WITH Mackay’s summers generally hot and wet, there’s a few things you can do to prepare your garden for summer survival.
Mulch is beneficial in reducing how much water evaporates from the soil and can lock in much-needed moisture in summer.
It also helps moderate the soil temperature, keeping it cooler on hot days and, in an area like Mackay where downpours are notorious during summer, mulch can protect bare soil, reducing erosion in the event of heavy rain.
There are a variety of mulches available depending on why you’re using them. See our handy guide to the different types of mulch available and what you might use for your yard and why, here.
Whatever the mulch, if it is being used to limit moisture loss, the trick is in the depth of the mulch. Too thin and the moisture will be evaporated, too heavy and water won’t always make it through to the plant roots below.
A general rule of thumb is to apply a 50mm layer of mulch to non-irrigated gardens and a 50-75mm layer of mulch in regularly watered gardens.
2. Leave lawns longer
Leaving lawns longer can help it stay moist on hot days and prevent the brown, bare patches that appear during summer when a lawn has been scalped (essentially, cut too low).
During hot humid periods, lawns grow rapidly. Mowing them on a high setting will keep lawns in check and allow it enough length to retain moisture in the soil, keeping it lush and green all summer round.
On the other hand, during prolonged periods of wet weather, soil can become acidic so apply products like lime and gypsum to help condition the soil. Gypsum helps water penetrate the soil while lime helps restore the soil’s PH.
Regardless of whether it is hot or wet, lawns always benefit from a good feeding. Look at applying a seaweed tonic monthly or one handful of poultry manure per square metre every three months.
3. Prepare those pots
Any potted plants are at a higher risk of overheating than plants planted in the garden.
To ensure potted plants survive summer, add a light layer of mulch to lock in moisture and water them in the cooler parts of the day.
Watering potted plants early in the morning will also help maintain moisture in the soil and prevent plant stress during the day.
If the potted plants can be moved safely (without hurting yourself!), reposition them out of direct, hot sunlight.
Many believe standing potted plants in water will help keep them moist but this just encourages root rot and worse, mosquito breeding. Instead, stand the pot in a saucer of sand and keep the sand damp. This will help keep the roots of the potted plant cool.
In the event a potted plant dries out due to lack of water, stand the pot in a bucket of water for half an hour then drain.
4. Water when it is cool
Whether it be in the early morning or the late afternoon, the only rule when it comes to watering to help gardens survive summer, is water when it is cool.
Here are a few pros to watering early morning and late afternoon.
Pro: it enables the water to absorb into the soil and reach the roots of the plants because excess water isn’t lost to evaporation.
Pro: the garden has access to water throughout the day helping to prevent heat stress when it comes to the middle of the day.
Pro: Evaporation is cut down and plants have several hours without the sun to draw the water into their root systems.
If watering irregularly, try to water plants deeply.
5. Give gardens a good feed
There are numerous feeders to correct mineral deficiencies and provide plants with the nutrients they need to survive summer.
A soluble fertiliser like seaweed is a good allrounder for all plants.
Potash is ideal for citrus trees. Apply around the bases and the potassium helps improve flavour and juiciness in the fruit the tree produces.
Magnesium encourages the production of energy in plants and results in robust growth. Apply to gardenias and roses in summer.
Lime helps restore the PH of soil while gypsum helps enable water to penetrate it.
Manure fertilisers are good all-rounders for lawns, crops and other garden plants.