Don’t get burnt this summer
Summer is the time to concentrate only on your garden’s hard landscaping, rather than the planting side of things.
It’s a tough time for many plants with the heat of the day lasting for up to eight hours. Plants will be rapidly transpiring and leaves wilting to try and lessen the amount of leaf tissue exposed to the sun. Wilting is a good response from plants; it’s a coping mechanism to deal with extreme heat.
It’s not just the air temperature that makes plants struggle; the hot easterlies also dry out plants and any exposed soil.
Below are four of the most important areas for you to focus on to ensure your precious plants survive and thrive this summer.
Insulate with mulch
If you want to know how it feels for surface plant roots growing in un-mulched ground, imagine walking on beach sand with bare feet in the middle of a 38C day.
This is why your top priority is to get that mulch down around the garden before the summer really hits. Mulch needs to be 5-7cm thick and laid to allow water to pass through it. If you think your mulch is laid a bit light, top it up now.
Water with vigilance
Thoroughly check all your reticulation. Even if only one sprinkler is blocked it will be a matter of mere days before plants start to die. Sometimes sprinklers get blocked by calcium build-up or because ants build nests. Reticulation should be timed to come on at 5am, but manually check each station once a month in summer.
If you are spending time away from your house do not rely on your retic alone to keep the garden alive. If there is a power blackout or sprayers get blocked your garden is going to be in trouble. Have a reliable friend or relative come to check the garden at least once while you are away.
NEVER rely on your children or friends’ children to keep your garden in tip-top shape, or even barely alive. Their idea of watering is to wave the hose over everything for about 50 seconds and leave. They seem to be blind to browning leaves, wilting plants and even dead wood.
You are better off paying someone who actually notices green parts of plants turning brown. It will save you a fortune in the long run by not having to replace half your garden.
Shade and water required
Move all your pots into a shady spot or where they only get dappled light.
Pots dry out incredibly quickly in summer and moving them into the shade will lower evaporation rates.
Pots also need to be mulched and must be watered every day.
If you have indoor plants they can just go in the bathtub with enough water to cover the holes at the bottom of the pot and refilled when that has been taken up by the plants. This method can only be used for up to four weeks.
Lawns require extra TLC
Lawns will need extra care over summer.
It’s best that you leave more length so your lawn retains more moisture and copes with the heat.
Water only in the morning to prevent the occurrence of fungal diseases and make sure there are no dry spots that are water repellent. Sometimes you will need to spike areas that are drying out and apply a wetting agent more than once to get it to penetrate.
Only fertilise once in summer — a handful per square metre, you do not want to spend every weekend mowing the lawn.
If you mow in the morning, you can leave the clippings on the lawn to break down and return the nutrients back to the lawn.
Always water the day after mowing.
GARDEN DETOX TIPS TO GET YOUR PLANTS BACK IN SHAPE
1. Use a three-pronged hoe to break up mulch a little, apply a granular wetting agent and water it in really well with the hose on jet stream. Make sure the water is feeding down into the soil.
2. Put saucers under your pots to increase the humidity and hold more moisture. This helps to keep out ants.
3. Apply Droughtshield to sun-sensitive plants to lessen the amount of transpiration from leaves.
4. Sappy plants such as frangipanis may get sunburnt on their trunks. Either paint the trunk with white acrylic water-based paint, or put shade cloth around the base of the plant up to 2m. Leave it on until the end of March.
5. Cover the veggie patch with 20 per cent shade cloth from now through to the end of February.
TIP: Leave any dead or burnt branches on plants until the end of summer — they will still provide some vital shade to the base of the plant.
© The West Australian
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