Posts Tagged ‘summer gardening’

Garden Heatwave: How to Care for Heat-Stressed Plants

July 30th, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

Garden Heatwave How to Care for Heat Stressed Plants

Phew! It’s been a hot and humid one recently. It’s bad enough in the UK, but lots of you have to cope with weather that’s considerably hotter and drier. So whether you’re struggling with a miniature heatwave or a summer-long slog of extreme high temperatures, read on or watch the video for a few tips to help you to help your plants cope.

Smart Watering

It’s obvious that in hot, dry weather, plants will need more water to keep them healthy and productive, but it’s important to use smart watering techniques to make the most of every drop.

The best time to water is early in the morning, when moisture is slower to evaporate and water levels can be recharged ahead of the heat of the day. Check soil regularly – every day if you can – and water if it’s dry at finger depth. Remember, it’s better to really drench the soil once every few days, rather than merely dampen the surface daily.

A close up of a drip irrigation system in a dry gardenScrape soil into ridges around plants to create bowls to water into, or water into old pots or bottles sunk into the soil next to plants. That way the water will go directly to the roots where it’s needed, instead of running away over the soil surface.

Drip irrigation systems set up on a timer are a good option if you’re not able to water daily in hot weather.

Container plants dry out very quickly and may need watering twice a day, especially if it’s windy too. Check that the water is actually being absorbed – you don’t want it just running straight down cracks between the potting soil and container wall. Continue watering until you see water running out of the bottom. Pot saucers can be used to hold the water around your containers for little bit longer.

Lock in Soil Moisture

When you’re done watering, it’s time to lock in that valuable moisture. Mulches of organic material such as compost, leaves or grass clippings all help to slow evaporation by shading the soil from the sun’s rays. Mulches also keep the root zone cooler, reducing the stress your plants are under.

You can create a living mulch by planting densely or using rambunctious, sprawling plants like squashes to shade the soil.

Stop Feeding

When temperatures rise above 85-90ºF (29-32ºC), many plants really start to struggle. Some, like tomatoes, cope by rolling up their leaves – a natural response that reduces water loss. Many fruiting plants, including tomatoes, beans and peppers may also drop their flowers or stop producing new ones as they try to cope with the heat.

Now you may think the answer is to fertilise your crops to make them stronger, but this only exacerbates the situation, because plants will then need even more water to process all that fertiliser. A sudden flush of nutrients also signals to the plant that it’s time to grow – a dangerous and stress-inducing move in soaring temperatures. So stop fertilising and concentrate on watering instead.

Add Some ShadeGarden shade cloth protecting crops in the garden

When it’s hot we love to seek out some shade, and so will many of your crops. Shade plants with anything you can get hold of – old net curtains or tulle cloth works well, as do old white bedsheets. Purpose-sold shade cloth is available in different levels of sun block, from 15%, 30%, 40% – right up to 100%. Plants won’t grow as fast under it, but they’ll still receive some sunshine and will be a lot less stressed.

Pin the shade cloth into position with bulldog clips or clothes pins, using frames or hoops to support it. Many plants will benefit from some shading from hot afternoon sunshine, including cool-season vegetables like cabbage and lettuce, and fruits such as strawberries.

Harvest Promptly

Removing plant material by harvesting it means that there’s less foliage or fruits for your plants to have to service. Fruiting and pod-producing plants especially should be harvested promptly to save the plant’s energy. Finish ripening fruits that haven’t fully coloured up in the kitchen to give your plants a break. They’ll switch back to their productive selves once the weather cools.

Extreme summer heat can be as stressful for plants as it is for us, but give these simple strategies a go and save your plants a lot of suffering. What are your tips to help your plants keep their cool? Comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.

July Gardening Advice

July 1st, 2019 | News | 0 Comments

July Gardening Advice

Whether it’s a tasty barbeque, a quiet read under a shady tree or forty winks in your favourite deckchair – now’s the time to be outside enjoying our green spaces. Your months of digging, sowing and planting have paid off. Flowers are blooming and crops are growing.

But before you ease into summer’s lazy days and balmy nights, there’s still jobs to be done if you want your garden to remain at its best for the rest of the season. So, apply the sun cream, don the hat and get out into the garden. Afterall, those long days won’t be here forever.

In the flower garden

Deadheading

With balmy days ahead, and water in short supply, both perennials and bedding plants will be keen to set seed. Therefore, to keep them at their best, ensure you prune regularly. This will encourage new growth, and promote wonderful blooms throughout the rest of summer.

