As my garden continues to look more and more like the Kalahari desert, I’ve been gathering advice on how to get it through this seemingly never-ending heatwave. Here are my top tips.
Watering tips for drought
• Water in the evening or the early morning. This gives the plants a chance to
absorb the water before the heat of the sun evaporates it.
• Take a bucket into the shower with you to catch excess water, and use this on shrubs and perennials (but not on anything that you’re going to eat). Don’t worry about the soapsuds – the plants will cope.
• Weeds take up water too, so get rid of them and let your precious plants have all the available water.
• Fit a rainwater butt if possible, so that you can make the most of any rainfall.
What not to do in a drought
• Don’t water the lawn. Grass is pretty tough. It might look brown now, but chances are it’ll come back to life once it gets some decent rain.
• Don’t mulch your beds yet. The mulch will make it more difficult for any rainwater to get through to the soil below. But do put a layer of gravel on pots to stop them from drying out. Just leave some soil exposed around the base of the stem to make watering easier.
Making your garden drought-resistant
• Once it’s rained and the soil is wet, that’s the time to mulch with a thick 5cm (2in) layer of compost. This will stop the moisture from evaporating from the soil. Also, over time worms will work the compost into the soil, improving its ability to retain moisture in drought and also to drain well in heavy rains.
• Get to know your garden’s micro-climate. Notice where frost pockets, damp areas, sunny spots and shade occur, and choose plants that will be happy in those conditions. Plants cope much better with temporary extremes of weather like drought if they aren’t already stressed.
• When establishing new plants, avoid watering little and often, which just leaves the top of the soil wet. Instead, water thoroughly but leave a few days between waterings. This will encourage the plant’s roots to go deep into the soil where they’re more likely to find water even in dry conditions.
• For thirsty vegetables like courgettes, make holes in the base of a plastic milk bottle and sink it into the ground next to the plant. To water, fill the bottle. The water will drain out of the holes into the soil, right next to the roots of the plant.