Struggling with a summer drought
is no fun, and keeping your plants quenched and happy can feel like a non-stop
battle. Don’t be a slave to the watering can; here are our tips to help you
deal with drought conditions in your garden, so you can continue to enjoy good
harvests this summer!
When water’s precious it pays to
be prudent. Concentrate your watering where it’s needed: young seedlings to
help them establish, salad leaves to stop them wilting, fruiting vegetables
like tomatoes and anything growing in a pot.
Balance and Speed
Using a watering can? Try two –
one for each hand. It will help you balance and you’ll be able to water twice
as quickly. If your water source is some distance from your beds, it also means
less walking back and forth. Another option is to use a portable tank to cart
water to where it’ll be dispensed.
A strong spray from a hose can
knock plants about or blast potting soil out of containers. Get around this
problem by simply placing the end of the hose in a watering can so that it
fills as you pour. This means you can water carefully and precisely, enjoying
the convenience of a hose – without wasting a drop!
Water from the Bottom
Watering pots from the bottom,
rather than the top, can save a lot of time – and water – in hot weather. Fill
up a suitable-sized reservoir, adding any liquid feed you’d like to apply at
the recommended rate. Now sink your pots into the water and simply walk away,
leaving them to soak up the liquid for an hour or more. You can speed things
along by adding a splosh of water to the top of the pot before it’s left to
soak. This technique ensures a really thorough watering that makes very
efficient use of water.
An automatic irrigation system,
connected to a timer, will take the strain out of watering. Set it to come on
very early in the morning, before things heat up. The best setups use drip
irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water right at the base of plants, near
the roots. Some can even be fitted to water barrels, so you can make the most
of any rainwater you’ve managed to collect.
Protecting Seedlings from Drought and
can play havoc with seedlings, hampering germination and causing young plants
to struggle. Here are a few ideas to help.
Success with Germination
In hot, dry conditions getting
seeds to germinate can be tricky, particularly those of cool-season crops such
as lettuce. The solution is to wet the seed drill before sowing, to give them
the cool, moist surroundings they crave. Water along marked-out drills. Allow
the water to completely drain away, then fill and drain once again before you
Once you’re done sowing, cover the
seeds back over but don’t water again until after germination. The moisture in
the drill will drain through, encouraging the seedling’s roots to follow.
Young seedlings, and cool-season
crops in general, perform better under the protection of some shading in hot
summers. Prioritize shady areas for crops that prefer cooler conditions, such
as salad leaves. You can use taller crops to shade shorter ones, but in
scorching weather drastic action may be needed.
Shade cloth can cast just enough
shade to keep your plants happy in severe heat – and it’s easily removed when
the weather turns cooler. Suspend it over plants to help them keep their cool.
Mulching to Keep Soil Cool and Moist
Mulches are a must during any
summer drought, and a mulch of organic material such as compost, leaf mold or
even dried grass clippings is best. This extra layer serves a few purposes: it
shades the soil from the sun, helping to keep it cooler, and it acts as a lid
on the soil, dramatically reducing evaporation.
Thoroughly soak the ground before
adding your mulch. If it’s exceptionally dry, water again a few hours later to
recharge all that valuable soil moisture. Now lay the mulch so it’s at least an
inch (2cm) thick around your plants.
Fruit trees, canes and bushes can
be mulched with chunkier materials such as bark chippings, or fibrous materials
like straw. Again, take care to water well before laying it. Mulches may not be
very high-tech, but they are incredibly effective in a hot summer.
I hope you’ve found some of these
ideas handy. They’ll all save you time while ensuring your plants stay in the
best condition possible. If you can offer any further tips or advice, please go
ahead and share them in the comments section below.
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