Summer garden survival

Summer is a testing time for Australian gardens. Harsh sun, long hot days and drying winds all take their toll but take heart, keeping your plants alive isn’t an impossible task.

So you’ve finally got your garden looking good — flowers are blooming, bushes are full and the grass is looking green — when summer hits, turning everything in its wake a dry, dusty brown.

There’s no denying summer is a tough season for a garden to weather. From water restrictions to the beating sun it might seem all the elements are against you from December to mid-March.

But don’t give up just yet. If your plants are starting to look a little lacklustre you can bring them back to the land of the living with a bit of love and care. Here’s what you need to know to help your garden grow.

Moisture

The key to any successful garden is moisture. In summer it’s even more important to get the water where your plants need it the most and that’s into its roots.

Most conventional sprinklers aren’t effective at delivering water to hot, dry plants so if your garden is starting to look a little brown it’s time to get up close and personal. Grab a hose or a watering can and soak each plant early in the morning, before the sun evaporates all your hard work. You can stand tender potted plants in saucers full of water if they’re really struggling, or bring them inside during extreme weather spells.

You can also help water to penetrate into hard or compacted soil by applying a granular soil wetter — simply dig it through the soil before watering to create a more moisture-friendly environment. This is a great idea for pot plants that lose their moisture quickly and plants that are positioned in full sun.

Mulch

Once you have the moisture in your plant you need to keep it there. Mulch helps retain moisture in a thirsty garden so before summer really hits pop an insulating layer of pine bark or pebbles over your plants and pots to help reduce evaporation.

If you can find an organic mulch you’re another step ahead as this will condition the soil as it breaks down, fuelling your plants for the gruelling summer ahead.

Make your own organic mulch with a DIY worm farm >>

Fertilise

Water might be what your plants need most but after their thirst has been quenched it’s time to give them a feed. Adding manure or a seaweed fertiliser to your garden every few weeks is a great way to make sure your garden stays in top form.

You can use a slow release fertiliser while you’re on holidays, otherwise invest in some seaweed fertiliser and apply it every two to three weeks. During summer, water the solution down a bit as you don’t want to stress your plants into using all their energy on unnecessary growth but do maintain a good feeding schedule. Like you, your plants might need a little bit of extra energy on a hot day to give them the boost they need to survive.

Protect

That sunny spot for your pot plants might have been perfect in winter but they’re likely to fade under summer’s gruelling sun.

If you can, move any plants out of direct sunlight. Bring potted plants inside where possible and group others together to keep them cooler and increase the surrounding humidity. Move what you can to the shade or buy a large canopy plant that loves the sun to provide protection for any undergrowth plants you can’t move.

If all else fails and your garden fades, don’t despair. Keep up with the watering, add a slow release fertiliser and trim back any dead parts. With a bit of love and care your garden will bounce back come autumn and, given time, will return to its former glory.

More tips for your garden

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DIY water feature for under $50
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