and shrubs with mulch as this can cause them to rot.
  6. Holiday Care: whilst you’re away for a week or two it’s essential to have a neighbour or friend to check on your garden at least 2-3 times a week if the weather’s dry. Before you go away, group pots on the patio to a more sheltered or shadier spot if possible. Take down hanging baskets and stand them over buckets for ease of watering and so they are not exposed to wind. They’ll keep cooler and will be easier to water if all together. Be prepared to lose a few plants in extreme heat – you can always find replacements at Longacres Garden Centres!
  7. Plant drought tolerant plants: in areas where the soil tends to become hot and sunny in summer. Remember - this doesn’t mean you don’t have to water them! Once established these plants will be more resistant to periods of drought. Here are our top ten plants: Cordyline australis (Torbay palm), lavender, Nandina domestica (sacred bamboo), Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, Passionflower, Euphorbia, Heuchera, Verbena bonariensis, Campsis, Solanum crispum.
  8. Give plants a good drink: always water in new plants thoroughly to give them the best possible start in your garden.
  9. Leave lawns alone!: your lawn will go brown in drought conditions but will recover and green up as soon as decent rainfall occurs. Don’t waste water by using a sprinkler – use on more precious plants that need it. Set the lawnmower at a higher cut setting should you feel the need to mow.
  10. Last but not least: Don’t forget to take time to sit back, relax and enjoy the summer sunshine and admire all your hard work in the garden!