Drought and hot, dry weather effects our gardens far more than we realise. And the effects take their toll for years, especially on trees and large shrubs. We cannot control or prevent drought, however, there are ways to minimize the effects.
“Hot and dry conditions affect our gardens negatively,” explains Mimi Rupp, founder of Stone etc. “Some plants will simply wilt, while others may lose their leaves, or at worst, die. Leaves can turn brown or curl up, plants will grow slower or even stop.
“Droughts can also make plants weaker, which means they can become more susceptible to disease and insect attacks. Even after a drought, it will take a while for plants to recover, and may even take years for trees.”
Plants still require water during drought, and the best advice for gardeners is to give water less often, even skipping a week or two, but watering slightly more when watering. “If the ground gets moisture on a deeper level, it encourages deeper roots as opposed to a smaller, more superficial root system.”
Using mulch also have several benefits in drought, the biggest advantage being that it keeps the soil cooler as it prevents direct sunlight on the soil, preventing evaporation from the soil. “Bark, woodchips, and pebbles are also useful as a form of protection,” adds Rupp.
Be sure to weed your garden too, as well as de-heading your flowers. “The small amount of water available should not go to weeds or having your plants spending unnecessary energy into producing seeds,” advises Rupp.
During drought, it is not recommended to fertilize. The reason being, fertilizing encourages your garden to grow, which requires water. And a salt build up in the soil can be detrimental to plants in times of insufficient water if you do fertilize.
When it comes to your lawn, it is advisable to leave your grass a little longer. The extra length protects the roots as well as keeping the soil cooler and preventing unnecessary moisture loss. Certain areas of grass can also be replaced with pebbles, rocks and other hard landscaping. “Lawns are often more decorative than functional, but it’s a water-gobbler,” explains Rupp. “If you have children or pets, do make allowances to water your lawn, or even reduce its size.”
It’s not ideal to plant new shrubs during a drought, as new plants need careful and regular watering to become established, and this makes the water available for the rest or the garden limited.
Droughts are an opportunity to see who are the real survivors, and gives you the chance to re-think when you next invest in your garden, what to purchase and add to your outdoor space. “The ultimate question should be: how waterwise is my garden, and how can I improve it?” concludes Rupp.