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

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.

See all of Annie’s posts.

George, How To

Collecting rainwater in your garden

Given how unreliable our climate can be, collecting rainwater to use in your garden is a beneficial activity all year round. Especially in the summer months, from around July onwards, there is usually not enough water in the soil to satisfy growing plants. But the demand on the mains supply to water them stretches the available resources and can damage the environment. So it pays to harvest your own rainfall, and it can be easier than you think to collect it.

What are the benefits of using rainwater in the garden?

  • Beat the hosepipe ban with your own sustainable water supply.
  • The water you collect is free and can reduce your monthly bills.
  • Rainwater has a balanced pH level, which is best for plants, and free from any chemicals.
  • Reduce the demand on the water table to protect environmental resources.

Water butt

How to collect rainwater in your garden

The easiest way to save the rainwater that falls on your property is by collecting that which runs off your roof. All you need is guttering, drainage pipes and a water butt.

Experts estimate that around 24,000 litres of water falls on the average rooftop per year. The great thing is this can be saved, no matter what size garden you have. Even a small patio has room for a water butt.

But don’t stop with your house. Any outbuilding with a roof is a prime rain collector. Sheds, garages and greenhouses can be fitted with gutters and their own water tanks.

For the best results, it’s essential to keep your gutters and water butts clean. This will prevent the build up of any bacteria or diseases harmful to your plants. If you want to stock up on the maximum rainfall then fit multiple water butts together, so you don’t miss a drop!

Bubble wall

This month I was interviewed by Garden Life about how to enhance your garden. We discussed the benefits of creating shade, privacy and fun outdoors through various lifestyle products. Check it out!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Awnings, Gardening Year, George, How To

Can Awnings Stay Outside All Year

Once an awning has been installed, most homeowners are keen to leave it up all year round. The main thing that could cause an issue if the awning is left outside all the time is weather and the damage this can potentially cause. So can awnings stay outside all year? The simple answer is usually yes, depending on how the awning retracts and the extremity of your local weather.

Which types of awning can be left outside?

When an awning is left retracted outdoors, it will still be subjected to wind and rain. Standard and half cassette models leave the canopy material partially open to the elements, so their durability will depend on the fabric being waterproof. For extra protection, the casing can be covered with a storage bag to ensure no rain gets in. Full cassette awnings are fully sealed when wound back, so these are perfectly prepared for being left outside all year.

Awnings should never be left open in extreme weather like heavy rain or strong winds as the arms may snap or the fabric rip. If you leave your awning open unattended, you can use an automatic sensor to retract the awning when it detects excessive rain or wind. Note that these will only work for electric awnings, so with manual ones you will need to keep an eye on them.

Can awnings be used in the rain?

The great thing about awnings is the way they transform your patio into a much more usable space when the sun becomes too strong, but with the changeable UK weather it’s nice to be able to stay under them for the occasional shower. Awnings can be left open in light rain as long as the fabric is waterproof. Primrose Awnings are made from 300 gsm acrylic or polyester material which is waterproof tested, so is fine in a spot of rain.

If you are going to leave your awning open in the drizzle you should be aware of the pitch. In order for the water to run off, the awning must be sloped at a minimum of 14 degrees. Otherwise rainwater can pool in the centre of the canopy and the weight of it risks tearing the fabric.

If you wind in an awning during the rain, remember to unwind it fully during the next sunny day to let the material dry off completely. Most awning fabrics are treated to prevent rot, so should be fine stored damp for a little while.

Another consideration is the wind, which often accompanies a downpour. Wind can be even more harmful to the awning structure and fixings so make sure not to leave it open if it is too windy. The general rule is if it’s too breezy to sit outside then the awning should be retracted.

If you need any further advice about choosing your awning, where to install it or how to look after it, please get in touch!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Awnings, Current Issues, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Planting, Plants, Weeding

Gardening in the Rain

Why on earth would you want to try gardening in the rain? It’s a perfectly reasonable question. But, daft as it may seem, there are a surprising number of benefits if you’re prepared to brave the elements. And as our wet summer becomes an even wetter autumn, getting outside on drizzly days will enable you to get a huge amount more done in the garden. Plus, cloudy weather makes for cooler air, which is always a relief for hardworking gardeners. The damp keeps away most insects and, of course, the rain waters your plants for you. So grab your coat, and get outside!

