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Don’t rely on the heavens opening to water plants and lawns, take action to keep your garden at its best as the weather warms
During summer, gardens can dry out very quickly. And not just pots, containers and hanging baskets – border plants and the lawn will become arid quickly in hot conditions.
When we get a decent shower, it’s tempting to think “job done”. But even heavy rain will only penetrate the top few millimetres of the soil when it’s baked dry.
That’s when we start to get problems. In our minds, the garden is watered. In reality, it’s simply not the case.
Try rubbing the surface of the soil with a bit of garden cane or a twig next time it chucks it down. You will be surprised by how little good it has done.
Recently planted trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials are especially vulnerable and will suffer. But even well-established plants left without water for long periods of time will struggle. Their growth and flowers will be inhibited and they will fall prey to disease.
So flash flooding aside, keeping the garden well-watered on a regular basis is an absolute must once the weather continues to warm up into summer.
Having a plan will make the task of watering more enjoyable and also more effective.
Some gardeners just swear by a watering can. As well as meaning you can use a water butt, a can allows you to keep track of exactly how much water you’ve used.
But for medium-sized gardens and upwards, a decent hosepipe is a must or you will spend too much time lugging watering cans about and not enough time enjoying the results.
There are several decent brands. Hozelock is a British firm whose equipment is first rate.
For starters, get the right attachment for your hose. Simply sticking your thumb over the end of your hosepipe will not do the job. Garden retailers will sell a variety of spray jets for different jobs.
For general use, a medium shower spray fitting is best suited.
It will put down a gradual soak over the surface without blasting soil out of the pots or borders.
To max imise ground penetration, use the top of a broom handle to poke holes in the soil of your borders or pots. Then, when you soak the ground, these holes will fill with water, which can then seep down towards the roots.
Time of day is also crucial. If you’re watering during the midday heat, the water will evaporate away very quickly. And, as it lands on the surface of some sensitive plants, it can act as a mini magnifying glass – focusing the sun’s rays to burn their leaves.
Self- watering devices are a brilliant labour-saving invention. Essentially they are porous hoses that you lay around your garden and plumb into an outside tap.
When it’s turned on, they weep water through small holes, keeping plants or containers hydrated.
The only problem is that if you have a large area to cover, you’ll need a heck of a lot of hose. But they do come with handy timing systems, so you can programme them in advance to switch on if you’re away on holiday.
Likewise, mini irrigation systems will work wonders in a greenhouse or conservatory if you’re strapped for time. Lots of garden centres offer advice and can even fit them for you.
When you are thinking of new containers, remember size does matter. The more soil, the more moisture it will hold and the less frequently it will need soaking.
Add hydration crystals to the mix when you’re filling them with compost. They expand as they soak up moisture and release it slowly, making the soil more efficient at holding water that would otherwise drain away.
During especially hot weather, move containers or pots into shady spots. Pot wheels – like little furniture castors – will give you the flexibility to move your pots without breaking your back.
To keep your lawn looking fresh during the warm summer months, it is wise to let it grow slightly longer.
I’d heighten the cutting blades on your mower by between one and two inches. The more blades of grass, the more moisture the lawn can hold.
Any plant that’s in flower or producing fruit will need more water too. And remember, it’s never good to feed plants when they’re dry. Only feed plants that have been well- watered beforehand. The key when using liquid feed is to make sure the plant is already hydrated.
And finally, if you’re planting new shrubs and trees, you will need to do plenty of extra watering until they send out their new root systems.
your watering can from a water butt