It’s arrived at last – maybe. Every year for the last couple of decades someone has predicted another summer like 1976, but it’s only now it seems this could be the case.
Heatwaves and long periods of drought are not the gardener’s best friends, but those of us who can actually remember 1976 learned a thing or two, and although many years have passed and much is different in this country now, it’s still worth passing on the tips we learned in that long, hot summer as they are still largely relevant.
l Use water wisely or we’ll end up with another hosepipe ban. Only water those items that really need it, like containers and plants that were planted from last autumn onwards. Others will generally find their own moisture.
Vegetables, especially in raised beds, need to be kept damp to produce good crops, but lawns will recover without watering once the drought breaks. Water very early or very late in the day to avoid immediate evaporation.
If you do need to water during the heat of the day, keep it off flowers and foliage, which can otherwise be harmed.
Hanging baskets require watering at least once a day – twice on very hot walls and if there is a breeze. Tubs and similar containers need watering less often – wait till one starts wilting slightly; this will give you an idea of how often to water.
Use a bowl when washing up and rinsing vegetables and use this clean grey water on the garden. Don’t save water from washing machines and dishwashers, though, as the detergent contains chemicals that can be harmful to some plants.
Don’t apply chemicals, particularly in powder form, to the lawn, which can be seriously damaged. If the grass is still growing, raise the blades and leave the grass box off. The temptation is actually to lower the blades to get some clippings off – don’t do it; you can ruin a good lawn.
Provide maximum ventilation in the greenhouse, by opening all windows, vets and doors fully. Water tomatoes regularly to prevent blossom end rot and shade if possible, especially if you are growing older varieties, to help prevent greenback. This is not harmful, but can spoil the texture of the fruit.
Above all, don’t do strenuous work during the heat of the day if you can avoid it – garden in the early morning or during the evening. This is best for both you and the plants.