KEEPING plants alive consists of four things:
a. Keep roots of plants constantly damp. Whether watering with a drip irrigation system, hose or watering can this can be difficult to judge unless you dig a hole to check what layers are dry and the level the soil is still moist. The latter is time consuming, difficult in closely planted beds and based on personal judgement.
The solution is to purchase a soil moisture meter. Typically they have a probe to push into the earth in a garden bed or the compost in a pot down to 15 centimetres of depth and do not need a battery to operate.
b. Placing tender plants easily shrivelled in full sun or by blazing hot winds in semi, dappled or full shade and watering twice a day if necessary, including. This includes annual herbs such as parsley or basil.
c. Keeping roots cool by shading with slabs of rock or compost mulches or bark.
d. Ensuring you plant your garden with plants naturally resistant to drought and capable of slowing down growth and moisture requirements during the hottest weeks.
Keeping the garden colourful:
Stimulating plants to flower continuously or again requires dead heading as soon as flowers have finished to prevent seeds forming, watering as above and minimising use of feeds high in nitrogen. Most plants will grow and flower well without regular feeding but if necessary use a feed high in potash rather than nitrogen. Regular feeding with the latter may result in excessive greenery at the expense of flowers.
Fruit trees also need care:
It’s essential fruit trees are watered thoroughly so deepest roots are kept constantly damp so fruit develops continuously. Intermittent watering can result in splitting fruit, major fruit falls or insect and fungal attacks.
A productive vegetable plot:
Provided they’re frequently watered fruit and vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons swell and ripen well in sunny weather. Root vegetables such as peanuts, carrots and beetroot will grow and keep well if soil’s kept damp but quick growing radishes will go to seed if not harvested when young. As the summer warms up flowering artichokes will stop producing and August is a good time to sow seeds to produce broccoli plants for planting out in the autumn.
(c) Dick Handscombe – www.gardenspain.com