Whilst we may love a good heatwave, our gardens don’t feel the same. Most gardens aren’t prepared for extended periods of drought, and with heatwave length and frequency increasing year on year, here are our predictions for the top five ways gardens will change in future summers.
1. An increase in perennial plants
When looking for plant varieties that’ll thrive in dry climates, perennials are generally some of the most hardy. There’s also a wide variety to choose from – from UK species to the Mediterranean varieties – that are a popular choice for a great aesthetic look. Salvias are particularly drought resistant, and bloom well with blue or purple flowers, especially with minimal watering. Another great choice is lavender, yet another incredibly drought-resistant, colourful plant that’ll thrive with minimal watering.
For these plants to thrive, ensure that you plant them in spring so that they have time to adapt to the UK climate and become established before the colder winter months. Also, consider planting in pots or raised flower beds so that roots have appropriate drainage – they are used to dry, well-drained soil, and can suffer when roots are waterlogged.
2. Tactical use of outdoor shade
With many UK varieties of plants not cut out for extreme heat, shade will become a big part of British gardening in the future, that will help protect plants from excess direct sunlight. Shade trees such as Oak, are great for providing mass protection of more vulnerable plants, while plants such as wall vines are great for sheltering patios and adding aesthetic touches to your walls.
When looking at shading a particular area, consider grouping more vulnerable plants together there, ensuring that the plants that thrive in direct sunlight are relocated elsewhere in the garden.
3. Getting to the root of watering issues
While watering plants may seem simple, the way you do it (especially during a drought) can have a huge impact on the health of your plants. Hydroponic systems are particularly great when growing seedlings, as plants receive water and nutrients directly to the roots, resulting in much more extensive growth, and this can be applied to the garden.
Instead of watering from the top, water at the roots of your plants. Water sitting on the top of plants gives fungus and disease an environment to grow in, and water droplets magnifying the sun's rays can cause spots of sunburn on your plants leaves. However, watering at the base of the plant reduces evaporation and increases the chances of water reaching the roots.
4. (Further) optimisation of water
With each plant competing for water, ensuring every plant is receiving an adequate amount is essential. While weeding is ever more important in the summer months, where every plant in your garden is competing for limited water supply, most gardeners don’t have the time to regularly pull out weeds. A lot of weeds can also survive (and even thrive!) in the harshest conditions, due to extensive, deep roots that can access groundwater all year round and bounce back at the first drop of rain. Therefore, reducing the excess water left to activate weeds, while increasing the amount of water at plant roots, will make gardening in a heatwave far less time-intensive.
A solution to this is using a drip irrigation system, to focus water exactly where your garden needs it, and avoid waste and weed issues.
5. Natural control of pests
While your garden is under drought conditions, plants will be weaker and more susceptible to pests. Even though some pests, such as slugs, prefer the wetter and more foliage heavy seasons either side of summer, aphids and spider mites thrive in heated conditions.
Before reaching for a bottle of pesticide this summer, really consider natural alternatives for pest control. Since 2007, there has been a dramatic decrease in pollinators across the UK, with this decline due to environmental loss and mass use of harmful chemicals. While these pesticides are fast working and effective, they affect every insect in your garden – not just pests.
Cultivating plants known to deter pests, and encouraging parasite/predator insects are great alternatives that we will turn to in the future to help reduce pollinator decline. Petunias are a great deterrent to multiple pests, including aphids, while also tolerating high heats. Rosemary and basil are also effective pest deterrents (and are perfect for the kitchen!) but will require more watering and care. We use nematodes as our insecticide to control pest populations in lawns – these 100% organic parasites only target chafer grubs and leatherjackets, controlling their population without affecting pollinators.
So there we have it, our top five ways gardening will change for summers of the future. Be sure to let us know what you think below, or get in touch with any recent changes that you’ve made to help your garden through the next heatwave!