Heatwave in the Kitchen Garden
It has now been three weeks since we had any rainfall in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden and the forecast shows sunny and hot weather for at least the next three weeks to come. In our part of the world, near the most easterly coast of the UK, we are used to gardening in the driest part of the country, but usually enjoy the odd thunderstorm to keep the garden from drying out completely. This year we have had strong, very hot sun and drying winds with no respite from the heatwave. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the glorious weather but the gardener in me is always looking for some blue on the weather forecast. It seems to me that I spend most of the winter praying for blue skies and sunshine and most of the summer praying for rain!
As I write this our water butts, overflowing just a couple of months ago, are now completely empty. We have soaker hoses and irrigation set up on some of our beds which are turned on overnight and these are working effectively. Hoses are strategically place around the garden for watering pots and new plantings. But for me there are times when only a watering can will do. When I am administering the weekly feeds, they need measuring into a watering can before watering the pot or crop in question. My penance for a preference for a watering can? Many hours in the early morning carrying them from pot to precious pot!
There are measures we can take to prevent the need for watering and to help plants cope in the extremely hot weather. Mulching the soil after watering will stop the water from evaporating and keep the roots of plants cool. Grass clippings (if your grass is growing!) and cardboard make great mulches, but if like us you like your garden to look a little more manicured, strulch makes a great water conserving mulch and has the added benefit of preventing weeds too. Other crops are grown through landscape fabric and again this helps to prevent weeds and helps keep the soil moist. Where strulch can be used around established plants, landscape fabric is great for any new plantings you may be making. We have just used some to plant a crop of sweet potatoes through. For thirsty plants such as courgettes and squash, we sink a plastic plant pot in the soil next to the plant and water into it. This makes sure the water goes straight to the roots of the plant rather than sitting on the soil where it can dry out fast in hot sun or drying winds. Planting individual plants such as outdoor tomatoes into plant halos has the same effect.
At the moment we are holding back on planting any new large plants in the garden because of the weather. We have a few hedge plants ready to fill some gaps around the garden. To plant them now would mean they would need to be kept very well-watered and we would risk losing them through stress. We will let them remain in the pots placed in the shade near a water source to make it easier to care for them and plant them out when conditions change.
It seems that 2018 is going to be a year of extremes and is certainly proving to be a challenge for us gardeners. For now, we will continue with the early morning watering until a welcome black cloud appears on the horizon! The Kitchen Garden is enjoying our watering regime and the hot temperatures even if the Kitchen Gardener is looking a little frazzled!