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Plant care during droughts and heatwaves

Tips to get through extreme heat and lack of rain

With one day of significant rain here in May, drying winds around Storm Hector and extremely high temperatures, the soil’s bone dry.

How do you save your plants using the minimum amount of water? If this goes on, a hosepipe ban may be on the cards for some areas.

Here are some tips:

1When to water

Water thoroughly…

Watering in the late evening is best if not then early morning – never in the full heat of the day.

2Don’t give little and often

Shallow rooting is disastrous

This encourages shallow rooting and drying out. It’s better to give established plants a thorough soaking once or twice a week so deep roots are reached.

3Concentrate on pots

Geraniums and Canna indica in a display of pots

They will need watering every day. Add water-retentive gel when potting on. If the severe temperatures continue, move what you can into the shade and conservatory/greenhouse plants outdoors.

4Give up on hanging baskets

Water-greedy hanging baskets

Hanging baskets will have to be watered twice a day, which is why I don’t use them.

5Prioritise newly-planted plants

My new rose Rose Leah Tutu

They will wilt and be damaged easily. David Austin Roses recommends a watering can full a day in extreme temperatures.

6Boiling glasshouses

Tomatoes Artisan Mix, Rosella and Sweet 100 in extra-large grow bags and ring culture pots in 2017

Open all vents and doors in greenhouses. It may be necessary to water tomatoes, etc, in grow bags and pots twice a day. Damp down the floor with water – it will cool the air when it evaporates.

7Increase humidity

Help runner beans to set by misting with water

Use a hand mister to increase humidity around tomatoes and runner beans to aid flower set.

8Bye bye lawn

Lawns are very water intensive but will survive

If water use is restricted, sacrifice the lawn. It takes a lot of water to keep it green and grass is capable of surviving extreme heat and lack of water.

9Butt problems?

Small greenhouse water butt – now empty

If your water butts run dry, use grey water from the bath or shower.

10Mulch well

Drive bed mulched in March – standing up to the temperatures much better

A bit late now but adding lots of organic matter, such as well-rotted manure early in the season, will help preserve water. Mulches will also conserve water – consider a gravel garden.

11Keep weeding

Get rid of perennial weeds like dandelions

Remove weeds regularly to prevent them from competing with your plants for water.

12Be aware of your region’s water supply

Kielder Reservoir

Check with your local water authority to see the situation in your area – we are incredibly lucky in NE England to have Kielder Reservoir as a vast water supply but we must still use water wisely.

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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