How to Beat the Heat

Caitlin Sawyer

Some good tips from our gardening guru!

With the weather the way it’s been lately it’s fair to say, and quite bluntly at that, it’s been “Bloody hot!”

It’s a phrase that I’ve used all too often at the nursery, as customers speak of scorched or withered plants this time of year. It can be quite a battle against the unforgiving heat- especially when, on consecutive hot days,  there is no sign of reprieve. However, never feel defeated or disheartened in wanting a beautiful garden to enjoy, as there are many things you can do to fight back.

The first and most obvious is to mulch, mulch and then mulch some more. This helps to keep the moisture in, while limiting the need to water more often, and helps maintain a lower root temperature. With this, though, also remember to keep the mulch well back from the base of plants, so as to prevent collar rot around the trunk or stems.

Focus on watering plants in the evenings, as this gives the plant a better chance by reducing evaporation throughout the day. In fact, from my experience, I’ve found that a long soak with the hose just dribbling around the plant’s root zone, as opposed to a blast of water overhead, is far more effective at keeping plants looking green, as the water gets to a greater depth, ensuring the entire root-ball is moist. This encourages a deeper root system and therefore a more resilient and stronger plant.

Heat Stress

Citrus, especially, suffer during this time of year,and will stress in the heat, and you’ll notice that they are beginning to set their fruit for an autumn harvest. They use quite a lot of energy and water during this time, so a long soak and a dose of seaweed solution, during this period, will help keep the fruit from dropping on the ground and, instead, into the fruit basket at harvest time.

Bear in mind though, before watering, that it does pay to have a little scratch around the root zone checking for moisture. If the soil is reasonably wet and the plant is still drooping, this may be a sign of ‘Heat Stress’. Too much extra water at this time can encourage fungal diseases as mentioned before (e.g. Root rot/Collar rot), which thrive in over-wet soil with warm and humid conditions. If you find your plant wilting, but the soil is damp, you may need to treat the roots with a fungicide.

In saying this, beloved plants may be just plain burnt and simply scorched by the sun. I’ve seen quite a few plants suffering like this, in particular, Camellias, Hydrangeas, Mondo grass and even small trees around Wingham; some burnt to a frazzle.

Although it may be tempting to simply remove and prune back the unsightly branches, these branches play a very important role in protecting and sheltering the plant from further damage. Although they are unsightly, just leave the damaged branches and leaves until around March-April. That way you’ll encourage new growth when the risk of the hot sun is gone.

Vegetables

In terms of vegetable gardening, you might have guessed that it’s not an ideal time to be planting on the very hottest days. However, you can get away with it if you can protect plants from the hot afternoon sun by erecting some sort of shade barrier or screen on the western side and overhead, while the days are extreme.

Both Dwarf Beans and cool climate tomatoes can still be planted, as they have a faster cropping time than that of the summer variety tomatoes and Climbing Beans.

And, for any keen gardeners looking towards the cooler months, you can now get a head start on all Brassicas. These are Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts.  Provided they are (again) sheltered, watered and mulched regularly, you’ll be miles ahead and have a crop earlier than most. All these are available as seedlings from the nursery from now until the end of winter.

Remember, nothing is impossible. Summer may present a challenge for the garden but, with just a few simple ideas and watering techniques, you can keep your vegetable garden alive and producing well until the next lot of rain comes along.

Let’s hope it’s soon! Keep cool and happy gardening!

Caitlin Sawyer

Wingham Nursery & Florist

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