BloomsNutrients in pots, containers and hanging baskets will quickly deplete, so give plants a weekly feed

Now’s the time to introduce a plant feed. Nutrients in pots, containers and hanging baskets will quickly deplete, so give them a weekly feed.

Perennials, such as lupins, penstemons and delphiniums, will have already bloomed. Cut their flowered stems back to the base of the plant, and you could be rewarded with a second flourish later in the season.

Roses

By now, a lot of rose varieties will have spent their first blooms. Deadhead and feed to encourage a second bloom in the coming weeks. For the one-time season bloomers, you may want to refrain from deadheading. Allow their hips to develop, as this will make a welcome attraction in the autumn months.

Bearded Iris

Bearded Irises can now be lifted and divided. When re-planting, ensure the rhizome is sat on the soil, half exposed. The warm sun will quickly help to establish them, and ensure they flower next season. You should cut all foliage down by two thirds to ensure the energy is going into the rhizome and is not wasted.

Watering

Install water butts to save water in JulyWith water at a premium, if you haven’t done so already, install water butts. They come in array of shapes and sizes, so no matter how small the space there’s always an opportunity to save water. At this time of year, crops and plants are crying out for a good drink. However, try to carry out this task either first thing in the morning, or at dusk. With less sun, water evaporation isn’t an issue, keeping your beds and borders hydrated for longer. Also, try to water at the base of plants as water droplets on the foliage could potentially burn your plant, or encourage mildew and other diseases. Also, ensure all pots, containers and hanging baskets are watered regularly, due to rising temperatures they made need watering twice a day.

Lawns

This time of year, your lawn will be seeing a lot of action. If there’s a drought, your lawn will be looking worse for wear. Fear not though, the first rainfall will soon return it to its luscious green state. But, if there’s not a drought, mow the lawn, keeping blades higher, as this will retain moisture. Also, consider giving your grass a regular feed.

Greenhouse

Temperatures in greenhouses this time of year will be high. Introduce shading to your glass roof maybe the solution to preventing young plants from being scorched. Ensure there’s a steady airflow, by keeping all doors and vents open. Water the floor daily, not only to reduce temperature but deter red spider mite.

Pick courgettes regularly and the plant will continue to grow new produce

On the veg patch

Harvesting

Beetroot, chard, salad leaves, courgettes, beans and peas are ready to be harvested. By picking legumes and courgettes regularly, the plant will continue to grow new produce. Letting these crops grow past their best can encourage pests, or send a signal to the plant to stop growing altogether.

Tomatoes

Once your plants have four or five trusses, pinch out the top of the plant. This will send the plant’s energy into the fruit, and not the foliage. Feed regularly, and continue to pinch-out all side shoots. Don’t let plants dry-out, or water irregularly, as this can encourage blossom end rot. Finally, remove any leaves beneath the first truss of tomatoes, as this will help circulation and prevent the build-up of pests and diseases.

Potatoes

Second earlies should now be ready for the dinner plate. If you’re not sure, wait until the plants have flowered, then have a little dig around in the soil to find your spuds. If they’re ready, it won’t take long for you to uncover them.

Dig up what you need, and leave the rest of the tubers to grow on, ensuring your continue to water weekly. Or if you’re hoping to use the potato plot to grow a new crop, dig them all up. Try to do it on a sunny day, and place your freshly dug potatoes on the plot surface for a few hours to dry a little. Store them in hessian sacks and keep in a cool, dark room. Check them every so often to make sure they haven’t spoilt.

If you’re dreaming of eating freshly-grown spuds on Christmas day, now is the time to plant them. If you’re not using potato grow bags, consider large containers. As the cold weather returns and the temperatures drop, you’ll need to move them somewhere where the frost can’t get to them.

Choose a sunny day to pull garlic and onions and lay them out on the topsoil to dryGarlic and onions

Both crops should now be ready to be pulled. Ideally, choose a sunny day, and lay them out on the topsoil to dry. Failing that, dry them in your greenhouse or polytunnel. Once dried, they can be stored and used when you’re ready.

Pests and diseases

Powdery mildew can affect pumpkins, squashes and courgettes. First sign of this on your plants, remove infected leaves. Do not place on your compost heap, as this will encourage the bacteria. Either burn, or remove from site completely.

