Melbourne summers can be a very testing time on our gardens, drying out soil or even scorching our beautiful spring plants. It’s an easy time of year to for us all to slip away on a lovely holiday and forget that our poor gardens are dying of thirst! So here are a few tips to keep you garden hydrated and happy.
1. Be prepared early
If you’re going away, check the forecast before you leave and set irrigation timers accordingly. If you don’t have a timed system, arrange for someone to water your garden while away (ensuring they know how much is enough). Installing some shade cloth can be very helpful, especially for pots and seedlings.
2. Water less often but thoroughly
Initially check to see if you really need to water. A quick test: push aside any mulch and put your finger into the soil. If it’s moist below the surface, then you don’t need to water. It’s far better to water occasionally with plenty of water, rather than water often, with just a little.
By doing this you actually help plants to withstand hot, dry weather. Furthermore, you will be surprised at how resilient your plants are and they won’t actually need additional watering once established.
3. Water early in the morning or late in the evening
This way less water will evaporate on the surface and it will help the plant to get a good supply before the day warms up. Ideally, it’s best to water early morning as slugs and fungi tend to love damp soil when it’s dark.
4. Precision watering with the right tool
Avoid using a hose with a strong jet that creates holes in the soil as you water. So rather than a standard garden hose (where so much water can also be lost in mist and evaporation) try a soaker hose or sprinkler wand.
Always water around the plant and avoid wetting leaves as much as possible. Wet leaves left in the sun can become scorched and wet leaves left overnight can encourage mould. Alternatively, get straight to the roots with a simple drip irrigation system that will give the plants more time to absorb water. Most of these systems can be set to a timer – too easy!!
A fantastic way to conserve water and lengthen time in between watering. Composted mulch also improves soil structure and nutrients. Be careful not to use too much, 70 – 100mm of coverage is perfect, ensuring water and air can still penetrate.
6. Get some help!
Whether it be a dripper system or sprinklers, using a timed irrigation system will help ensure you water ‘as much as necessary and as little as possible’. You can even buy systems with moisture sensors to take away the guess work.