Summer container growing
I love having a collection of pots in an area by the back door and the shed. They’re a cheerful sight when we leave the house and return, and they brighten up an area of block paving that would otherwise be devoid of planting. Generally, the plants I grow are tender bedding plants that often don’t have a lot of pollen and nectar, but this year I focused on growing as many plants as possible, which would be good for wildlife.
We’ve had a strange summer of weather so far, with it being quite cool and grey up until the start of July, so the plants I’d chosen to grow, which are native to places such as Mexico and Central and South America, were struggling a bit. Then in recent weeks, we experienced a heatwave with record-breaking temperatures of over 40°C. It didn’t take long for these plants to look a lot happier, thriving in the sun and heat. While other plants in the garden were wilting under such extreme and unusual weather for Yorkshire, these plants didn’t bat an eyelid. Container growing is becoming trickier to justify with climate change as they need so much watering, but at least these plants are used to coping with the heat and can cope without some water for a few days.
The top of the pots this summer have been:
- Dahlia ‘Happy Single Kiss’
- Lantana ‘Calippo Tutti Frutti’
- Pelargonium ‘Blanche Roche’
- Thunbergia ‘Sunny Susie Brownie’
Of course, they have needed some water, but I’m trying to water more wisely this year because we’ve had so little rain, and there’s pressure on the amount of water in the reservoirs. Watering at dusk is best, as the water has time to sink into the compost and be absorbed by the plant roots before the sun gets hot again the following day. The only caveat to this is if you see a plant that is wilting. Whatever time of day, you should water a plant that’s struggling. If the plant is in a pot, move the pot into the shade first and then water.
I’ve also been using ‘grey’ water – the water from the washing up bowl – to fill the watering can instead of relying purely on clean water from the outdoor tap. ‘Grey’ water can be safely used for up to six weeks to water ornamental plants – it’s best not to use it to water edibles, as there could be pathogens in the water which could contaminate the crop. Use grey water as soon as you can, rather than leaving it in a watering can to avoid bacteria building up in it.
I’ve spotted in some gardens plants that have suffered leaf scorch caused by the intensity of the sunlight during the recent heatwave. A temporary measure if we have those conditions again is to drape vulnerable plants with horticultural fleece, which will help to diffuse the light. Ultimately, we’ll all probably need to adapt the plants we grow to suit the changing climate, so plants that have suffered over the last few weeks, such as astilbe, hydrangea, and heuchera, might need to be replaced with ones that are more suited to heat and sun.
Om Louise Curley
Louise is a horticulturalist, garden writer and author of the award-winning book The Cut Flower Patch. She’s passionate about the power of plants to make us feel happy and is an advocate for organic gardening and encouraging wildlife into gardens.Get to know Louise Curley
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