Summer heat

Summer heat: how to care for your garden when it's really hot

Magazine
Days by the water, barbecues, long evenings – there’s a lot to love about the summer. But sometimes the summer heat can be too much for your garden, drying out plants before they get the chance to reach their full potential. If you think you could be in for a heat wave this year, here are a few tips to help you plan ahead to protect your garden.

How summer heat can affect your garden

High levels of summer heat can change your garden from green and vibrant to brown and scorched in a short space of time. Plants can wilt and dry out, fail to grow properly and produce fruit, or even die off completely. During high temperatures, the greatest danger to your plants is not having enough water to survive, so making sure your soil maintains enough moisture is the top priority.

When the summer heat hits, the most obvious way to care for your plants is through increased watering. However, this can be labour intensive and may not even be possible if water use is restricted during a drought. Also, bear in mind that over-watering can be damaging, even in summer, so it’s useful to have some more sophisticated tricks up your sleeve to help the soil retain water.

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How water is lost

Water can leave the soil in a number of ways. It may evaporate in the sunlight, run off, or be used by plants. To give your plants a better chance of survival in the summer heat, you can tackle the problem from all sides. Water generously, but follow this with measures to prevent the water from evaporating too quickly from the soil. At the same time, make sure your plants face minimal competition for water by keeping the area around them weed-free. You can even help your plants use the water they do get in the ways that are the most effective for their survival. By removing dead flower heads before plants go to seed, you can save them from wasting valuable water on seed production.

Magnificent mulch

Mulch is a fantastic solution to summer heat, because it helps you conserve the water around your plants’ roots in two ways. Firstly, a couple of inches of mulch around your plants will protect the soil from the sun’s heat and reduce the evaporation of water. Secondly, it offers a time-saving way of preventing weeds from growing which would compete for water with your plants. As a bonus, the mulch also keeps the soil cool. This can be important if you are growing plants such as root crops which prefer lower temperatures.

Protective plants

Another ingenious way to protect your plants from the summer heat is to use other plants to shield them. There are lots of possible candidates for this job, so you choice will depend on what you would like to see in your garden, as well as the requirements of the plants you are shading. If you’d like a bold and colourful solution, sunflowers are a summertime classic which can provide important shade for more sensitive plants, at the same time and brightening up your garden.

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Trees and shrubs also offer great shade and have the added advantage that they can protect you from the sun too. Just remember that, while shading plants protect the soil from drying out, they also use water themselves, so think about whether they will offer enough shade to compensate. A handy solution is growing your shading plants in planters: that way they not only have their own supply of moisture, they are also portable and can be moved around the garden to wherever they are needed!



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Mediterranean and tropical crops

If you’re expecting a hot summer, make the most of it by choosing plants which benefit from a lot of sun. Tomatoes and peppers are fun to grow and nothing tastes better than fresh salad ingredients that you’ve grown yourself. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also have a go at growing aubergines, okra and sweet potatoes. Embrace the heat of the summer by combining them in spicy dishes and cooking for friends on warm summer’s evenings.

Monitoring moisture

Because it isn’t always easy to tell exactly how much the summer heat is affecting your plants, it can be useful to get a bit of technical support. Systems like the GARDENA smart Sensor Control Set can measure the amount of moisture in the soil, as well as the temperature and the light intensity in your garden.

This information – relayed to you via the GARDENA smart App – allows you to adjust the water supply in your garden to your plants’ needs.
This means that you can make sure that your plants stay well-watered despite the summer heat, even if you are cooling off with a dip somewhere else entirely!

When the most intense of the summer heat arrives, your plants will need all the help they can get. But through clever combinations of soil protection, shade, hot-weather plants and irrigation control, you can get your garden summer-ready and watch it flourish.