The current period of extreme heat, with a lack of rain, has affected many areas of the garden, even though gardeners may have tried to apply water to different parts.
Plants suffering heat stress will display leaves that are dry and crispy on the surface. Once leaves have reached this state it will not be possible to restore the individual leaves to a healthy, green state.
The natural instinct then is to remove the affected leaves and allow young, new leaves to be produced.
However, it is much better to avoid heavy pruning at this stage. The older, damaged leaves will provide a form of protection from further damage to the plant.
Removing damaged leaves will only expose younger, tender leaves to the extremes of heat.
They will usually be even more severely affected because of their less mature stage of development.
It will be much more preferable to wait until cooler weather returns before the dry, damaged leaves are removed from the plant.
Then the affected stems should be cut back to below the area of damage, preferably to just above the point where a new shoot will be produced.
The intense heat that we have been experiencing can also affect plants in containers.
Because of the reduced amount of soil generally in a container, extended exposure to the sun can cause the soil temperature to rise to levels that may cause burning to the plants’ root systems.
It may be necessary to move the containers to a more shaded, temporary position, as well as ensuring that they receive an adequate supply of water.
Early morning or late afternoon watering is generally preferable during February.
Shallow-rooted plants such as azaleas, camellias, gardenias, orchids and young natives may suffer from burning to the parts of the root systems that are closer to the surface.
Applying water in the morning will help prepare the roots for the later heat.
An application of mulch to the surface of the soil around the plant will also help it retain available moisture.
Gentle watering through the use of a sprinkler, rather than a bucket, will allow greater absorption of water.
Broad beans and peas that have been planted into a vegetable garden offer a double benefit. In addition to providing nutritious food sources, the plants add nitrogen to the soil, enriching it for subsequent crops.
In areas where frosts are not prevalent, peas can be sown and will soon produce flowers and, subsequently, tasty pods. In areas where winter temperatures are much lower, broad beans are a better choice as these plants can withstand much colder conditions.
However, broad beans are also most suitable for growing in areas with a warmer climate.
As peas and broad beans are both vigorous growers, they need to be provided with the right conditions for strong growth. A sunny position is desirable, with well-draining soil. Adding some dolomite will help to overcome any acidic excesses in the soil.
Adding general animal fertilisers, except poultry manure, to the soil will be most beneficial as they contain plenty of organic material. Poultry manure is high in nitrogen, which plants in this family produce themselves.
Once the manure has been spread over the surface of the soil, some sulphate of potash can also be added by sprinkling it over the soil. This mixture should be dug deeply into the soil.
After leaving the soil to settle for a few days, the seeds can be planted into it by placing them into a 10cm wide furrow that is about 3cm deep.
Peas should be planted about 2cm apart, while 10cm should be allowed between broad bean seeds.
The seeds can then be covered with the soil removed to make the furrow.
Minimal watering is essential, with an initial application and then applying more only when the first two leaves appear.
Providing the weather remains warmer, peas will produce their first flowers in about six weeks, while broad beans will not begin to crop until mid-spring.
LIGHT ON BULBS
Planning for displays of flowering bulbs should be done now, as different varieties are available to flower over an extended period.
Freesias, jonquils and daffodils, which can flower as early as June, should be planted first. Snowflakes, Dutch iris, anemone and ranunculus then follow.
Hyacinths and tulips can be planted by May, producing flowers in spring.
If planting bulbs in pots, the use of a good quality bulb-planting mix will help to produce a beautiful display.
Group pots together, or place them in strategic areas of the garden where the flower colours will be most effective.
Bulbs planted into the garden should be placed into a well-drained position that receives sun for at least half the day.
Bulbs generally are planted to a depth that is twice their width.
An initial watering should be applied, and then the plants can be left until the leaves begin to appear, unless the soil around the plant appears to be very dry.
Cold-climate bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths will respond much better if they are put in the crisper section of the fridge for four to eight weeks before planting.
This is especially important in our warmer climate.
Remember to label the bulbs.