Summer is the most productive time in the garden. It’s when most of our fruit, vegetables and flowers grow.
Unfortunately, it can also be very challenging…especially if you live in a place with hot, dry, windy summers like I do. (I live in Canberra, capital of Australia).
So now is the time to make last-minute preparations, particularly if you are going away for Christmas or a summer holiday.
Here are my 5 keys to helping your garden survive – and hopefully thrive – this summer:
Mulch. Mulch, mulch, mulch, mulch and mulch.
Mulch is the key to your garden surviving summer sustainably (that is, without consuming vast amounts of water).
Mulch is absolutely vital for 4 reasons:
- it keeps the soil cool
- it keeps moisture in
- it keeps nutrients in
- mulch reduces weeds because they don’t have access to light…and it makes them easier to pull out (if you have to)
You can use almost anything as mulch, as long as it serves these 4 functions. Having said that, organic mulch (that is, something that once lived) improves the soil. Use whatever is locally available as mulch. This tends to be cheaper (maybe even free ;)) and it has lower environmental impact than mulch that has been transported long distances.
Ensure the soil is moist before you add the mulch because rain and watering doesn’t always penetrate mulch. Applying mulch after a good soaking from rain saves you time and money.
Add soil conditioners and fertilisers just before you mulch. The mulch will help keep them in rather than washing away or evaporating.
2 Ensure that your soil is in good condition.
Your soil needs to be able to feed and support plants over summer. If the soil is in good condition it will have good water holding and drainage.
- Add compost, composted manure or worm castings to improve the condition of the soil and help to feed it.
- Add other fertilisers such as manure, blood & bone and rock minerals.
Ideally do this a few weeks before planting, but if not just incorporate them into the soil at the time of planting.
3 Ensure that your ‘weeds’ are under control
This is important because you need to eliminate competition for food and water for the plants that you do want to grow over summer.
But…consider whether your ‘weeds’ could be desirable, eg as food, medicine, companion plants or mulch. (Hint: you’ll need to get advice on this. Contact me if you need to ;))
Sufficient and regular water is the key to growing good fruit and vegetables…and to ensuring your plants survive the heat and wind.
Watering deeply encourages deep root growth, which makes the plants more drought tolerant so they need watering less often. (But some plants like lettuce are very shallow rooted and so will need frequent watering.)
You will need to ensure that your watering systems (including human ones ;)) are set up and checked to ensure they are in good working order to work well and efficiently over the summer.
Consider drip irrigation, watering spikes and wicking beds/boxes for less water wastage.
Wicking beds and wicking boxes supply water direct to the roots…without any evaporation from the soil. They therefore further increase reliability of water supply and reduce the amount of water you need to supply.
Sun and wind can be particularly harsh in summer.
Many plants – particularly tender ones – will appreciate some shelter. Some plants, such as tomatoes and beans, won’t set fruit if they are too hot. And wind is very drying.
Shade can be provided by other plants or shadecloth or hessian canopies.
Wind protection can be found in the lee of hedges or physical barriers such as fences and buildings. Even shadecloth or hessian can reduce windspeed.
Enjoy your summer garden. And use the Reply box below or the Contact form to ask any questions or share your favourite strategies for garden summer survival.
Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!