We certainly have had a hot spell of late with heat waves and little rain, it would appear from all sources that it will be hot and dry summer. Growing stuff is always more challenging in this weather but it’s what we love to do so with a few tips and ideas one certainly can have a good looking patch for summer.
It can be a challenge keeping everything fresh in the middle a heat wave or hot spell. Water plants in the morning and evening not only to limit water loss from evaporation, watering in the cooler parts of the day allows for the water to penetrate the soil better. Watering mid day can also damage plants when the sun shines on water it can act like a magnifying glass, burning the leaves below.
Most plants prefer a good deep watering, less frequently than a surface watering every day. A good soak gets to the lower roots where as light watering encourages surface roots which can weaken particularly shrubs. Look at your irrigation habits and adjust to suit the weather. When watering containers always water enough until excess water runs out the bottom of the pot.
Be careful not to over-dig in hot weather when plants are struggling to get enough water. A no-dig or limited-dig policy will minimise the loss of moisture from the surface of the soil.
The best way to conserve water is to mulch around your plants. Mulch helps retain the moisture longer so that plants get more. It also helps regulate the temperature which has huge benefits to the plants. Mulch comes in many forms and is basically a layer of something over the soil. Most commonly we use compost or bagged mulch which is basically a rough compost. Decorative mulch such as bark chips, pebbles or nut shells work in that they last longer and also add interest.
If you do use decorative mulch we recommend that at least once or twice a year you remove it to add some compost and then replace the mulch back over the top. Compost is the only way to improve the condition of the soil and after years under pebbles or dump rock the soil can become quite barren and the plants don’t do as well.
Tip: Compost to a depth of 25mm into the surface of the soil will help conserve and retain any moisture.
Naturally one tends to water more frequently when it’s hot. Beat the heat by feeding with quick release fertilisers or organic fertilisers. Stay away from chemical slow release fertiliser as it leaches away with frequent watering.
Fertilisers such as Bio Ganic will help the garden bounce back from extreme weather. As an organic fertiliser it binds with the soil and stays available for the plants over a longer period. Feed the garden every six to eight weeks for the best long term results.
To boost growth or colour quickly a liquid plant food is best especially in containers. Multifeed or Wondersol will replace nutrients washed out by frequent watering and if you are watering more that three times a week we would recommend feeding your container every week to keep them looking fresh.
If your containers dry out to quickly for your watering schedule look at adding Water Retention crystals to the soil mix. They hold on to water like a gel and release it over a longer period into the soil, ideal for hanging baskets.
Train your plants. When plants are young they adapt to the amount of water that is available. By keeping to routine, plants adapt and you can water less.
Don’t panic about watering the lawn. Lawns especially Kikuyu can be very water hungry by watering them less frequently they will be hardier. If they get very dry and die back don’t stress as they revitalise very quickly with regular rain. Kikuyu lawns will still look great if fed with an organic fertiliser such as Bio Lawn and watered thoroughly once a week. In hot spells raise the level of your mower. This helps them handle the extremes better than lawns that are mowed short.
Bugs are opportunists and as soon as plants are under strain and not as resilient bugs attack! Keep a regular lookout for especially Mealy Bug, Scale and Red Spider and catch it early.
Lastly select plants that are water wise and more importantly plant in the right spot. For example, Impatiens are water hungry but if planted in more shade they will need less water and flower better than if they are in a sunny spot needing water once or twice every day.