Is your garden ready for the summer heat? Keep it in tip-top shape by following these top tips.
There’s a lot of fun to be had under the summer sun. Barbeques, camping trips, days at the beach – in this kind of weather, the possibilities are just about endless. But the Aussie summer also brings with it seasonally unique challenges that can ruin a garden if one is not prepared for it. Here are some ways to help your garden beat the heat and look extra neat this summer.
- Take extra care of budding/flowering plants.
Budding and flowering plants are sensitive to the hot summer weather. If you notice your plants suddenly losing their flowers and buds, they are most likely drying out. Mulch your flowering plants and water them deeply (in other words, make sure the soil is soaked through by at least one inch) once or twice a week to keep them moisturised.
- Keep your pots cool.
Clay, terracotta, and similar materials have excellent insulating properties, which allows them to keep heat in for a long time. This means anything planted in pots made out of these materials will be vulnerable to overheating. Keep your potted plants lightly mulched, and keep them away from the hot afternoon sun.
Placing your potted plants on saucers with water might seem like a good idea in theory, but this is not the case in practice. Saucers with standing water will damage the roots of your plants and, especially in tropical climates, become breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In this case, use moist sand instead of water; this achieves the same cooling effect, but without the negatives.
- Water early to avoid mildew.
Mildew usually grows in warm areas with lots of moisture, and your plants are no exception. Water your plants during the colder hours of the day – preferably in the morning. This will lower the chance of fungi growing on your leaves, and you can also avoid pesky mosquitoes by doing this.
Some plants are more susceptible to mildew growth than others. If you grow plants like these – examples include roses, pumpkins, melons, zucchinis, and cucumbers – mix one part cow’s milk and 10 parts water and spray this onto your plants. Respray your plants with this solution after heavy rain to maintain its effect. It should be noted, however, that the spray works only as a preventative measure and not as a treatment.
- Nourish and water your plants at the same time
Watering our plants and nourishing them with minerals are usually separate tasks. However, if you don’t get the time to do those tasks regularly, doing both at the same time every so often is not a bad option. You can mix soluble fertiliser and seaweed into the water you use to irrigate your plants. Alternatively, you can water potash into fruit-bearing plants to improve their flavour and prevent diseases.
- Don’t cut your lawns too short
People think that cutting your lawns short means they can wait longer between mowing sessions. This is true, but cutting lawns short will weaken the grass and even kill it outright, leaving spaces open for weeds to grow. To avoid this, mow your lawn as high as possible – a good length is around 3 inches. Longer grass blades increase the strength of the soil under it, and grass clippings can be used as mulch for other plants or the lawn itself.
To keep your lawn lush and healthy, nourish it with seaweed tonic once a month. You can also use poultry manure – apply a handful of it per square metre of lawn before it rains or before you irrigate your lawn, then let it sit for two weeks. This will make your lawn vibrant and green, but be sure to wait for the smell to go away before inviting anyone over.
- Keep the water flowing
If you’ve installed an irrigation system, its upkeep becomes much more important in the summer heat. Nozzles should be free of debris. Pipes and hoses should be secure and have no leaks. Damaged components should be fixed or replaced. If you have a rainwater collection tank, make sure gutters leading to it are unblocked for optimal water flow, and install mesh to prevent mosquitoes and frogs from entering the water tank.
- Work harder when it’s cooler
We all know the fatigue and stress that comes with working in the heat. That’s why you should try to get more difficult gardening work, like mowing and fertilising, done in the cooler hours of the day – before 10 AM and after 4 PM. Always take the time to drink water and put on equipment to protect you from the heat of the sun; things like sunblock, a hat, sunglasses, gloves, and long sleeved shirts are essential. Mosquito repellent is also great to have, especially in the late afternoon when insects are more abundant, and aloe vera is effective when you get sunburned.
- Protect new seedlings and plants
Young seedlings have little chance of survival if left unprotected under the harsh summer sun. Protect them as they take root by partially shading them with shadecloth. If that is not available, effective alternatives include net curtains, ferns, palms, and leafy branches.
- Plan shade strategically
Shade is always useful to have in a garden or backyard. However, you should consider systems you have that might be affected by shade in that area, such as solar panels or water heaters. A good rule of thumb to follow is to allow your home and garden to take in nourishing eastern sunshine, but shield against hot western sunshine. For a more detailed explanation on how to use plants to provide shade for your home, the Your Home Design Guide has an article on shading under the ‘Passive Design’ section.
- Nourish your plants with trace elements
In the same way that we benefit from incorporating elemental minerals into our food, plants can positively benefit from the intake of trace elements. Magnesium is a key component in plant photosynthesis, so nourishing them with magnesium will improve their energy production. Epsom salts are a great way to work magnesium into your garden’s nutrient supply; mix one heaping teaspoon of the salts into 4.5 litres of water, and water or spray your plants with this solution. Iron is another element that is essential to plant growth, as it is used in the production of a plant’s chlorophyll and used to transport nutrients through the plant. Supplementing your plants with iron can be done by working compost, iron chelate, or even iron nails into the soil.
- Stay on guard for pests
Termites decompose plant material and animal droppings, and are therefore beneficial to the garden ecosystem. However, a gardener should still be wary of them as they tend to attack wooden structures such as gardening tools with wooden handles, and even the house itself. To keep termites away from your house, keep wood chips far enough away from the house and make sure the surrounding soil is dry. You can also protect other wood-based structures like vegetable beds and benches from termites using paint and sealant.
- Make some quick fixes
Building our ideal garden takes a lot of time, and more often than not we don’t have enough. In these sorts of situations we can employ some quick and easy fixes to spruce up our garden. Mulching helps lock in moisture and nutrients in the soil, which helps keep it healthy and vibrant. An eye for basic aesthetic principles – balance, use of colour, symmetry – also goes a long way towards making your garden look better without too much effort.
How much water do I need for my garden?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions by new gardeners. The truth, though, is that there really is no definitive short answer for this question. The amount of water you need for your garden depends on a long list of factors – water supply, types of plants, the size of the garden, and soil condition, just to name a few. Beyond that, you will have to do a little bit of research and monitor your garden so you can figure out your garden’s needs.