Sustain your summer garden

Lady beetles eat aphids.
Lady beetles eat aphids.

While spring and autumn can be busy times in the garden, sometimes in summer our green spaces are left to fend for themselves.

However there are a few jobs you can do to give your garden a helping hand through the heat.

Mulch

The first is mulch. This can be a life-saver, especially if you aren’t spending a lot of time at home over summer. Mulch should be about seven centimeters deep, and applied after a deep watering. Keep it clear of plant stems, and choose one that will enrich your soil as it breaks down, such as sugarcane, pea straw or lucerne.

Wood mulches such as pine bark, or other options such as gravel, will work on the short term to inhibit weed growth, but won’t help your soil.

Consider a living ground cover such as prostrate herbs, matting succulents or spreading natives like violets or Brachyscome. Not only will they help save water and block weeds, might they can also add extra colour.

Feed

If your plants are looking a bit stressed, choose a low impact feed such as liquid seaweed or diluted worm tea and apply fortnightly. It best applied early in the morning. Too much fertiliser in summer can actually stress plants.

Water smarter: Aim water at the roots rather than the foliage, and use compost or manure to improve the water-holding capacity of sandy soil.

Water smarter: Aim water at the roots rather than the foliage, and use compost or manure to improve the water-holding capacity of sandy soil.

Water

You will probably need to water, but don’t turn on your hose just for the sake of it. Test the soil first: if it’s damp, skip watering for the day. Or if you know a few scorchers are coming up, water deeply at the roots, but ensure the water still has a chance to drain away, especially in pots. Water first thing in the morning, and a long drink a couple of times a week is much better for your plants than a quick daily hose. 

You could get technical and avoid getting your hands dirty by using a soil moisture sensor. This can be especially useful if you have a drip irrigation system.

Pests

During your morning water is the best time to take note of any pests in your garden. Some, such as aphids and caterpillars can be pulled off by hand, or you can buy beneficial bugs such as ladybirds or praying mantis to gobble them up.

Other bugs such as thrips and mites will require a spray but ensure it won’t harm the good bugs. Ask your local garden centre for advice.

Shade

Avoid pruning during summer as it may be protecting new growth below. You could also build a few simple shade structures to pop over vegies on the very hot or windy days.

It’s also a good time to track the sun over your house; could you plant a deciduous tree that might provide shade in a few years?