What Can You Do in the Rain?

  • Planting. One common concern that puts people off gardening when it’s wet is whether you can really plant in the rain. In actual fact, it’s fine – as long as there’s no standing water. Just use a pot, or place in the garden, that has good drainage. For new seedlings, planting in the rain can be of great benefit since you don’t have to worry about watering them.
  • Feeding. As well as sitting back and making the most of the rain watering your plants for you, you can take the opportunity to feed them too. Get out there with your fertiliser and sprinkle around the base of each plant. The rain will then help it to run straight into the roots for maximum uptake.
  • Harvesting. Some fruiting plants and vegetables love wet weather, and will produce lots of great crops for you to harvest. So while the season is rainy, it’s the perfect time for picking salad plants like lettuce and watercress, or herbs like mint.

What Can You Do After the Rain?

  • Weeding. Just after a good downpour is the perfect time to get your weeding done. Heavy rainfall means damp soil, which loosens up the weeds’ roots, making them much easier to extract. This is particularly useful for weeds which are notoriously difficult to remove, such as dandelions and those with taproots. Taproots are the thick, original root stems of weeds like creeping buttercup and wood sorrel. It’s much better to get taproots out while the soil is wet so that all the offshoot roots also slide from the earth, since if they break off they can regrow into new plants.
  • Edging. If you’ve ever tried to neaten up the borders of your lawn, you’ll know it can be a challenge to dig a crisp edge in the turf. Garden edging – usually plastic or metal strips – are the best solution for maintaining a trim border, and just after a rainy day is the best time to install it. Just like with weeding, the damp soil is your friend here. It’s much easier to shape with a spade or trowel, and the edging pins will sink into the ground much more freely.
  • Tidying. Though rain is of course essential to a healthy garden, it can also leave a few problems in its wake. When you go outside after a downpour, look for anything that’s been washed out of place, particularly soil or fertiliser. Make sure you turn the compost heap too, if it’s an open one, to help with the air circulation and prevent it getting waterlogged.

Snail in Rain

How Can You Prepare Your Garden for the Rain?

Not all parts of your garden are going to appreciate a real British deluge, so it’s best to be prepared. If you’ve just planted seeds they may be vulnerable, but simply covering them with a plastic cloche or sheeting should shelter them from the worst of the weather. If you have fragile plants in pots, an easy alternative is just to bring them inside while the weather is bad.

What to Wear for Gardening When It Rains

Gardening can be mucky, and never more so than when it’s pouring outside. But don’t let that put you off – with the right clothing you can easily stay warm and dry. Obviously a raincoat is a must. But it’s also worth investing in a pair of waterproof trousers if you’re going to be outdoors for a while, as normal materials will quickly become soaked through and weigh you down. You’ll want something to cover your head, but a waterproof hat is actually better than a hood for gardening since it allows for more flexible neck movement as you’re working outside. For your feet, walking boots are generally more practical than wellies. They’re lighter and don’t restrict your ankles, which makes it much easier for trampling through undergrowth and flowerbeds. Just make sure to check if your boots need spraying with a waterproofing agent first.

Useful Kit to Cope with the Showers

  • Greenhouse. Although more of an investment, a greenhouse will offer a permanent sheltered spot for gardening in a downpour. You’ll be able to get on with repotting and planting seeds whenever the weather decides to turn. It can also be a useful area to have for unexpected rainfall, as you can shift delicate plants undercover in an instant without having to worry about causing a mess indoors.
  • Garden track. One of the best ways to deal with the muddy ground rainfall causes is some garden track. This is a plastic roll out path that provides a solid surface to ensure you don’t slip over on the wet lawn, and is especially useful for stopping wheelbarrows sinking into sodden earth.
  • Garden shade. Sometimes you may just want to relax in your garden without the risk of sudden rain spoiling your day. Having an awning or shade sail installed is a great way to cover your furniture or guests when you’re entertaining outside. No more events ruined by bad weather!

So I hope some of these ideas have inspired you to not be downcast the next time the clouds appear on your gardening day. As we’ve seen, there are always a few bits and pieces you can crack on with in the wet weather, and even some benefits that the rain brings. It’s a garden essential. And if all else fails, stay inside, put your feet up and enjoy a nice cup of tea. After all, you were out working hard in the garden all summer…

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.