An ‘alerte orange canicule’ has been announced across France, with temperatures forecast to reach beyond 40c in some parts.
Here in La Corrèze, France, temperatures have already hit 35c this week and with no respite on the horizon it’s time to think about protecting our gardens and vegetable plots.
June has been the driest and the hottest one I can remember since moving to France 5 years ago. My French neighbours are complaining about how little their beans and radishes are growing, and my soil looks like a desert. Happily my vegetables continue to battle on and grow, if somewhat slower than usual, despite the lack of rain.
Living in France, you come to expect temperatures to reach 30 – 40c during the summer months, for there to be weeks on end without rain. It’s certainly a far cry from the Manchester weather I used to garden in. So with sun, drought and constant heat, comes a whole new set of gardening rules to get used to, ones to help get our potagers and flower beds through the hardest, driest summer months.
It will be too late to action some of these tips this week, but with at least a few scorching weeks almost guaranteed across France each year, you can perhaps think about planning some of these ideas into your gardening routine ready for next summer.
- Add organic matter to the soil when planting out. Any organic matter added to soil will improve the soil structure thus helping it to retain water. Organic matter added regularly not only provides the plants with nutrients but helps to conserve water within the ground during hot weather.
- Don’t pander to your plants. When the plants are young you can establish a watering pattern and they will learn to adapt to it. If you live in an area with hot summers, don’t over water the plants when they are young and they will learn to adapt to the watering routine, making it less of an ordeal for them when the temperatures soar and rain stops. I apply this to my vegetable plot as much as possible, never overwatering courgettes and beans when they are young, yes they need water, but don’t go mad and they will learn to survive a heatwave.
- Water plants in the morning or evening. Watering at these times gives the water plenty of time to soak into the ground rather than just being evaporated away before it has had chance to reach the roots. I like to water my vegetable plot early in the morning, so it has plenty of water to get it through the hottest parts of the day. Water close to the ground and roots, there’s no point in watering leaves plus you run the risk of them scorching as they dry in the sun.
- Know your vegetables and plants. Not all vegetables and plants need regular, daily water, even during a dry spell. Vegetables with deep roots such as carrot, parsnips and potatoes will be more resilient than the likes of tomatoes and lettuce which have surface roots and will dry out quicker. Always pay particular attention to potted plants and hanging baskets.
- Use mulch on flowerbeds, shrubs and trees. A mulch spread on the surface of the soil will help to prevent water evaporation.
- Don’t panic into watering your grass. Grass is very resilient and good at dealing with a lack of water. Even if it turns brown, don’t worry, it’ll return full of life as soon as the rains arrive. Mow less frequently during dry spells to reduce damage done to the surface of the grass.
- Shade and ventilate your greenhouse. The glass will magnify the sun’s rays, drying out and scorching plants. Make sure the greenhouse is ventilated as well as possible and shade it with a net if you can. During the hottest days, move potted plants outside. If like me you have plants in the greenhouse which can not be moved outside, keep the floor of the greenhouse damp to help bring down the temperature.
Enjoy the sun, enjoy your garden, but perhaps for the next week or so just admire it from the comfort of some shade and limit the amount of gardening you do.
If you have any other tips for helping your garden through a heatwave, please do share them by filling in the comment box below.