How to keep a garden cool in a heatwave - 9 expert tips to protect your family and plants this summer

It’s getting hot out there…

A patio with a garden chair and potted plants
(Image credit: Protek)

We’re always a little torn during a heatwave. On the one hand, we complain about the awful British weather so much that it feels as though we deserve a heatwave. On the other hand, it’s just a bit… hot. That’s why it’s so important to keep a garden cool in a heatwave.

Yes, when you put so much time and effort into your garden ideas, a heatwave can also feel like a real kick in the teeth. Sure, your plants and flowers love the sunshine, but the high temperatures and hot air that come with it are a recipe for dry, crispy blooms and brown grass. And that’s before we mention the third-degree burns we get when sitting on the best garden furniture.

So, if you want to enjoy your garden this summer and keep your plants and family safe, you need to know how to keep a garden cool. Thankfully, we’ve got the lowdown on keeping your plants alive, keeping your little ones out of the sun, and keeping your garden as cool as the cucumber in your well-deserved mojito.

How to keep a garden cool in a heatwave

‘The long-awaited heat has finally arrived in the UK, and while it’ll take some adapting for us, our gardens are likely to find the sudden increase in heat a shock,’ explains Sean Lade, Managing Director at Easy Garden Irrigation. So, check out these 9 top tips on keeping your garden cool in a heatwave.

1. Water plants at the right time

Various potted herbs and plants growing on home wood balcony in summer, small vegetable garden concept

(Image credit: Alamy)

During a heatwave, your plants will struggle. And while it’s important to keep on top of watering during the hot weather, you also want to avoid any garden watering mistakes.

Hannah Rowson, gardening expert J.Parker’s says, ‘The best time to water is either in the early morning or late evening, while the temperatures are still cool. Doing this will ensure the water is able to run down into the soil to reach the roots of the plant, before the sun gets a chance to evaporate it.’

If you water them during the middle of the day, it’s unlikely that your plants will benefit from the watering and become scorched and dry as a result.

Picture of Hannah Rowson wearing a striped T-shirt and black gilet with J. Parker's logo on it
Hannah Rowson

Assistant Garden Centre Manager, Hannah Rowson, has been with bulb specialist J.Parker's for over 8 years. RHS qualified, Hannah is a fountain of knowledge for all things gardening and horticulture, and has even had her garden designs displayed at RHS Tatton Flower Show. 

2. Make your own shade

A patio with a garden chair and potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Paul Massey)

If you want to enjoy your garden in a heatwave but don’t want to be in direct sunlight, it’s easy to make your own shade - and additions such as pergolas and shade sails also have the added bonus of making your garden look much more expensive.

Sam Jenkinson, Pergola expert for Tiger, says, ‘To stay comfortable during a heatwave, consider using umbrellas, shade sails, or a pop-up gazebo to create ample shade for your guests. These additions will make your outdoor space much more enjoyable, especially during the hottest times of the day.’

‘Investing in a pergola with a louvred retractable roof can also be a great option, as it allows you to control the amount of sunlight and ventilation, providing a versatile and stylish solution for any weather condition.’

You don’t necessarily have to buy anything new to make your own shade, either. There are many other garden shade ideas that are completely free - like using a bed sheet to create a makeshift canopy.

Picture of Sam Jenkinson wearing a purple shirt and glasses staring at the camera
Sam Jenkinson

Sam Jenkinson has been at Tiger for over four years and has built up a vast knowledge and experience in all areas of the product. He is a keen gardener and self-proclaimed 'shed head'.

3. Give your lawn some TLC

lawn mower cutting stripes in grass - GettyImages-170168600

(Image credit: wwing/Getty Images)

During a heatwave, being on top of your lawn care is more important than ever. And while you may be inclined to whip out one of the best lawn mowers to tidy up your garden for your upcoming BBQ, you might want to think again.

John Marshall, landscaping expert from Wenningdale Escapes, explains, ‘Caring for your grass during a heatwave is a must. Heat can be detrimental to the health of your grass, and looking after it during the heat can ensure its longevity throughout the year.’

‘Some tips for keeping it safe in the heat include not cutting it too short. The longer the grass, the more it will protect itself from the sun and ensure the most moisture is locked into the roots.’

Not only that but keeping your lawn longer will also make it cooler to walk on, which is safer for kids playing in the sun or pets roaming around the grass. Of course, watering your lawn is also essential.

John adds, ‘Opt for watering in the evening or morning, not in the middle of the day. With hosepipe bans becoming more common in the UK, opt for rainwater or harvested sourced water, which gives the grass extra nutrients and saves on the water bill.’

4. Invest in an indoor/outdoor fan

Shark FlexBreeze portable fan with green grass behind and people sitting in garden

(Image credit: Shark)

While the best fans can keep you cool inside the home, they have only recently been able to keep you cool outside the home, too. This is all thanks to the Shark FlexBreeze, a portable indoor/outdoor fan that can also be used corded or cordless.

Being able to use a fan outside is a game changer when trying to keep a garden cool in a heatwave, but this Shark offering also comes with another handy feature. You can actually connect the InstaCool Misting attachment to a hosepipe that will then turn the fan into a misting fan - which is perfect for a hot afternoon in the garden.

