, How to protect plants in your garden during a heatwave, The Nzuchi Times

How to protect plants in your garden during a heatwave

July is all about making plants feel comfortable, whether they’re in the garden, greenhouse or pots; regular TLC will then lead to strong, healthy growth. Be sure to water your pots daily, keep fast-growing tomatoes well fed and prepare for the autumn harvest on fruit trees. Little and often is our mantra in the garden this month.

Plants to look after in a heatwave

Feed roses

As we move through July, garden roses will be working hard but, as the summer heat takes its toll, they may need a little perking up. After their first flush of flowers, feed roses with a granular rose feed and water well. The fertiliser will get all the systems in the shrub moving and promote fresh growth and further flushes of flowers. 

A general rose food like Toprose can be bought from a wide variety of DIY stores and garden centres, a kilogram costs about £5.If your roses lack oomph, feed every month until October in order to bolster the bush for next year’s growth and flowers.

Divide irises

, How to protect plants in your garden during a heatwave, The Nzuchi Times


Bearded irises should be divided every three to four years for healthy growth


Credit: Gap Photos

Bearded irises should be divided every three to four years. Remove spent stems by snapping them off at the base (this prevents rot reaching the rhizome). Lift the clump and discard any dead or inactive parts of the rhizome. 

Fork over the planting area with some compost and sprinkle a handful of Growmore. Replant young stems 20cm apart and cut foliage into an arrow head shape, 15cm high, to prevent wind rock. Water well for the next six weeks.

Trim lavender

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If your lavender is getting a little woody and unsightly then think about a replacement next spring


Credit: GAP Photos / Jonathan Buckley

Trim lavender once the flowers have faded and dried. These aromatic shrubs dislike hard, drastic pruning. Manage lavender by trimming it lightly every summer; this allows the bushes to recover and put on a small amount of growth before the winter. Take a pair of shears and trim back to the base of the flower stems and slightly into the foliage – but avoid cutting back into old and woody growth that may not regenerate. 

Lavenders should last five to 10 years. If yours is getting a little woody and unsightly then think about a replacement next spring. I love Lavandula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ as the stems are incredibly long and can be used for cutting as well as being robust and tall.

Lop lupins

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Lupins respond quickly to aggressive pruning and can give another flush of flowers


Credit: Getty Images

Delphiniums and lupins give so much joy as they deliver a riot of flowers in early summer. As they fade, cut off spent blooms at the base. This redirects the plant’s energy from seed production into root and top growth. I tend to cut spent flowers and all foliage right down to the ground. 

, How to protect plants in your garden during a heatwave, The Nzuchi Times

Being this severe may seem tough, but I find the plant responds quickly and can give another flush of flowers. However, this does rob the plant of all leaves so counter that with a handful of Growmore and water well.

Two projects to plan 

Make a house a home

Greenhouses can be uncomfortable places when the heat is extreme. If you’ve painted the glass this will help, but we need to make these places more hospitable and conducive to plant growth. Ventilation and humidity help get the best out of plants, reducing pests, improving growing conditions and preventing drying out.

First thing in the morning, get all vents and doors open to ensure good air flow. Ideally, twice a day, first thing and early afternoon, damp the floor to increase humidity – aubergines and cucumbers will be very grateful. Avoid watering tomatoes late at night as cold, damp foliage are perfect conditions for tomato blight.

Plum job

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Apples, pears and plums should have gone through their June drop where they cast away tiny surplus fruits


Credit: John Keates / Alamy

Apologies if your fruit trees were caught by late frosts this year and you don’t have anywhere near the amount of fruit that you expected – but for anyone with laden trees, you need to act. Apples, pears and plums should have gone through their June drop where they cast away tiny surplus fruits. 

For large and good quality fruit, thin the clusters of fruit further to a maximum of three; this allows them to develop into big, tasty produce. If branches are particularly bountiful, those stems could snap under the weight. On YouTube, fruit expert Stephen Hayes and his cockerel lightheartedly walk you through the process of supporting laden stems; search “Prop up heavy laden fruit trees”.

Tom Brown is head gardener at West Dean Gardens, West Sussex

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