Protect your garden from summer heat
Stuff NZ Newspapers
The heat. We dream about it all year and then, boom! It hits us, and our gardens, and we have to think seriously about how we will manage it. The summer heat helps our gardens flourish, but the blazing sun beaming upon our yards all day can also be relentless for our plants. It can be tough to keep the garden in top shape. USE WATER SMARTLY Mulch is one of the best-used secrets of any successful gardener. It saves precious water from being wasted when you give the garden a drink, or when it rains, and stops roots from drying out. You can reuse most garden waste such as lawn clippings, fallen leaves, or even newspaper as mulch. You can also purchase pea straw, hay or bark chip mulch to do the same thing, and they are relatively inexpensive. Whatever you choose, add a generous layer to cover the soil in your garden beds, pots and hanging baskets. If you have large amounts of mulch, water in each layer as you build it up. Watch out in the wind – you could possibly lose some mulch. But if you check it regularly and have spare on hand, your garden will thrive in the hot summer weather. If your pots are looking a bit sad, which can happen as they are more affected by the heat, move them to a different spot out of direct light. It is best to water your vege garden and herbs either first thing in the morning or in the early evening to conserve water. Setting timers, using drip irrigation systems and hand watering can all help your garden by delivering the water straight to the plant rather than spraying it all over the place. In some parts of Aotearoa, gardeners need to water on a schedule over summer because of restrictions. GET UP CLOSE WITH YOUR PLANTS Observation is one of our best tools for the continued success of our gardens and landscapes. Often we are so thrilled at the growth from afar, we don’t see underlying issues until we spend time close-up. Go through your gardens and pots once a week during summer to see if you can spot any stress, heat or drought issues, and also to check the general health of your plants. It’s a good time to give them a foliar feed before summer really kicks in, so they can absorb the nutrients needed to grow. Some summer issues you might spot could be dry, brittle trunks or branches, leaf curl, extremely dry soil, pests, or plants (especially herbs) bolting too soon. Each of these issues can be remedied early, if you observe the garden weekly. Trimming branches, removing leaves that are unhappy, organic pest control, and extra foliar and soil feeds can help make your garden happy again. Remember, summer is both the best and worst time of the year for our plants – if we leave things too long, we can waste the precious time we have spent on creating our gardens. WHAT ELSE TO DO IN THE GARDEN IN JANUARY January is a wonderful time to keep planting seedlings, sowing seeds and taking care of your lush garden. For veges, keep sowing and growing lettuce mixes. Put another few rows of potatoes in, start picking your berries, sow more strawberries, start brassicas in trays ready to plant out in a few weeks. Your beds and pots will be producing in bountiful amounts, so replacing what is being harvested with fresh seedlings is a great way to keep them full until the season changes. Oh, and make sure you put your feet up with your loved ones and friends too. Turn those herb gardens into cocktail ingredients and use them for homemade pizza nights. Jade Temepara is an Ellerslie Flower Show medal winner and former New Zealand Gardener of the Year.