Gardening in the heat

Too hot to garden

Too hot to garden? Here are six of the essentials for gardening through an Aussie summer.

  1. Water early Do it first thing in the morning to hydrate plants in need before it gets too hot. If that doesn’t work for you, water in the cool of the late afternoon, but avoid wetting foliage, as water left on leaves can accelerate the onset of mildew diseases.
  2. Top up mulch The best way to boost your watering efforts is to maintain a good layer of mulch. This works like a blanket, reducing evaporation and holding moisture in the soil for much longer. The mulch smothers weeds, too, reducing your workload! If your soil is bare, or the mulch is looking thin, lay down a fresh organic mulch to a depth of 7–10cm. Do this straight after a deep soaking.
  3. Shade precious plants Throw shadecloth over flowers, vegies and other heat-sensitive plants at risk of burning or becoming mortally dry and wilted over summer. Shadecloth is graded according to how much light it shuts out. A maximum shade rating of 25 per cent is recommended for most things – providing too much shade to sun-loving plants long-term can cause new growth to become lanky and weak. When temperatures soar, your plants will thank you for the protection.
  4. Keep pots cool On very hot days, move sun-loving plants to a cooler spot temporarily, or spray their foliage with an anti-transpirant. These products coat and protect foliage, reducing the effects of heat stress and sunburn. Water more regularly to keep the mix cool, and apply mulch. If the water is running down the sides of the root ball and not soaking in, submerge the pot in water for 10 minutes, or apply a wetting agent.
  5. Apply liquid seaweed These mixtures strengthen the cell walls in plants and encourage more root development, which helps the plants withstand heat stress. Apply to the roots or as a foliar spray once a week.
  6. Solarise weeds Forget about pulling out weeds. Slash them if they are tall, then cover the weedy area with black plastic. The intense heat below the plastic kills the plants and eliminates seeds as well.

For many more useful tips for surviving a hot summer in the garden, pick up a copy of the January issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, on sale now.