Keep gardens healthy during a heatwave
Summer sunshine and cloudless skies make for perfect conditions for enjoying the outdoors. However, warm weather and a lack of rainfall can start to take its toll on your garden – especially when this weather isn’t expected, or a ‘temporary use ban’ (also known as a hosepipe ban) is put in place by your water company.
Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do to help keep plants blossoming and blooming, vegetables cropping and lawns healthy even during a hot spell. Read on for our top tips.
Care for the lawn, plants, greenhouse and wildlife in hot weather
How to care for lawns
Temporary use bans can put a halt to using a sprinkler in your garden, thankfully this needn’t mean that your lawn suffers. Below we have five top tips on hot weather lawn care.
Lawn care tips in hot weather
- Set your lawnmower to cut grass a little longer. This extra height means that the soil beneath is less likely to dry out - helping to keep the lawn greener for longer.
- Keep cutting - mow the lawn regularly. We recommend doing it at least every couple of weeks to prevent grasses running to seed and weeds taking hold.
- During dry spells, your lawn may start to lose its lush green colour. Don’t worry - as soon as rainfall returns it will green up again. There’s no need to sow additional grass seed or water daily.
- If you’ve been away and your lawn has overgrown, don’t cut it short in one go. Do it in stages by gradually lowering the blades on your lawnmower each time you cut.
- Avoid laying new turf – this requires regular watering to establish itself and so is best done during more temperate weather, such as spring and autumn.
For more lawn care advice, check out our article for lawn care tips.
How to care for vegetable beds, borders and container plants
Helping your plants to make the most of every watering is the best way to keep them fruiting, cropping and flowering as normal when warm weather is forecast. It’s important to ensure plants have enough access to water when the weather is dry as without it they can become weakened and more susceptible to pests and diseases.
Target plant watering
Watering methods include hand watering and garden irrigation systems.
Hand watering – use a watering can, sprayer or hose to water beds, borders, hanging baskets and container plants. For more tips on the best time of day to water as well as plants that will need the most attention during a heatwave, head to our helpful guide.
Garden irrigation system – these directly water the plants when they need it, with popular examples being water dripper systems and water reservoirs. Water dripper systems are essentially a network of hoses with water drippers connected to an outside tap and are great outdoors and in greenhouses. Water reservoirs are stores of water that deliver moisture via more homemade methods. For more on these watering projects, visit our how to guide.
Sit plants in saucers
Water potted plants thoroughly to get as much water down into the soil as possible, then place them in a saucer or tray. Any water that drains through the plant will collect in the bottom of the saucer and can be reabsorbed by the plant as it needs it. The saucer will also collect water as it rains, and again will prevent excess water from draining away.
Remember not to leave containers in saucers during wet spells – they should only be used during the summer and dry spells. And if you’re off on holiday or won’t be able to attend to the plants for a while, move as many of your containers and pots as possible into a shaded spot, so that they don’t get scorched.
Pick ripened fruit and vegetables regularly
Ripe crops can consume a lot of water – so keep picking, preserving, and freezing. This will help the fruits which are yet to reach maturity get as much of the available water as possible.
Root crops can stay in the ground until you’re ready to use them, but other vegetables should be harvested as soon as they’re ready. And keep an eye on tomato plants - remove any tomatoes that are still forming as they won’t have time to mature and will drain energy from the plant.
How to care for greenhouse crops
Good weather can sometimes result in greenhouses becoming stiflingly hot. Whilst warm conditions can help to ripen some crops, if temperatures remain high plants can dehydrate quickly and leaves may scorch (look out for tell-tale signs such as brown patches – especially at the tips of leaves).
Allowing a cool breeze into your greenhouse is an easy way to moderate temperatures. Open doors, windows and vents to provide fresh air to any growing fruit and vegetables.
Alternatively, install a louvre window or auto vents for even greater control. Auto vents respond to any changes in weather by automatically opening and shutting and can help ensure that your plants don’t overheat and start to dry out. They don’t need a power supply to keep the air circulating, so you don’t have to worry about batteries running out, making them a great choice if you’re away from home during the day or have a greenhouse on an allotment.
Add some shade
Keep your greenhouse plants happy by offering them some extra shade from the sun and keeping things cooler on a hot day. Purpose-made greenhouse shading material can be hung wherever needed in your greenhouse and acts like curtains to provide much-needed help. And it can be used year after year making it a great investment for future plant protection.
Keep a thermometer in the greenhouse
A maximum/minimum thermometer will show you the higher temperature reached during the day. And it can be helpful if you’re not home in the early afternoon when temperatures peak, as you’ll be able to plan whether you’ll need to take cooling actions the next morning.
How to care for wildlife in hot weather
It’s not just plants and vegetation that may struggle during a heatwave. Wildlife can find it hard to find water and shelter – but thankfully there are simple things you can do to make their lives easier.
Check on the pond
Keep the water level topped up where possible to help pond life and reduce the likelihood of small animals falling in.
Falling water levels can create unexpected steep drops, so adding a small branch or plank as a ramp can help animals safely find a drink.
Top up bird baths regularly
Water can be hard to find during dry spells, and locating a bird bath in a shady spot will offer relief to thirsty birds and will minimise evaporation. Change the water regularly, as it may stagnate easily in this weather.
If you don’t have a bird bath, improvise one using a plant pot as per the fun video below.