Water Deeply Less often
This is a general rule for establishing plants, but it becomes especially relevant during hot weather. Watering in little bits often only adds moisture to the top layer of soil. Deep watering encourages the plants to develop more of their root system deep below the surface. When the hot weather comes, the top layer of soil that is most exposed to the hot air and scorching sun will dry out quickly. If your plants only have roots near the surface they will struggle to access the water they need.
Also, by watering deeply you can ensure that there is moisture under the top layer of soil. This moisture will not evaporate as quickly and help gives your plants access to water even after the top layer of soil is dry.
Water in Early Morning or Evening
During the hottest days of the year, it’s not very productive to water in mid-day sun. While it may be tempting to focus on watering during the scorching parts of the day, a lot of the water you try to give to the plants will quickly evaporate. Watering in the early morning or late evening while it is a bit cooler and the sun isn’t as strong will ensure that more of the water makes it to the roots of the plants where it is most needed.
Water Directly at the Soil
Try to apply water directly to the soil as much as possible. Water on leaves can be an inviting environment for unwelcome fungus and water droplets on some types of leaves can actually focus sunlight causing burns to the plant tissue. Even if it doesn’t cause any harm, water on the leaves or in the air isn’t going to help a thirsty plant, a lot of it will just end up evaporating. Watering close to soil ensures that the majority of the water gets into the soil and to the roots.
Use Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation is a great way to apply water directly to the soil slowly. Watering in big fast dumps is more likely to cause runoff and pooling. The slow release of drip irrigation helps the water seep deep into the soil. It is also a pretty easy way to water because you don’t actually have to be there for most of the watering. Turn the water on and leave it to slowly give your plants a good deep soak.
Harvest and Store Rain Water
We are incredibly fortunate to have a reliable supply of fresh water where we live. But it’s no secret that access to freshwater is a growing concern around the world. We do our best to find ways to minimize our consumption. One of the ways we do this by harvesting rain water to use in the garden. We have a 1000L tote that collects water off our garage that would otherwise go to the storm sewer and it is amazing how quickly it can fill up after a rain. It’s also amazing how quickly we can use up hundreds of litres of water during a heatwave. While we haven’t faced any water restrictions yet, collecting rainwater helps us avoid using extra water when demand is high and gives us some backup if we do end up facing water restrictions.
One way to help prevent that top layer of soil from drying out too quickly in the sun is mulch. Mulch provides a protected layer over the soil, helps keep the ground a bit cooler and keeps the water from evaporating. This is another way to ensure that as much water as possible stays in the soil.
Layer Garden Plants
Another way to help shade the ground and reduce water loss is though layering garden plants. Groundcover plants can have a similar effect to mulch. Ground cover plants in addition to mulch can really provide an extra layer of protection to keep your soil moist.
Plants not only help shade the ground, but sun loving plants can also be used to provide a bit of shade for other plants that may struggle more with hot and sunny days.
Move Potted Plants to Shade
Plants in containers can be notoriously difficult to manage during hot/dry weather. The pots themselves are often exposed to the sun, warming the pot and the soil within it. Pots also have a limited water capacity, so containers dry out more quickly than plants in the ground. I recommend checking on your containers regularly, and do sometimes water them again during the day if they have already dried out. Moving the containers to the shade will also help them conserve water. Even for sun-loving plants, a few days in the shade could be less stressful for the plant than regularly drying out in the hot sun.
Grass Will Grow Back
Don’t worry about the grass even if it is starting to look dead and crunchy. Grass is resilient, it’s probably just going dormant. It will perk up again once the water comes. Trying to keep a lush green lawn during a heatwave is going to be a lot of work and use a lot of water, just let it go it and focus on the plants that won’t recover so easily.
Remember to Take Care of Yourself
It’s not only plants that can struggle with hot and dry weather. Make sure you are paying attention to what you need to stay safe and healthy. Drink plenty of water and try to stay cool!