Date posted: 01 December 2017
Well, this spring has been a return to regular programming after last year's cool and wet conditions, so we haven't had the same phenomenal amount of plant growth of 2016. Having said that, it has been a topsy turvy few weeks, featuring days in the thirties peppered with more chilly ones (make up your mind, Adelaide!).
If you're scratching your head about what jobs to do in the garden this summer, heed these tips from our Botanic Gardens curators and staff from The Diggers Garden Shop.
It’s not too late to mulch
Mulch helps protect your soil from heating up and drying out, will reduce amount of summer irrigation required and can improve the overall appearance of your garden. Better yet, if you choose an organic mulch it will slowly add nutrients to your soil as it breaks down, thus feeding your plants as well.
If you’re going away over summer consider using a low environmental impact wetting agent on your garden – particularly your pot plants as they can dry out within a day. Installing automatic irrigation systems is another method to protect your garden from drying out. If you choose the right system and mulch, the garden should continue to thrive even if you’re away taking some much needed time off.
Eyes on the prize
Make sure you keep a close eye on your plants over summer. “Indicator plants” that are the first to droop due to insufficient soil moisture can be used as sure signs the garden requires additional irrigation (at Mount Lofty staff often use hydrangeas as indicator plants because they’re some of the first plants to droop, but recover well with watering).
If you notice plants struggling, possibly add more mulch, increase irrigation or even add some temporary shade structures to help younger/smaller plants through the heat of summer.
Watering deeply encourages plants to develop a larger and stronger root mass, rather than more frequent shallow watering, which makes plants more drought and heat-resistant. Check your irrigation systems regularly to ensure they're working properly.
Avoid strong chemical fertilisers that encourage lots of soft leaf growth (you don’t want this on extreme heat days as the plants will stress more trying to cope). Instead use a fertiliser that encourages root growth, like Neutrog’s GOGO Juice. Adding this to your plants in the cool of morning will aid the plants’ resistance to disease and heat stress throughout summer.
When you're mowing this summer, raise the height of your blades a bit to leave the grass a tad longer (if you've got a warm season variety such as Kikuyu). This will keep the roots from being fried and better protect your soil. Again - give your grass a good deeper soaking, say, once a week, rather than frequent quick surface soaks.
Kitchen gardening and other plants
The team at The Diggers Garden Shop reckon it's a great time to plant subtropicals such as bananas, papayas, curry plants and avocados, with the cool of the day the best time to plant. Some summer beauties to sow from seed include cucumber mini-white and Mexican sour gherkin, Asian greens, cherry tomatoes, basil and microgreens for summer salads. And don't forget chillies, lemongrass, sweet potatoes and passionfruit!
If you're after indoor plants, Diggers have you covered too. Peruse the shop's shelves to find something suited to light and sunny spots, or for something to brigthen a dark corner.
It's worth considering deadheading/tip pruning your small shrubs and herbaceous perennials once they've finished flowering. Doing this prevents the plant using energy required to produce seed, and this energy will most likely be used to produce more flowers. Deadheading also helps the plant look more tidy overall.
Tip pruning can also be carried out in early summer on shrubs (including natives) that have finished flowering in late spring or early summer. Tip pruning helps keep the plant more compact and encourages vigour and new growth. Just be careful not to prune too hard in summer on some shrubs because the shock and heat stress that may occur can damage the tender and soft new growth.
Approximately two-in-three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70 (source: Cancer Council Australia), which means it’s vital you Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide when out in the garden this summer.