gardening without watering in a heatwave

To garden when it's very hot, I suggest you (dear reader) do it early in the morning or early in the evening. It’s usually cool-ish at those times, and you don’t have to bother with sunscreen or hat which is very liberating.

Dig over the compost, which is usually damp if watered with saved kitchen and shower water. Take quantities of half rotted damp compost and spread it on the soil between plants. This will stop the soil being exposed to the hot sun, and encourage worms and helpful micro organisms to party in the shade below the mulch.

Sometimes plants are drooping and miserable. There’s no need to water them. Just trim them back. They usually respond by sitting up straight again. Sometimes they don’t. Then it’s the old story of life, death and compost in the garden.

Lots of plants adore the heat – they’re the ones you want. For example, tiny teeny parsley plants got established and mulched before the heatwave. Now every hot day they’re getting bigger and stronger. I have had great success with Australian native shrubs like alyogyne huegelii (Australian native hibiscus), thryptomenes, correas and many others. Actually just about all the plants you see in my garden are tough survivors – the others are only seen as temporary empty spaces – blurred shadows that have become partly decomposed mulch.

So water the compost and water the bird baths. But never water plants, unless newly planted or transplanted. If you do water them, you’ll find they’ll grow OK but they will forever be dependent on a human to cater to their water needs.


  1. Hello Catmint,

    What useful information. I think at the very least, that people should include heat-tolerant plants in their landscape, if they live in a hot area. It just makes sense - the plants do not stress, you save water and your garden looks great!

  2. You go, gardener! Look at you adapting to your area's challenges and still creating beauty. I won't be weaning myself off of watering as long as watering is plentiful here, but I am finding ways to conserve. And I am keeping my eyes out for rain barrels that would fit the look of my garden. I really wish that I could install a filter system and reuse my shower water for the garden. I have a weakness for long, hot showers when it's cold here.

  3. Hi Catmint! You are so smart about gardening in dry conditions, especially!! Love the hints and I look forward to having rain barrels in place next Spring! :-)

  4. Hi Catmint, I water in the morning too before the sun gets hot :-) The plants which do well in my garden are those who love the sun as well. I love keeping my plants tidy so I do trim them down. But your point about not having to water too much is a logical one as well. Have a fun weekend!

  5. Hi catmint; very good advice. I never water established plants only when I see they are really needing a mouthful of water. This spring was very dry and practically all the plants have survived without watering. Some day lilies I have planted in winter I watered, once they are established they look after themselves. Natives from this area do well too but others do well when it is dry but as soon as we have the rainy season
    they collapse. I think the subtropical climate is a complicated climate. Sometimes to dry and sometimes to wet!
    Thank you catmint, for the honest scrap award.

  6. Hi Catmint an interesting post. Makes me feel a warm glow just reading your post it is rather cold here in UK at present winter has finally arrived after an Indian summer.

  7. Hi Catmint, great advice for every gardener. I never water my plants after they are planted. They do become dependant on you rather then Mother Nature!
    Great compost bins!

  8. I love the photo with the ferns. Such a great plant. I was thinking it'd be great to be in summer again, but I think I'm tired and need a break!!!

    Great tips for keeping the garden moist and cool.

  9. thank you all for your comments. All read and appreciated. Although I sound confident about this non water busines, at the beginning of summer I always feel anxious that lots of plants will die, or that I'll weaken and water them.

    Titania, interesting about the challenge of a tropical climate. That's why I have never got into succulents much - because sometimes it rains hard and then they won't like it.
    Cheers, catmint


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