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Home > Essentials of Gardening > Weather > Summers
Summers
Symptoms vary between different types of plants, depending on the severity of the drought.

Generally, the main symptom of drought is the leaves wilt and become limp as they are no longer swollen with water. They nearly always turn yellow; sometimes they turn brown at the edges or drop off.

A lack of water can cause stunted growth, flowers to shrivel up and fruit to drop. In extreme cases plants shrivel up and die.

Drought symptoms are noticeable at the top of the plant and they work their way down as the plant becomes depleted of moisture. Or signs first appear on the outside of the plant and work their way in towards the centre of the stems.

Test soil by placing your finger in it. If it feels moist then don`t water. Confusingly, many symptoms of drought are similar to symptoms of overwatering, which can also kill plants.

Soil, compost and mulching

  • Add organic matter to soil when planting. Improving the soil`s structure helps to retain moisture.


  • Use a mulch on flowerbeds and around shrubs and trees in spring. This stops moisture from evaporating during dry spells.


  • Add a mulch, such as gravel, to the surface of hanging baskets to trap moisture.


  • Add water-retentive gel to compost in hanging baskets and containers, or use compost with water retentive gel already in it.


  • Lawn care

    Lawns are fairly drought resistant compared with other plants, but they can become yellowy-brown, limp and eventually bald if the following precautions are not taken:

  • cut the lawn less frequently than usual

  • raise the height of lawnmower blades

  • use a sprinkler on the lawn in the evening. Water lawns thoroughly to saturate the top 10cm to 15cm (4in to 6in) of soil. Check there is no hose pipe ban in the area. Avoid walking on the lawn if possible

  • scarify the lawn in autumn. A build-up of thatch in the summer could prevent water from penetrating the lawn

  • aerate soil with a fork to help water penetrate the roots of the grass

  • Greenhouse problems
  • Greenhouses are useful for protecting tender plants and providing extra heat. However, the glass magnifies the sun`s rays, which makes plants vulnerable to being scorched by the sun. It also means that soil dries out much quicker than if the plants were outside.


  • Flexible net shades can be used with varying degrees of success to protect plants from the direct glare of sunlight. Alternatively, glass shade paint can be applied to windows.


  • Open windows, use ventilation or even leave the door open during the day. Remember to close them at night if a frost or cold night is forecast.


  • Watering


  • Using the right amount of water is the most important aspect of a plant`s survival in dry conditions. Bear in mind that it is not just hot weather that can cause soil to dry out, windy weather can also have a detrimental effect.


  • In dry conditions, water container plants at least once a day. Water in the evening to reduce evaporation.


  • However, if a plant looks like it is wilting and suffering from drought in the day, then water it immediately.


  • Try to avoid watering plant leaves in direct sunlight because they can become scorched, particularly when they have hairy foliage.


  • Install a water butt in the garden to conserve water.


  • If you have an automatic watering system with a timer, adjust it to take hot and dry weather into account.


  • Move container plants into the shade if you are going away on holiday and no one is watering your plants.


  • Plants for dry conditions


  • If you have a dry garden, choose plants that are suited to dry conditions. These often have grey or silver foliage, such as lavender and santolina, or thin foliage to reduce water loss through the leaves.

  • Be safe in the sun

  • It`s not only plants that can start to flag in dry weather, if you are working in the garden in hot conditions, it is important to take the following precautions:

  • wear suntan lotion or sun block

  • work in the shade if possible, out of direct sunlight

  • wear a hat or headscarf

  • take regular breaks and have frequent non-alcoholic drinks
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