Annie, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Planting, Plants, Trees, Watering

Keeping Your Trees Alive In The Great Heatwave of ’18

very dry trees

When you think of British summer time you might think of maybe a few sunny days where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of pimms in your garden. Or you think of the fact that whenever anyone suggests a barbeque it starts raining. You definitely don’t expect there to be endless sunshine with soaring temperatures for weeks on end. You certainly don’t expect temperatures of over 30 degrees and neither does your garden.

This summer has been something of an anomaly and seems set to continue. While we might be basking in the glorious sunshine we should spare a thought for our poor gardens which will need a little bit of extra TLC while the endless summer stretches on. The lack of rain and the unrelenting heat brings its own problems. Young trees and shrubs may struggle to thrive and might even die. However, all is not lost! There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your garden remains looking green, healthy and beautiful all summer long.

Contents:

Water, Water & More Water

It may seem obvious that during the hot weather you may need to water your plants more regularly. Young trees especially need frequent watering as they have a much smaller root system than that of an established tree. Young roots can dry out very quickly during a hot spell and that can ultimately lead to your young tree dying. So if your tree is newly planted you should ensure that it is watered every day for at least the first two weeks to help provide the roots with the moisture and oxygen it needs. After that you should make sure you water your  tree at the very least once a week, if there has been some rainfall, but even more frequently during a heatwave.

When should I water?

However, it isn’t just about the frequency with which you water young trees and shrubs it’s also when you water them as well. You should either water your garden very early in the day or in the evening when it is cooler to help keep the soil moist for longer. Watering plants during the heat of the day is actually a lot less effective and can cause damage. Water droplets on the leaves act like a magnifying glass for the sun’s rays. They make them more intense and so even though you think you are helping hydrate your young tree or shrub you can actually cause more damage.    

How much water?

So you know to water your tree frequently and you know when you should do it as well. However, you also need to know how you should water young trees. People are often tempted to water their plants little and often. However, you will find that your young tree or shrub is happier when given a slow drench of at least half a large watering can every few days. This period of dryness encourages them to make deep roots which is good for supporting the tree and will mean less maintenance in the future.

If you are unsure about whether your tree needs to be watered or whether it has been watered enough there are a couple of simple ways to check. If you want to check whether the tree needs to be watered you can do this by checking the soil beneath the mulch layer early in the morning. You just stick your finger in the soil and if it is damp your tree should be fine. If it is dry then you do need to water it. To check you have given your tree enough water you should check that the root ball is wet and can use a trowel to do this if necessary.

Watering hacks

Mulch

Laying downs some mulch around the base of the tree prevents water running off when the ground is hard and allows much more of it to sink into the soil. Woodchip is excellent, spread it in a circle approx. 3 foot in diameter.

Create a bowl

Best done when planting, if you create a bowl like shape around the base of the tree this again aids with retaining water and funnels it down towards the roots of the tree. You can build a little mud wall around the tree if already planted and it will serve the same purpose.

The upside down milk bottle

Insert an large bottle upside down into the ground and cut the end off. You can then pour water into it and it will soak slowly into the ground, directly where you want it. You may find that a bamboo cane for support helps it stay in place.

What if there is a hosepipe ban?

A hosepipe ban could be on the horizon this year. Especially if the heatwave is set to keep going. As the main way to keep your young trees or shrubs alive is to water them you might think that trying to keep young trees alive is fruitless. However, there are a few ways that you can get around this. Firstly, you can install a water butt. Nowadays there are thousands of styles to choose from so you don’t necessarily have to end up with an ugly tank in your garden. As long as you have an outside wall or guttering system in place you should be able to collect plenty of rainwater and use that to water your garden.

You can also use grey water. Grey water is waste water that has come from places such as your bath or kitchen sink. You can even collect the water from your washing machine and use this to water the plants when you are not allowed to use a hosepipe. If you are going to do this though you need to be aware of what is in the water. Grey water that has come from these areas is likely to contain harmful detergents. So if you are going to use this method you should make sure that the products you use are environmentally friendly.

What if it is too late!?

By the time you are reading this, it might be already too late. There will be many arboreal casualties this year, and even the best of gardener will struggle with their losses. It is a sad time, unless you sell trees of course. A simple Cambium test is the best way to check if your tree has expired. Scratch away the top layer of bark with your thumb. Make sure you do this on the main stem because, in extreme weather, the tree will start by sacrificing its extremities first. If  you reach moist green flesh, then your tree is hanging in there!

If not, as cold as it sounds, it’s time to start planning its replacement. You might like to consider  holding off until autumn to plant your next tree. Autumn is by the best time of year to plant; the ground is still warm, there is good rainfall, the trees are entering dormancy and they have all winter to establish a strong rootbase. In fact, the majority of young trees that you see struggling this year will have been planted in spring, not the autumn before. 

Head over to the plants section of the primrose website to order you bare root trees for delivery at the perfect time. Or, if you are impatient, we have potted trees available now!

Annie CorcoranAnnie works for the Primrose product loading team mainly creating web pages and writing product descriptions. When not at her desk you can find her writing for The Independent, re-reading Harry Potter or out for a walk.

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