All-important gardening job to do as hose pipe ban looms – defend garden plants from heat

Heatwave: Expert warns of 'unprecedented' hot period

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Chris Bonnett is the founder and CEO of Gardening Express

Combating heat stress and keeping plants well irrigated is one of the biggest challenges for gardeners when temperatures race into the 30s and it’s no different here in the nursery. Here are my insider tips on how we do it.

We’re lucky in that we have staff on site 24 hours a day, so we can run our irrigation throughout the night to make the best use of water when the sun isn’t out and instantly drying things up.

You might not be able to water your plants at 3am, but if you can stick to first thing in the morning, or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler, you’ll save water and your plants will appreciate it.

In high temperatures, you’re better off giving a really good soaking to the soil, this may take time, but plants will do better when drawing up water from deeper down than just the top surface of the soil.

They’ll also become more resistant to warm conditions as the roots won’t get lazy near the surface of the soil and go deeper in search of water.

In extreme heat and sunshine, even if the soil is damp, some plants will still wilt. This is because they just can’t take up water as fast as they’re losing it through the foliage – so you need to check they are actually dry before you start with a good soaking.

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If you’re time poor, you should invest in a soaker hose to lay around plants in beds and borders.

Simply attached to a regular garden hose and these will gradually seep water through their walls to supply plants with water over a few hours until the tap is switched off.

The beauty with these is they’re slow and steady, so water isn’t being sprayed around wasted and you can leave them one for longer periods to give the borders a really good soak too.

It’s also important to conserve water especially if there’s a risk of restrictions coming in. Help your soil hold on to moisture by providing a thick protective layer of mulch such as chipped bark around your plants. Home-made garden compost is great too, especially for a veggie patch.

This prevents the water you do apply from evaporating straight away, and as a physical barrier, it helps to keep the roots of your plants as cool as possible, which they’ll appreciate.

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If you’ve got loads of planters on your patio (hanging baskets and so on) these are at an extra risk of drying out unless you’ve got a high-tech irrigation system that comes on automatically.

Without one of these It will be a case of watering these twice a day in hot temperatures.

There are measures you can take to help prevent drying out.

Simply placing deep saucers under tubs and filling up each morning and evening can work wonders, as plants can draw up water as they need it.

This is only for the hot weather though as roots will rot if left standing in water for extended periods of time. Only top up if all the water is gone.

For baskets, a good trick is to plan ahead and include an ice cream tub (without holes in it!) in the bottom of the basket when planting. Simply fill and cover with compost and plant up the basket in the normal way, this will then fill up with water and act like an internal reservoir for the plants in hot conditions.

Another great tip for patios right now is to stand potted plants into larger containers, they’ll provide shade to the ones they are in and insulate them for the strongest sunshine.

When using this pot in pot method, it’s best to avoid dark colours if you can as they’ll absorb heat and can actually fry a plant’s roots, so go for lighter colours if possible.

If you’re providing liquid feed to your plants when you usually water, avoid it in these temperatures, as it can add additional stress to them.

Organic ones are usually ok, but exercise caution. You’re putting extra stress on the plants to process these when they need to concentrate their energies on dealing with the heat.

Like people, plants will also appreciate shade, even those that are often thought of as sun lovers. If they’re not acclimatised to these conditions they’ll still suffer, so shade can really work if you can get this in place.

Frost protection fleece is what is often used in winter to insulate plants from cold, but if you’re able to suspend it above plants in summer ((even doubling up a layer for lighter weight material) it will really help protect plants from the harshest of the sun’s rays, helping to prevent soft and sensitive foliage from getting frazzled.

If you have some special plants to protect, a quick and simple solution to provide a little shade is to put up a parasol from a patio furniture set to protect them provided it’s not too windy.

These can easily be moved around and set up to protect a sensitive plant in a garden border or a collection of patio pots too.

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