Updated: Jun 16
Welcome to 2022 everyone. I hope the festive season has been very enjoyable for all. As we now head into the warmer months of summer, we need to heat-proof our gardens. Let’s go through a few reliable methods and tactics that will ensure your garden stays green through the season.
Mulching the soil
The obvious benefit of mulching is how it creates a physical barrier to minimise moisture evaporating away from the soil. Water is stored for longer periods in the soil area beneath the mulch. There are many different types of mulch available with the dominant ones used being sugar cane, lucerne hay, pine bark and tea tree. One benefit of mulching through summer that often gets overlooked is the protection the mulch gives the organisms in the soil. While protecting water levels in the soil is very important for plants it is also vital for the care of our hard-working soil organisms. The heat of summer can be a serious problem that can create soil conditions that become uninhabitable for small organisms. Mulching the soil helps to moderate the soil temperatures and provides more stable moisture levels as well as food for our tiny little workers.
When irrigating your garden beds make sure you are getting the water down nice and deep. It's easy to quickly throw the hose over the plants and think that you have given your plants respite for the day, however a lot of the surface water will not get to the root system on a hot day. By watering deeper, you are also encouraging the roots to penetrate deeper into the soil. These deeper areas have a better temperature consistency and are far less likely to dry out. By soaking you garden beds to achieve this you will actually find that over time you will use less water, because you are increasing the efficiency of how you are using the water.
Water early or late in the day
By watering your gardens during periods where the sun has a reduced potency, you will lose less water to surface evaporation. Watering early is a great way to set the plants up for the heat of the day. If you are not an early riser the alternative is to water in the evening. A great time to do it as the suns heat is nearly done for the day. If watering late, do minimise too much foliage contact as plants are more susceptible to fungal attack when the suns UV rays aren’t around.
Tip for pots
You do need to keep an extra eye on your potted plants over the summer. The pot can only hold a limited volume of water. If possible, a great method to reduce water usage for potted plants is to move them around the garden into more protected areas. Giving the plants a percentage of the season in a filtered light area under a large tree or minimising their exposure to the tough western heat by situating them on the eastern side of the house. It will aid in reducing the transpiration of water from the plant that will allow you to water less.
The two dominant soil additives that can help your garden are water crystals and wetting agents. Water crystals are best used when they are dug into the soil. They swell up to, many times their initial size and basically provide the soil with lots of ‘little reservoirs’ that the roots of the plant can access. Wetting agents are great for hydrophobic soils that may not be absorbing water as efficiently as they should. Over time soil can develop waxy qualities. The wetting agents aid in breaking up these waxes and thus allow the water to penetrate through the soil rather than around it. Really good to do this right at the beginning of the summer and really aids the method of deep watering.
Plant selection in the nursery
Summer is still a great time to purchase plants in your local nursery. The growers have provided quality plants that have exceptional growth on them due to the full spring season. The range is always very large as the growers have recovered from their peak September supplies and a lot of nurseries will often encourage people into their businesses with new year sales that will guarantee you great value. When purchasing plants in the nursery in the heat always go for plants that have been well ‘hardened off’. Plants that don’t show any signs that they have come straight out of a growing igloo. Too much young, soft, new growth is a risk when you are planting into your garden in the summer. Most nurseries are really responsible with this issue and will often place stock in a holding area out the back if they have received plants that are a little soft. These plants will be ‘hardened off’ until they are deemed tough enough to go straight into the garden.