Weevils, blackfly, greenfly, aphids, slugs and snails will be thriving at this time of year. If chemicals aren’t an option for you, try hosing them off your plants, or spray with soapy water. Another option is to crush a clove or two of garlic and add it to the water in your spritzer bottle, as garlic deters pests. A morning or evening stroll around your plot is the perfect time for picking off slugs and snails.

Winter veg

If you’re hoping for a harvest of winter veg, then you should be thinking about planting out your autumn veg. Vegetables to consider are brassicas, leeks and swede.

Fruit

Hungry birds will make light work of strawberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants or blackberries, so net your fruit.

July is for pruning fruit trees, such as plum and cherryStrawberry plants will be producing runners, so if you want new plants for next year, pin the runners to the soil. Once they establish a root system, cut the runner from the main plant. Alternatively, if you want to maximise this year’s crop, remove the runners to divert the energy to the existing fruit.

This is also the month for pruning fruit trees, such as plum and cherry. The warmer weather reduces the risk of bacteria harming an open wound on a cherry tree, and setting off silver leaf disease. Summer pruning can also be carried out on trained apple and pear trees.

Other jobs

  • If you have a pond with fish, ensure water levels don’t drop. Remove any blanket weed as this can suffocate ponds.
  • Turn your compost bins as the aeration will open air pockets and drain away excess water, speeding up the decomposition process.
  • Check plants daily for the onset of pests. Ensure plants haven’t dried out, and if need be, move to a cooler spot.
  • Taking time to sit and enjoy your plants may also be the ideal opportunity to order autumn flower and seed catalogues.

Six Ways to Extend Your Harvests

September 5th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments

Pickings from fruiting and pod-producing vegetables such as beans and tomatoes are coming thick and fast right now, but as summer wanes both the quantity of what you pick and how often you are able to pick it will begin to tail off.

Keeping these productive staples cropping for longer is the aim of the game, so read on or watch the video for some top tips to keep those pickings coming…

pick-your-crop-regularly-to-keep-your-plant-producing

Keep on picking

The first rule with any fruit or pod-producing vegetable is to keep up with the picking.

Leave those courgettes to swell into marrows and you’ll inadvertently slow the initiation of new flowers and fruits. Beans will also stop producing more pods if the existing ones are left to ripen to biological maturity – by forming seeds, the plants will have completed their lifecycle, and will have no reason to continue flowering.

Check plants every couple of days and remove fruits and pods before they get too large or overripe. And if you’re heading away from home for more than a week, encourage your neighbours to harvest them – they’ll get free food and you’ll come home to more pickings!

Keep watering

All vegetables need water, but fruit and pod-producing vegetables are particularly thirsty – water-stressed plants quickly slow down.

Aim to water regularly for consistent soil moisture which will encourage plenty of well-formed fruits and pods, free of problems such as blossom end rot. It will also avoid the annoyance of fruits splitting, which happens when they have dried out too much then receive a sudden deluge of water.

Continue feeding

Don’t scrimp on feeding your crops. Continue watering a suitable organic liquid fertiliser on to fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and aubergine.

Feeding plants costs money but does mean more fruits of better quality, so the investment is well worth it. Or why not make your own liquid feed from fast-growing, nutrient-rich plants such as comfrey?

Top up mulches

Mulches of organic material applied earlier in the season may now be looking a little scant.

Top up mulches with new material – straw that’s free of seeds is a great mulch for many fruit-bearing crops including, of course, strawberries. It’s naturally full of potassium, which fruit and pod-bearing plants love. Grass clippings are a ready-to-hand source of instant mulch too, and will help to keep plant roots cool and moist in hot, dry weather.

Let the sunshine in

Strong growth over the summer months can mean that taller plants cast shade where they didn’t before, compromising crops that need plenty of direct sunlight. Consider cutting back overhanging foliage and act promptly to remove spent crops so that those remaining enjoy plenty of sunshine and good air circulation.

In cooler climates, now may be the time to wash off or remove any greenhouse shading, to trap more of the late summer sunshine.

Keep plants warm

Later on in the season stragglers can be encouraged to keep producing for a week or two longer by adding the thermal comfort of a floating row cover such as horticultural fleece or plastic.

Remove covers during the day to enable pollination, then replace it in the evening to provide a little warmth and protection against lower temperatures.

 

If you have any advice on how to keep the pickings coming, comment below or head over to our Facebook and Twitter page.