Heatwaves and droughts could become the new summer norm due to climate change. Whilst a hot day is great for a BBQ or a day at the beach, sustained periods of above average temperatures like we had in June, can cause problems for wildlife.
Last month was the hottest June on record. The average temperature for June was 15.8 C, some 2.5 C higher than normal, reaching highs of 32.5 C. This sustained period of high temperature is causing concern for scientists. Mass fish deaths were reported and many flowering plants, including orchids, wilted, meaning insects like bees and butterflies that feed on nectar and pollen will have less to eat in the weeks to come.
We all love to have a beautiful garden, but it is important to consider how high temperatures can affect our gardens: the plants that grow in them, the wildlife we find in them and how we garden sustainably. A lot of the traditional plants you might find in a typical English garden, such as roses and hydrangeas, are not good at growing in hotter temperatures. So, what can we do to garden sustainably and still have a beautiful garden?
The ground our plants grow in is much more than just soil and worms, it provides stability for plants along with the vital life source of water. In hot weather, soil can dry out and become nutrient deficient meaning it is unable to support plant life. Make sure you are cultivating the soil and dig in large amounts of organic matter, such as compost. This will improve soil structure and water retention.
Making your own compost couldn’t be easier, all you need is a shady patch of your garden, a compost bin, and food waste. It is a great way to save money and garden more sustainably. Also, make sure you are fertilising the soil sufficiently, but not too much! Too much fertiliser can be harmful to the beneficial soil microorganisms present. It can also cause plants to grow suddenly with an insufficient root system to supply water and nutrients to the plant.
Make sure you choose the right kind of plants for the soil type and environment. Choose plants with silvery leaves or Mediterranean plants. Silvery leaf plants reflect sunlight, helping them to conserve moisture. Mediterranean plants, like bay trees and rosemary, are used to growing in hot temperatures with limited access to water. If you do choose to plant a Mediterranean inspired garden, don’t plant it in the Autumn or winter when the ground is really wet. This could cause root rot. Whatever you choose to plant, make sure you water them a lot when they are first planted (you could even soak the nursery pots in water before you plant them). You could also consider adding mulch to freshly planted gardens. This helps to trap in moisture and keeps weeds out.
Weeding might be everyone’s least favourite part of gardening but keeping the weeds at bay can really help protect the plants in your garden in extreme weather. Weeds compete with other plants and can end up depriving them of water and nutrients.
In hot weather, you will need to water your garden daily. But droughts can often lead to hose pipe bans which can be problematic. Consider investing in a water butt to ensure a supply of fresh water you can use in your garden, even in a hose pipe ban. Collecting rainwater in a water butt could fill up your watering can 27 times, for free! Whilst they might not collect much rain now, get one before the wet weather of the autumn and winter so you are ready for next year. If you haven’t got room for a water butt, water from your washing up bowl can also be used. But if you are reliant on water coming from a tap, rather than a water butt, consider filling up a watering can rather than using a hose. A hose can use up to five times more water than a watering can.
Avoid watering your lawns and plants in the heat of the day. This can open the pores on the plant and cause water to evaporate more quickly. Try watering your garden first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid this.
Why not order one of Anglian Water’s free Water saving garden kits? They are full of handy water saving tips and garden friendly advice to help you look after your garden, whilst still being mindful of your water consumption.
For more tips on planting sustainably and drought resistant gardening, head to the RHS website.