Beating The Summer Heat by Charlie Albone

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Charlie Image2Beating the heat in the summer is all about timing – you need to be up early and taking advantage of the light evenings, keeping out of the sun in the middle of the day.

The heat in January not only knocks us about but has an effect on the garden and plants too. Keeping sufficient water going into the garden is the key to managing your plants’ stress levels.

The first step is to Improve the soil with Richgro Mushroom Compost as this helps retain moisture and nutrients. For very sandy beach side soils, try Richgro ‘Bentonite Natural Sand to Soil’.  This is a combination of minerals and clay that helps bind the sand which then increases water and nutrient holding capacity.

I then use a soil wetter such as Richgro Ezi-Wet. Sandy soils can get very dry quickly which makes it a breading ground for bacteria that can coat the soil effectively making it water proof. So water runs off instead of in. Applying a spray-on soil wetter will remove the waxy coating and allow water to penetrate into the soil and down to the roots. I often use this on clay and loam soils as well as any type of soil that can get hydrophobia and have excessive run off.

Reduce water loss through mulch, studies show the ideal depth is 75mm as this slows water into the ground, preventing run off but also suppresses weed growth and water evaporation. I use something organic based, such as Richgro All Purpose Water Saving Mulch, that will break down over time and add organic matter to the soil.

Water early and late to minimise evaporation and water for longer periods less often rather than a little bit each day as this teaches roots to grow deep into the soil. Deeper roots are more tolerant to drought, especially if you are planning on going away for a few weeks.

Automated Irrigation systems really take the stress out of having to water and can be programmed to come on early morning and late afternoon. Drip systems are great for hiding under mulch and getting water directly to the plants’ root zones, however they can block up over time and may not wet all the soil, leaving some to dry out. Spray irrigation systems use more water but often replicate a rain effect with their dispersion so plants behave in a more natural manner when using these systems. If you’ve got the water available I prefer sprayers.

Fertilising should never be done when a plant is heat stressed, so steer clear of liquid fertilisers, especially in the middle of the day. One of the best fertilisers to use over the hotter months is Richgro Blood and Bone, it is organic and slow release which means it will not burn you plants when they are heat stressed

Potted plants also need a bit of care as the mix in them often dries out quickly, I have my pots on wheels so they can get some morning sun but avoid the harsh late western sun that is often very damaging. I used to sit my pots in a saucer of water so when it was really hot they have some reserves in the heat however I found this became a breeding ground for mosquitoes and a nuisance to wheel around so I have started to add water saving crystals to my potting mix that releases water into the soil when the pot dries out – giving the plants an extra reserve.

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