Eight hot garden tips

Sunday, 04 December 2016

Salvia Mesa Azure gives lots of colour in summer

As we hurtle towards Christmas, I am sure few people have time to read gardening blogs. For my final posting of the year, I thought I would concentrate on a few suggestions for how to manage our gardens in summer. We are going through an extremely hot, dry phase here in Sydney at the moment, and it is very trying for gardeners.

Watering is one of our most vital summer chores

1. Watering - generally speaking, it is best to water your pots and garden beds in the cool of the day, ideally in the morning. Watering in the heat of the day results in rapid evaporation of moisture from the soil and it also can actually be harmful to plants. Fuchsia plants, for example, can actually be killed by being watered in the middle of heatwave. Though it is rather pleasant to stand outside in the evening with a hose, glass of wine in hand, watering at that time of day can increase the risk of mildew and other fungal diseases attacking your leaves. When watering, try to water deeply, rather than just a quick splashing around of water. Consider installing a drip watering system that will deliver water to the soil, where it is needed.

Sugar cane mulch (left) is an excellent garden mulch

2. Mulching - a thick layer of organic matter such as sugar cane mulch, lucerne or semi-decomposed compost applied over the top of soil (which is preferably moist at the time) really does help to conserve water in your garden beds. It also cuts down on the number of weeds, which compete with your plants for water and nutrients, and which have to be pulled out - by you! The mulch eventually breaks down and adds to the humus content of your soil.

3. Do your gardening in the early morning or evening - to avoid the draining, unpleasant heat of the day taking its toll on you. Whenever you are going to be exposed to the rays of the sun, no matter what time of day, wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, and keep well hydrated. I also cover up with clothes as much as possible. My summer gardening outfit is a long-sleeved cotton shirt and long cotton pants, obtained from Vinnies!

4. Avoid planting - as far as possible. It is probably best not to plant new things out in your garden at this time of year, as a sudden heatwave can be very stressful for a newly planted specimen that has not settled into its bed. That said, I often go against my own advice and pop a few plants in here and there. If you are going to do this, it is advisable to water them in well with some Seasol in your watering can, and shade the plant somehow for a week or so, by rigging up a protective tent made out of an old sheet and some sort of support to hold the cloth. An anti-desiccant spray (such as DroughtShield) applied over the leaves can also help the plant cope with intense heat in its early days.

Crepe myrtles are excellent small trees in Sydney for summer shade and flowers, and autumn foliage

5. Plan for some shade - in summer you are able to see which parts of your garden could benefit from the planting of a strategically placed small tree or shrub (particularly on the western side of your property) to make the place more pleasant to be in during the hotter months. Provision of shade can also allow you to grow some of the beautifully shade-loving plants that grow well in our Sydney climate. Do some research into some possibilities, and plan to put them in during autumn or winter next year.

Dahlias are one of the many colourful flowers of summer

6. Look for summer colour - often we think that once spring is over, there can't be many flowers in our gardens. However, there are actually many summer-flowering plants that thrive in Sydney. Check out nurseries and other people's gardens, and make some notes of plants you could add to your garden in autumn to make next summer more colourful .

7. Keep up the fertiliser - plants, especially flowering and cropping ones, need ongoing feeding through the warmer months. Liquid fertiliser is probably the best to use at this time of year. Apply in the morning, and preferably not on a day predicted to be hot. If using granular fertiliser, choose a cool day (preferably a rainy one!) and make sure the fertiliser is very well watered in, otherwise it may burn your plants.

8. Deadhead spent blooms - not only does this tidy up the garden, it encourages more flowers to be formed, especially for plants such as Dahlia and Canna. Pick your vegetable crops regularly for the same reason.

Reader Comments

  • By Janna UK Monday, 05 December 2016

    Happy Christmas, Deirdre. How I wish I could be worrying about warm weather right now!

  • By Carole 2264 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    thanks Deidre for your always-looked-forward-to blog posts throughout the year, and best wishes; enjoy your Christmas.

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Thank you, Deirdre, for your timely tips about looking after the garden during summer, all are most applicable. Thank you for your blogs, during the year - they are always full of good advice and common sense and of great benefit to gardeners.

  • By Ken 2203 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Deirdre, Thanks for iGarden which I always enjoy reading. Best wishes to you for Christmas. I"ll be looking forward to the return of iGarden next year. Ken 2203

  • By Anne 2518 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    thanks for your tips for hot weather- I am just out watering now - very fine misty rain overnight but did not register in gauge. One of my poor tree ferns is looking almost dead but hopefully will recover. Thanks to you and Andrew for all your information over the year and a very Happy Christmas and all the very best for 2017 to your and your family.

