In the rare summers when the soil cracks, many plants become stressed. Established shrubs and trees can survive as root systems are extensive and can sustain the top growth but other plants often cannot cope.
Prevention is better than cure
With weather forecasts becoming more accurate it is easy to plan for a period of drought – a short sharp summer thunderstorm will quickly fill one water butt.
Water butts can be connected in sequence to prevent overflowing. Fill using any run off from sheds, garages and greenhouse roofs or divert downpipes from house guttering. This water is perfect for using all around the garden as it is natural and untreated.
Water then mulch
Water susceptible plants throughout and mulch over the soil with an organic layer. This can be home-made compost, bark chippings, even grass clippings. The mulch will reduce evaporation of water from the soil keeping it where it needs to be – in the soil and around the roots.
Never mulch then water. The mulch will stop water from reaching the soil.
Shade your plants
Scorching sun puts plants under pressure and temperatures in a greenhouse rise alarmingly in hot weather. Move plants away from the windows (in the greenhouse or house) to reduce the temperature around the leaves.
Spray water around plants and on hard surfaces of the greenhouse to increase air humidity and reduces leaf stress. Make sure you have shading and all vents and doors open.
House plants can equally get stressed so stand them in a saucer of pebbles or gravel and add water.
If water usage becomes an issue you can reuse water from the house. Bathwater can be used on younger plants and washing up water is fine - but not if choked with food as the debris may attract vermin.
Water diverters can be fitted to baths and sinks to allow collection of the water – or just fill a bowl.
It's best to use grey water within a day or so of collection as the soap content can begin to smell. Don't spray on the leaves but use around the base of the plants as it's where the roots are. Avoid using any grey water on seeds as they are more sensitive to smaller concentrations of detergents.
Grass survives dry weather by shutting down. It's one of the first plants to go brown but equally, the best at bouncing back once rain arrives. Don’t waste water by pouring it on your lawn or by having a sprinkler.
Leave the lawn longer in dry weather. The blades of grass cover the surface of the soil and prevent evaporation. If you scalp it short, water is lost and it allows weeds to colonise the gaps.