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Hot enough to crack the flags!

Blog by Peter Baird

During a heatwave, my friend Keith would say “It’s hot enough to crack the flags!”, an expression originating in the North of England, implying the sun’s heat could crack flagstones. It always made me smile when he said it because Keith was a cockney-accented Londoner, who had lived most of his adult life in Lytham St Annes, so I suppose he felt it helped him to blend in.

Anyway, the week ahead will see temperatures in the high thirties, if the forecasts are correct, so below are a few tips to help you prepare and care for your garden while the flags crack all around you.

Meanwhile, when you do go out remember there is plenty of shade in the Turrill Garden as well as Ian Marlow’s beautiful sculpture. Shade in the intense heat won’t be that helpful, but earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon will be very welcome.

· Only water plants in the early morning or the evening. This will allow the soil to absorb as much as possible before the heat of the day evaporates it away.

· Avoid watering the foliage, especially in the morning, as this can lead to scorched leaves due to the magnifying effect of the water as the sun shines through it.

· Don’t cut the lawn and when you next do keep blades high to allow the longer grass to shade the soil. Watering lawns really is not necessary as, although they will quickly go brown in hot weather, they quickly recover as soon as it cools down and we get some rain or it cools enough to make watering worth-while.

· Add a thick layer of mulch around the roots of plants to help the soil stay moist after watering. Grass clippings make a great mulch, but any organic material like well-rotted manure, wood chippings or compost will limit water evaporation from the soil.

· Feed your plants after the hot weather abates. They will need additional nutrients and a good feed will also help them to recover more quickly.

· Avoid disturbing the soil too much. Working the soil will promote evaporation and thus dry out the soil much quicker

· Move plant pots into a shady area

· Add shade if necessary. Shade cloth is relatively inexpensive and can be installed over outdoor plants with a little ingenuity.

· Try planting some drought-resistant herbs, like rosemary or lavender to brighten up the garden and add intense fragrance in warm weather

· And finally – if your plants are damaged by the heat don’t abandon them. Watering, feeding, mulching and shading, as described above can do wonders and could help them to recover fully once the heatwave is over.

While you are caring for the garden, don’t neglect yourselves and your elderly neighbours, relatives and pets; stay hydrated, keep out of the extreme heat if you can, keep curtains closed during the day, wear a hat and sunscreen, and if you are going for a cooling dip somewhere, be sure to follow local safety advice. Stay safe!

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