  • By Prue 2046 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Many, many thanks for iGarden. This is the best gardening tonic in Australia - for me, not the plants! I appreciate the time and effort it take to put such a useful and entertaining (for garden nerds like me) read. Your ideas and tips are always spot on.

  • By Peta 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Deirdre I always read your blog, but don"t always comment. Your "heat" suggestions are spot on! Even though the lawn doesn"t grow quite as fast, I find neatly trimmed lawns boost my morale and allow me to spot the snakes that come with the heat. Have a great Christmas and New Year. Let"s hope Mother nature is kind.

  • By Sue T. 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Thanks for your blog which always forms part of my Monday routine. Enjoy your Christmas break. Let"s hope we don"t have to spend all of it trying to keep our gardens watered. Sue

  • By Lindy 2093 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Merry Christmas, Deirdre. Look forward to your blogs every week and have learnt so much from them - thank you!

  • By Lynne 2479 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Many thanks for a year of interesting and informative gardening news Deirdre. You brighten my day with your blog and I have absorbed many of your tips into my gardening world. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and I hope 2017 is very kind to you and your garden.

  • By Sue 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Thanks for your great blogs over the last year, always informative and interesting.Today I am planting:-)more lettuce,cucumber and beetroot to keep salads going for summer. I will put shade over them for a day or so and sometimes just a bracken stem or trimmed branch stuck in alongside, which will gradually wither giving them some time to get on, though I"m glad I don"t have to rely entirely on my veggie patch to feed us! Best wish to you & yours for Christmas and the New Year. Sue

  • By Tracey 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    All I want for Christmas is some nice warm days and some rain at night- surely not too much to ask for! Best wishes to you and your family and many thanks for your blog each week.

  • By Pam 2159 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Thanks for all the interesting blogs Deirdre. Have just returned from Tasmania where it snowed a little in Strahan a week or so ago! The roses, rhododendrons and iris were magnificent - but the jacarandas and agapanthus are looking cool and "Christmassy" in Sydney. Best wishes for Christmas and the new year.

  • By Helen 7256 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Hi Deiedre, thanks for reminder re coping with heat. Its much cooler here but will stop planting out this week. Did have a backlog of new aquisitions which hadnt been planted as spring was so wet. Will use your seasol tip for all my recent plantings. Thankyou so much for your blog - especially good to get the notifications and links to new postings

  • By Annette 4306 (Zone:11B - Tropical) Monday, 05 December 2016

    Dear Deidre, thank you for all your effort and inormation for 2016. Last Saturday my garden was ripped apart by a ferocious win from a storm. Add to that terrible heatwaves of late, and gardening is just hard work. But my spirit goes on, because I have the gardening gene in my blood. Cheers for 2017 Deidre. Annette So sorry to hear about that terrible storm. Hope the garden will recover. Deirdre

  • By Georgina 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 06 December 2016

    Thank you for all the interesting posts throughout the year. Wonderful tips and good information suited to Sydney gardens. Have a Happy Christmas Deidre and I look forward to your first post for 2017. Georgina

  • By Pam 3216 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Tuesday, 06 December 2016

    Hi Deirdre, thanks for all the great gardening gems you have delivered throughout the year. Happy Christmas to you and your family. Best wishes,Pam.

  • By Maureen 2118 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 06 December 2016

    Thanks Deirdre for a another year of great posts full of gardening guidance. All the best to you, Andrew and your family for the up and coming Christmas Season - where has the last year gone!!! Kind regards

  • By Carmel 2219 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Saturday, 17 December 2016

    Thank you so much for your blog Deidre. I really look forward to reading it and I learn so much . I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and I look forward to iGarden again in 2017. Kind regards, Carmel

  • By Margaret 3002 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Wednesday, 28 December 2016

    Happy New Year Deirdre. Thankyou for all your work, time and effort throughout 2016. I wonder if you realise how much pleasure you give to Gardeners. I enjoy every part of your site and it is lovely of you to do it. Hot weather keeps us indoors but it is such a pleasure to go to Igarden for some much needed hort therapy. I hope you are rewarded for your generosity as it is so appreciated. Best Wishes to you and yours. Regards Margaret Hi Margaret-- thanks so much for your kind words. This time of year is so trying for gardeners and I seem to lose enthusiasm, so it is lovely to get positive feedback! All the best for the New Year. Deirdre

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