Helping your Garden Handle the Heat of Summer

Summer is a great time of year, the long hot days spent at the beach or relaxing under the shade of a tree (when you get the chance). But what about the garden?.

Even a well thought out garden can suffer in a 40 degree plus run of Summer days. Some of us let the garden go and if it doesn’t survive then plant something else – problem is if you are planting the wrong plants then the whole garden may go! Some like to water – people can find watering the garden relaxing but I would consider long term watering to be a luxury in the garden and leading down the path of a less sustainable garden. I personally take the approach of if it doesn’t survive maybe it is not the right plant for the area. But I also understand that as a garden grows it also evolves and as this happens my plant options become greater.

So how do you know what is right for your garden and what can you do to help what you have handle the hot weather? Below are some tips to point you in the right direction.

  1. A White Cedar providing shade in the heat of the day at the nursery

    Shade trees – Positioning of Evergreen and Deciduous shade trees is crucial. With correct placement your cooling costs can be dramatically reduced whilst winter sun can still be received. These plants also provide shelter for other plants in the garden. They do not have to be large trees, there are numerous small to medium plants available ie. Callistemon salignus (Willow-leaved Bottlebrush), Eucalyptus stellulata (Black Sallee), Eucalyptus pauciflora (Snow Gum), Acacia melanoxylon (Blackwood) to name a few that placed correctly can benefit you and the garden.

  2. Plant selection – This can be a tricky one. Although gardens can be close by distance they can be miles apart by micro climate. With so much variation in the conditions it is always best to do your research. Frost, soil type, drainage, aspect and physical location of the garden all play major roles in plant selection. With a basic rule being to plant plants that are local to your area or plants that will grow in similar climatic conditions. Some of you may think that this will be a limiting factor but Wariapendi grow around 300 species suitable for the home garden, specialising in the South East of Australia. With native plant breeding programs there are now numerous cultivars and selections that will suit every situation. Plants selected from other climatic conditions may require much higher input and greatly reduce the sustainability of the garden. We always select a plant for the location and not modify the location to fit a plant and even this will change over time as the gardens environment changes with plants maturing and micro climates created. If you are unsure on plants for your location then talk to a qualified horticulturist or contact Wariapendi and talk to one of our qualified staff.
  3.  Maintenance – One comment I get in the nursery is ‘my plants aren’t growing. Natives don’t grow as good as exotics!’. This question always amuses me because I know that when I prod a little deeper that the plant is usually rarely to blame. People think that native plants can just be planted and left to fend for themselves (because they’re natives), whilst this is true in some circumstances, you will always get more out of the plants if a little care is provided. Generally my first question is ‘is there any grass around the plant’ and the general answer is ‘ yes’ and on further questioning the grass/weeds are quite tall. As with most plants weeds and grass growing up to and around the plant will cause competition on nutrients and most importantly moisture. With weed control and preferably mulching you not only help with the competition but also help retain the moisture and put nutrients back into the soil.
  4. Mulching helps control weeds and retain moisture in the soil

    Mulch Selection– Another question is what mulch should I use. Easy. Wood chip, leaf litter, tub mulch, sugar cane, tea-tree or any of the non manure mulches (get advice if unsure). Steer clear of manures as some natives will not handle them and if they are not broken down enough can cause major problems. As a rule of thumb when using leaf litter, wood chip, tub mulch or similar allow 100mm thickness and this will provide good weed control and reduce evaporation.

  5. Stage your planting – In some situations trying to get your garden complete in one pass is not possible. If you have a garden that is exposed, then start with the pioneer or framework plants. These plants don’t have to be ugly or short term – they are plants that will create microclimates for the other plants to grow in later down the track.
  6. Watering – If you do need to water then it is always best to provide your plants with a good soaking irregularly. This will encourage their roots to go deep and look for water. Regular light watering does not encourage the roots to go deep and requires more longterm water use which is not sustainable. As always water in the morning or afternoon not in the heat of the day to minimise evaporation.

Hopefully with good planing, layout and a little bit of maintenance you can spend more time relaxing in the garden than working in the garden.

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