You don’t have to worry about it degrading or fading in the sun, either. The fan is completely UV and water-resistant.

5. Plant trees and climbers to block the sun

A patio with planters and a trellis fence with climbing plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/Joanna Henderson)

The best privacy trees and climbing plants can help to block out your neighbours, but they can also help to block out the sun, creating shade for the people and the plants in your garden at the same time.

Chris Bonnett, Founder of GardeningExpress, says, ‘We love making the most of the sun when it’s out but it’s really important to have some shade spots in your garden to give yourself a break from the harsh rays.’

‘Positioning tall plants and trees will create a dappled shade, which will be enough for those who are looking to get away from the sun. The Gardening Express experts recommend Cotinus Coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ or bamboo and Silver Birches for this.’

Just remember that bamboo is an invasive species, and it’s best to grow bamboo in pots to stop it from spreading.

6. Buy a parasol

A blooming garden with a garden furniture and parasol set

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Opting for a pergola or a gazebo isn’t very practical if you have a small garden. But that doesn’t mean that you have to succumb to the heat.

By buying a parasol, you can protect yourself - and your plants - from the intense sunlight. It’s also the perfect addition to your outdoor dining adventures, as you can protect yourself when you eat.

Caron Grant, Brand Manager at Bridgman, says, ‘When the sun is high, a parasol is just what you need to keep your guests cool and shaded as you relax and dine. Opt for a parasol with a large canopy size that can accommodate the entire dining area.’

‘Ensure that the parasol has a sufficient overhang and the canopy extends beyond the table and seating area, to provide shade from the sun’s rays at different angles throughout the day.’

An added bonus is that a parasol is portable, meaning you can move it around to suit your needs and follow the sun.

7. Hydrate artificial grass

Whatever side of the artificial grass fence you’re on, there’s no doubt that this is becoming a popular grass alternative. And while it’s relatively hassle-free, artificial grass can reach scorching temperatures in a heatwave - which could spell disaster for the people and the pets in your home.

Dr Linda Simon, Resident Vet at Pooch & Mutt explains, ‘Owners need to be aware that artificial grass does not act like real grass, and can heat up quickly to much higher temperatures. Due to this, it can pose a hazard to dogs, who can easily burn their paw pads.’

So, the artificial grass experts at Grass247 urge, ‘In hot weather, watering your grass is one of the quickest and easiest ways to keep it cool. You can do this with a watering can, a garden hose, or even just a bucket of cool water.’

‘You could also consider adding a misting system around your artificial grass for a more even and consistent method of cooling.’

8. Move vulnerable plants

If you want to keep your plants cool during a heatwave, you should aim to move as many as you can. Of course, this won’t be possible when your plants are in-ground, but definitely something you should consider with your container garden.

If possible, simply move to a shaded area of the garden. But if you can’t guarantee this shade, it’s best to move them indoors until the heatwave passes.

Joanna Baumard, Co-Founder of Purlfrost, says, ‘For plants that need extra shelter from the sun, we always recommend moving them completely out of the garden and into a shaded room or shed.’

‘For rooms or sheds where it is impossible to ensure complete shade, you can opt for a solar window film to reduce heat, glare, and UV. This way, your plants have the best chance of surviving the heat!’

For in-ground plants that can’t be moved, mulching is the answer. Sean says, ‘Mulching is a great way to shade the soil and stop water from evaporating. Applying a layer of mulch around the base of your plants can help retain moisture in the soil, ensuring your plants stay hydrated during the heatwave and stay nice to look at throughout the summer.’

9. Choose the right materials

Wooden pergola on wood decking next to lawn with white picnic bench

(Image credit: Future PLC/Douglas Gibb Photography)

From your garden furniture to your outdoor structures, you probably don't pay much attention to their materials. But in a heatwave, these materials matter.

Andrew White, outdoor expert at Harbour Lifestyle explains, 'It is a great idea to consider the material of your garden furniture and how it absorbs or reflects heat.'

'Synthetic fibres such as polyester and acrylic tend to absorb and retain heat, meaning you will feel a lot hotter when lounging on them. Instead, choose fabrics in light shades with heat-reflecting properties.'

'Additionally, wooden structures tend to keep a lot cooler than metal ones – so choose wisely which ones you leave in the sun and which ones remain in the shade.'

By choosing the right materials, you can keep your garden cool in a heatwave.


What temperature is too hot for plants?

In the UK, we rarely expose our plants to temperatures above 30℃ - which is a good thing, too. Anything above this temperature starts to become incredibly uncomfortable for the plants, and they begin to shut down.

However, it’s still important to keep an eye on your plants when temperatures are in the high 20s. Avoid watering your plants in full sun and water regularly in the mornings or evenings.

If you can, move any container plants to a shaded area of the garden - or move indoors if you’re particularly worried about them.

How can I make my patio cooler?

The only effective way to keep your patio cooler during a heatwave is to create shade and a barrier between it and the sun.

The quickest and easiest way to do this is to buy pergolas and parasols for your patio, which can create the all-important shade for your patio. However, you don’t necessarily need to buy anything new. You could also make your own shade sail using an old bed sheet and nearby structures.

Phew! It’s getting hot out there, so its definitely worth keeping your garden cool this heatwave.

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.