Ten hints for helping the garden survive the long heat of summer

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MORNING CHECK: Make sure drooping plants have recovered their strength overnight.

ALTHOUGH the longest day of the year is past and evenings have already started to be a few minutes shorter each day gardens now face the 10 to 15 hottest and most challenging weeks of the year.
So here are a dozen ideas for helping your garden survive the summer without major disasters.
1. Walk the garden each evening and water any plants that have a serious droop. Check in the morning that they have recovered their strength overnight.
2. If these plants are on a drip watering system turn up the pressure slightly or increase the watering time by five minutes a day.
3. Set up shade over delicate summer herbs and lettuces.
4. Remove non-essential leaves off tomato, pepper and aubergine plants to reduce their water needs. But do leave sufficient leaves to give shade to forming fruits.
5. Stop feeding plants so that they grow slower and demand less water.
6. Keep ponds topped up to provide for cooler water at the bottom of the pond and underwater plants for the fish to rest out of the sun. Leave fountains on for longer if on a timer.
7. Only water in the later hours of the evening if possible so that the maximum of water soaks into the soil and minimum evaporates soon after watering.
8. If containers suffer unduly from the heat it is not too late to work some Terra- Cottem soil improvement gel into the compost around the circumference of the containers by making deep holes down to the bottom of the root balls with a narrow trowel or specially designed TerraCottem gun.
9. For the really hot days move containers into the shade or provide shade with old umbrellas.
10. If in doubt about how much more to water, dig holes alongside some plants to check when the soil begins to become damp. A soil moisture metre is useful in this respect. Recently I noticed that the gardening section of a major El Cortes Ingles store had a good stock of these.
11. Don’t be tempted to plant new plants before the autumn rains.
12. Recognise the fire risks and summer regulations. Don’t light garden bonfires or use wood fires for barbecues. Use gas barbecues, paella cookers and solar cookers. I used mine today to cook a wild boar stew. The sun was so hot it was ready in under two hours. Yesterd a y I cooked a dozen fat sardines on it in an earthenware skillet.
A kit for a metre-diameter solar cooker such as mine can be purchased from www.alsol.es for immediate delivery.
With that, do enjoy your summer garden for midday siestas and evening alfresco wining and dining, as well of course for timely cooling dips in the swimming pool.
If you are about to start to lay out a new garden or revamp an existing one may I advise you to first read the booklet ‘How to use less water in your garden – A practical guide to waterwise Mediterranean gardening worldwide.’ It is available from Amazon Books for less than €5.
© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com June 2015

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