Life Home Keep your garden alive in summer through fire, drought, extreme heat
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Keep your garden alive in summer through fire, drought, extreme heat

Lawn does use water, but it also keeps your house and neighbourbood cooler. Photo: Anthony Pancia
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As temperatures rise sharply, here are some simple tips to keeping your backyard alive and green during the hot summer months.

While it is a challenge to stop everything from curling up and turning brown, it is possible said horticulturalists Deryn Thorpe and Lisa Passmore.

Trees and gardens, while they do use precious water supplies, also have an important role in keeping our homes and neighbourhoods cool.

“Lawn is actually a lot cooler to walk on than something like pavers,” Ms Thorpe explained.

“Don’t rip out your lawn, and definitely do not replace it with that artificial turf because that is hot as hell in summer.”

A blue fairy wren on a lawn
Even if it goes a bit brown, don’t rip up your lawn. Photo: Jessica McLachlan

Don’t prune or plant if you can avoid it

Now is not the time to do any actual gardening. That is best left until autumn.

“Don’t go out there and do a really hard prune, I think that’s really important through summer,” Ms Passmore advised.

“Pruning will stimulate new growth and those new shoots are not going to be as resilient to the hot weather.”

If someone gives you a tree or plant for Christmas, try to keep it in the pot as long as possible.

Green leafy plant in a pot with some leaves going brown
Keep plants in pots until autumn and keep them in the shade to protect the leaves. Photo: Emma Wynne

“Keep them in the pot, in a shady spot, then I’d be planning to do a big planting in autumn when the worst of the heat is over,” Ms Thorpe said.

If you absolutely have to do some landscaping in December, prepare your soil as much as possible and give the plant a dip in water first.

“I recommend dunking your plants in a bucket of water with a bit of seaweed solution before you plant it out, so you can be sure the plant is wet through before you put it in the ground,” Ms Passmore said.

Don’t dig deep

If your soil is sandy and unable to hold onto water, add some clay and compost before you plant, and don’t dig down to deep, it’s not necessary.

“People tend to dig to China when they put a plant in. It’s too hot,” Ms Thorpe said.

“Prepare your soil wide because that is where all the feeding roots are.”

Sun shines on green leaves
There is such a thing as sunscreen for your plants and it is called acrylic polymer. Photo: Emma Wynne

Plants need hats and sunscreen too

Ms Thorpe recently went on a three-week trip and returned during a heatwave, worried about how her plants may have held up.

“I had sprayed it before I went with an acrylic polymer and I really want to recommend everyone use an acrylic polymer, because what is does is stop transpiration [evaporation of water] from the leaves,” she said.

“Plants breathe through their leaves and it will save about 50 per cent water loss through the leaves.

“Acrylic polymer is just like a sunscreen [and] lasts for 60 days.

“When I came back everything that I was worried about was looking great.”

Garden bed covered with shade cloth.
Edible plants and veggie patches need shade cloth in summer. Photo: Kim Honan

Acrylic polymer, which is available at most nurseries, is best for plants that need a lot of water, like hydrangeas, and is not recommended for plants you are planning to eat, like herbs and vegetables.

“Your vegetables do not want to be in the full sun,” Ms Passmore said.

“They need 40 to 50 per cent shade cloth over the top because it’s just too hot right now.”

Make your own mulch

Mulching is a tried and true way of insulating your garden beds against evaporation, but it is important to have the right kind.

Tea tree mulch
Mulch insulates moisture in the soil and can be a way to use up prunings. Photo: Jessica Schremmer

“The best kind of water-wise mulch is actually a chunky mulch and my tip is: If it’s uncomfortable to walk on, it’s probably a good water-wise mulch,” Ms Passmore said.

“If it’s fine and soft underfoot, it’s probably more of a compost-type material.”

Mulch can also pose a risk to your garden; if it was sourced from diseased trees or plants that had a fungal pathogen it could introduce disease to your garden.

The only way to avoid that is to make careful checks or to make your own mulch by cutting up your pruning.

“Ideally don’t let anything leave your property when you are doing some trimming,” Ms Passmore suggested.

“Pop it through a mulcher shredder if you have one or small stuff can be chopped up with a secateurs and dropped directly on the mulch.”

-ABC

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