Despite Freedom Day on 19 July, it’s fair to say that for most of us life remains far from normal. House prices are at a record high and this week we had our first ‘extreme heat’ warning in the UK. If your house is on the market and hours of lockdown weeding and pruning have resulted in the garden looking its best, don’t let the heatwave undo all that hard work.
Written by Wesley Muchimwe | 23rd July 2021
How to keep your garden glorious in a heatwave
Follow our top tips to help your garden survive the heat and keep your plants thriving this summer.
The first line of defence against hot weather is to apply a layer of mulch around the plants to protects the soil from direct sun light. Mulch also prevents the soil drying out which reduces the need for watering. There are all sorts of mulch materials available at garden centres including compost, leaves and bark chips, and during a heat wave light coloured mulches will reflect the sunlight and help maintain cooler surface soil conditions. Freshly cut grass clippings are ideal as home grown mulch. Leave them on the lawn for a few days before raking up and in a few sunny days the fresh green clippings will turn a light brown and provide perfect mulch.
Provide temporary shade
On scorching hot days, move pots in to the shade or fashion some form of sun screen. Garden centres sell shade cloth which can be placed on top of plants to screen them from the sun. Even a strategically placed patio chair can protect a low-growing plant. If you have large container plants that are too heavy to move into the shade, spreading a layer of gravel, stone chippings or bark on top of the soil helps to conserve moisture and protect the plant’s roots from the heat.
Water at specific times
Watering is vital, and at the right time of day. Avoid the middle of a hot day when shrubs and perennials are devoting all their energy to dealing with surviving the heat, not to taking up water. The best time to water plants is early in the morning when temperatures are lower. This will carry them through the day to an evening watering session. Watering in the morning also prevents heat scald, which can damage leaves that are watered while the sun is directly overhead. Although to paraphrase gardening guru Monty Don, if your plant needs a drink, let it have one.
Keep lawns at least three inches tall
Taller grass casts longer shadows and the added shading from leaving your grass taller than usual will benefit the soil by helping to retain moisture. A minimum depth for getting a shade benefit is three inches, and some groundskeepers set mowers as high as six inches during heat waves or drought conditions. Along with many professional gardeners this year, Waddesdon has been reducing their areas that are usually intensively mowed so that wildflowers can bloom and supply pollinators with nectar and pollen.
It’s tempting to prune away unattractive sunburned growth, but hold back. The outer foliage is protecting the interior of the plant by providing shade. Wait to prune away sun-damaged growth until temperatures return to normal. For extra safety, wait until summer is almost over before pruning in case we have another heat wave.
Plants devote all their resources to surviving a heat wave and can’t spare the energy to absorb fertilizer. It just sits in the soil and can “burn” the plant so avoid regular fertilizing until temperatures return to normal. If a plant has wilted and looks fried, all may not be lost. If the leaves begin to plump up after being watered deeply, then it should be fine. Sunburned leaves are another sign of heat damage, but if the stems are green or pliable and some of the leaves are green, the plant is still alive.
Don’t forget the wildlife
Birds and wildlife struggle as much as our gardens during a heat wave, so don’t forget to top up bird baths and bowls during your daily watering session.
If you’re deciding whether to take advantage of the favourable market conditions and sell your home this year, our Michael Graham team would love to offer you their no obligation help and advice. Call us now and if you’re looking for a home to buy or to rent, all of our properties can be viewed here.