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30th Jul, 2021

GARDENING TIME: Plants that can stand the heat and caring for your lawn in dry spells

James Iles 10th Jun, 2020

WE have just basked in the sunniest May on record but long, dry periods can take their toll on your garden.

This week, James Iles looks at ways to beat the heat and maintain your lawns and plants.


All lawns require special care during dry weather.

If the lawn is deprived of water, the grass may stop growing and start to go brown.

Don’t worry though as a well-maintained lawn usually recovers quickly once it rains again.

And as sure as autumn follows summer, the autumn rainfall will help it recover, especially if you apply an autumn lawn feed, aerate the turf and remove leaves around October time.

So try not to worry too much and perhaps just enjoy not having to mow it so often!

Some advice for taking care of your lawn in this hot dry spell are: –

Mowing the lawn

Raise the height of your mower blades to avoid weakening the grasses and let the clippings fall back onto the lawn rather than collecting them.

This will act as mulch and slow down the evaporation of water from the soil surface. BUT make sure the clippings are small, or they will smother the grass and actually damage it.


Dry as a bone – Parched lawns are back during the prolonged hot weather with no rain.

Watering the lawn

You only need to water the lawn every seven to 10 days because as strange as it seems it is important not to apply too much water.

Doing so is wasteful, encourages shallow roots of the grass and promotes moss and turf diseases.

In fact excessive watering makes the lawn less drought-tolerant in case of hosepipe bans or holidays when you’re not there to water it.

You should however water newly created lawns thoroughly – provided there are no hosepipe restrictions in force. With that in mind you should try to avoid laying a new lawn at this time of year with less chance of rain to aid its establishment.

If the ground is very hard, aerate it by spiking with a garden fork before watering, to aid water penetration.

Water the lawn in early morning, evening or even night-time, to reduce water wastage from evaporation.

Hanging baskets

On that note, here’s a tip to keep your hanging baskets from drying out if you’re away and there’s no one to water them for you.

Move your tubs and hanging baskets into the shade and make your own self-watering system.

Stand several containers round a bucket of water which is raised up on a stack of bricks so that the water level in the bucket is higher than the top of the pots, and give each one its own “wick” to keep it watered.

An old dishcloth will do – wet it well first, then tuck one end firmly inside the edge of the basket or pot with the other end held safely in the bottom of the bucket, weighted down with a stone.

Give the plants a good soaking and top the buckets up to the rim before you go and they should be fine.

If that’s too much trouble, your best bet is to sink the bottom two to three inches of all your containers in damp garden soil in a shady spot and again make sure everything is really wet just before you leave home.

Bedding plants like pelargoniums can handle the heat and reduce the need for watering. Picture by James Iles.

Drought tolerant plants

There are other ways around a long hot summer we’re having by choosing plants that tolerate dry spells such as pelargoniums which originate from South Africa and are renowned for handling the hot weather.

Other plants used to coping with dry conditions include lavenders, hebes, heucheras, jasmines, euphorbias, laurels and cordylines so they are all worth considering as a low maintenance option that can handle this lovely weather without having to worry about watering once they are established.

It’s always worth mulching borders with a suitable medium like bark chipping to keep the weeds away as they will compete for moisture in the soil and to help retain moisture in the soil itself.

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