Keen gardeners and amateurs alike look forward to the few weeks a year when they can truly take advantage of their outdoor space and soak up the sun.
Having a well-maintained lawn, blossoming flowers and rich green topiary can add to the experience significantly, but with the hot weather comes danger for your plant life.
Too much heat can dry out your plants and ruin your hard work, so in order to avoid the risk of your lawn and flowers succumbing, Gardeners’ World has drawn up some advice to keep your garden in tip-top shape during the warmer weeks without wasting water.
Before or after
Although some plants do not require constant watering, regular watering is essential for summer bedding, vegetables, pots and hanging baskets, newly-planted trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
The best tactic is to water plants in the cool of the evening or very early in the morning, instead of during the heat of the day, as this avoids most of the water evaporating before it can reach the plant roots.
When watering, apply liquid to the base of plants where it can soak down to the roots; when it is particularly hot, try to give each plant a generous soak at two or three-day intervals, rather than just a quick squirt every day.
It is also possible to channel any water down to the roots of thirsty plants, such as tomato, by burying a flowerpot alongside it and filling it with water. This will then soak down into the soil.
For those with several plants that need regular care, installing micro-drip irrigation systems can help to deliver water directly to where the plants can use it. When it is applied slowly, the water then gradually soaks down to the roots instead of running off, which not only saves time but also reduces the amount of water wastage.
Storing as much water as possible can also ensure sufficient reserves to replenish your stock; water butts that collect from the roof of your house, garage, shed and greenhouse are highly effective and – because the water is warmer than tap water – it will cause less of a shock to plant roots.
Another water conservation technique is to use waste water from preparing vegetables and washing up, or even baths and showers, where possible, although it is important to avoid using liquid that contains bleach or powerful household cleaning products, as these can damage plants.
One other useful tactic is to use water-retaining granules that can be added to the compost when planting bedding in pots, hanging baskets and other containers. The roots of the plants grow around the saturated granules and then draw the moisture whenever they need it, ensuring a regular supply.
If you are heading on holiday, there are other useful tips that can help to avoid disappointment when you return, including deadheading flowering plants and removing any flowers that are fully open. This may seem counterproductive but it will stop plants running to seed and allow existing buds to bloom when you return.
Cutting the lawn just before you leave can encourage solid growth and keep weeds down, but avoid cutting it too short as this may make the lawn susceptible to drought; keep an eye on the forecast and set the blades high if it will be hot while you are away.
If you grow fruit or vegetables, pick, freeze or eat any ripe crops before you travel, with courgettes, peas and beans being particularly important to harvest to ensure new crops keep coming.
Finally, as with your overall summer routine, water any pots generously and put saucers beneath them to collect water and increase humidity. Moving them to the shade where they will dry out less quickly can be beneficial, as can covering with shade netting or fleece until you return and are ready to resume any green-fingered activity
Gardeners’ World offers a wide range of advice to gardeners of all abilities with gardens of all sizes. More information and tips are available on its website.