How do you take care of your borders and planters when a heat wave dries out the soil?
A sudden spell of very hot, very dry summer weather can spark a sense of panic as your borders become a dusty, crumbly desert and leaves begin to wilt. Naturally, you reach for the hose- but slow down, because simply drenching your borders, while making you feel a lot better, may not be what’s best for your plants.
Why is watering good for plants?
Water is the key requirement at the heart of all of a plant’s biology. Plants, like humans, are mostly water, and, just as with humans, keeping cells hydrated is key to maintaining health & development of plants. Healthy plants are hardier, grow larger, survive longer and produce greater yields. Deeper watering encourages strong & deep root growth, as the plants adapt to collecting moisture from further below the earth. This sets up your plants for better growth & improved hardiness the rest of the year round.
So how to keep your thirsty plants happy in hot weather? Check out our list of tips below!
- You can still overwater in hot weather
Hot weather means your plants will need more water, but it’s still possible to overfeed them. Allowing the roots to sit in stagnant, standing water is always unhealthy, and will allow rot to set in. Take care to monitor your water use, as you can still give them too much, especially if it’s at the wrong time of day.
- Water and strong sunlight can cause leaf burn
Remember that roots maintain water absorption & plant growth, so only by watering the soil above them can you feed your plants. Wetting the soft leaf tissue will leave droplets that can magnify rays which can burn your plants in hot weather. Water the base of your plants, but don’t go overboard- mulch and other materials will soak up water like a sponge, limiting the amount to reach the roots while also causing decay in your mulch material.
- Measure soil dryness
Before you water, you need to make sure your plants are as thirsty as you think- check the top 4-6 inches of soil around your plants- if this is dry, it’s time for watering. Some species will require different amounts of water, but if the ground is dried solid to a depth of more than 5 inches, small plants with even very developed root systems will start to become dehydrated.
- Sprinkle with care
Sprinklers are a great way to keep your lawn, allotment or borders fed & watered. Yet choosing the right sprinkler can make a big difference to your plants. A stream of water that’s too heavy can damage fragile plants and water unevenly, saturating the ground in places and leaving it dry elsewhere. Choose a gentle, oscillating sprinkler fitted with a timer that allows you to effectively manage plant feeding and avoid overusing water.
- Potted plants dry out faster
The design and materials used in the production of pots mean water can be lost quickly, through drainage and evaporation. Timing your watering to suit your potted plants can be tricky, as the size, species and location of the plant will inform your watering schedule. Remember that even hardy plants that can normally be relied on to look after themselves will need a helping hand in very hot weather.
- Timing is everything
Water in the morning, so that it has time to absorb before it evaporates, without risking too much moisture remaining by nightfall. Leaving a wet lawn or border to soak overnight will allow rot, disease and fungus to get a foothold. Root rot can seriously harm the health of your plants, and leaves your lawn looking withered and patchy.