Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Gardening in Excessive Heat.

There, I said it, now the heatwave is guaranteed to break, and it will probably be cold and wet until the end of the year....

OK, no sounds of thunder so far...

People are constantly asking me how I can bear to work in this heat. At the time of writing, the UK is two weeks into a heatwave, yesterday it was 32 degrees, which must be very nearly ninety degrees in old money, and therefore far too hot to work.

But work I did.

Well, after the winter just gone, I need to make as much hay as I can, while the sun is shining! No, we're not talking about scythes today, it's just an expression.

So how to cope with the heat?

Obvious rules;

1) Clothing.  Loose clothes are cooler than skimpy tight fitting ones. You might think that a strappy sleeveless tee is cool, but keeping the sun off your skin is actually better.  Wicking tees are much, much more comfy than cotton ones which cling damply to your body. I habitually work in shorts anyway (my motto: "Live and Die in Shorts") and yes, I am still wearing thick socks inside my boots, but they wick the sweat away and are perfectly comfortable to wear. They're nothing special, just wicking walking socks from Milletts, the camping shop.

2) Water. Keep drinking it. I take a small bottle of tap water with me and swig it when I need it, topping up from various outside taps. It's always best to run the water for a while before drinking, to ensure that it's "fresh" water, not water that's been sitting in their pipes for months... once it runs cold, it's clean to drink, and more refreshing than lukewarm. Never, ever drink from water butts.... when you do drink, don't gollop it:  take a big swig, and swish it around in your mouth before swallowing. This way you get more benefit from the same volume. If very thirsty, swish it around then gargle before swallowing it. I know, sounds disgusting, and best done out of sight of the house, but very refreshing. There are no hard and fast rules as to how much you should drink, but I can tell you that I got through four bottles-worth yesterday afternoon, that's about two litres.

3) Water II. Every time you pass the outside tap or the watering can - oh dear! I've spilled water on myself! Wiping wet hands along your bare arms and legs promotes cooling. In moments of stress, plunge your hands into cold water, or run the tap over the inside of your wrists - blood is like radiator fluid, and the palms of your hands are full of blood vessels.

4) Shade. Try to stay in the shade. You know your garden, you know where the shade is and when: put off jobs on the sunny side until later in the day. If you have jobs that must be done and which are in the sun, try to do ten minutes in the sun, then ten minutes on a shady job, to cool down again. It's all about "core temperature" and not letting it get too high.

5) Hats. Not for me - I find wearing a hat makes me hotter than not doing so, but you might find it helpful.

6) The Wet Hanky Trick. Take a large cotton hanky - a man's one, preferably - and soak in cold water. Squeeze out the excess, fold in half into a triangle, roll it up and tie loosely around your neck, with the "point" at the back. This has the dual function of protecting the back of your neck from the sun, and cooling you down. Every ten or fifteen minutes, take it off, wipe the sweat off your face and neck, "flap" it a couple of times, which will miraculously turn hot sweat into cool water, re-fold and re-tie. Magically, it's cold again. Lovely.

There, hope that helps!

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