My summer survival plan is to stay indoors when the mercury climbs above 35C. If we get temperatures like February 2017, it’s going to be crunch time for some of my plants, but I plan to give them the best chance I can. And I’ll look after myself as well. My secret weapons? Mulch and books.
I’m going to have to act fast, to give my garden the best chance of survival, and to help keep my water bills under control. We’ve recently had some rain, but with temperatures going well into the 30’s this week, there’s no time to lose.
Mulching is the best way to preserve water in the soil. Here are some secrets of mulching year-round, from the Diggers Club.
- Mulch after frost danger has passed, and when the soil moisture content is at its maximum.
- If you have bulbs, mulching before their leaves sprout will make the job easier.
- Avoid mulching in the height of a dry summer. Most of the moisture will already have evaporated from the soil, and mulch applied in these conditions will prevent rainfall from reaching the plants. (I’m going to soak my gardens as well as I can with the hose, before I spread the mulch).
- If you do have to apply mulch in high summer or deep winter (eg: for aesthetic purposes), use a thin layer only.
- Thick organic mulch has lots of air pockets, helping to cool the soil in summer. However in winter, this kind of mulch can increase frost potential, as it prevents heat loss into the air at night.
- Moist, weed-free compact soil is more frost resistant.
- For vegetables, an organic lucerne mulch is optimal, as it allows good water infiltration and insulates the soil as well. Other good mulches for veggies include pea straw, organic compost and sugar cane.
- Bark chips (16-20mm size, with no fine material) are excellent mulch for trees and shrubs, also allowing good water infiltration.
- Wood chips are also good for trees and shrubs, but it’s important to ensure the chips come from disease-free trees. Importantly, wood chips are low in nitrogen, so they’re good for suppressing weeds. Maybe someone can tell me whether there’s a danger from termites.
Bark chips (left) and wood chips (right)
- Carpet is excellent as a weed barrier on veggie patch pathways, but be careful as it may have been treated with chemicals. It can also provide a shelter for rodents and other pests, so use cautiously.
- Black plastic mulch is used extensively in strawberry cultivation. Red plastic mulch can increase yields in tomatoes, by increasing the red light in the environment, thereby increasing photosynthesis.
Other garden chores to do in December, include:
- Weave or tie wayward berry canes back into their trellis system.
- Stone fruits are forming now, so net the trees to protect them from birds.
- Pot plants are more susceptible to heat damage than plants in the ground. Move any pot plants that dislike full sun, into the shade.
When it’s too hot to be working in the garden, I’m going to relax and catch up on reading! Some books on my summer reading list are:
- There is no excuse for ugliness by Clive Blazey. This book, written for Australian gardeners, aims to inspire the creation of beautiful gardens that are cool and refreshing over the hottest summers. It offers achievable solutions for creating colour schemes, combining evergreen perennials and growing bulbs and annuals for seasonal highlights.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett I remember this book fondly from childhood, and I’m looking forward to when my grand-daughter is old enough for me to read this story to her. It tells a story of discovery and transformation, and a forgotten garden.
- A Million Wild Acres by Eric Rolls I heard a radio program recently about this book, which was first published in 1981, and the Pilliga Scrub. It has me intrigued.
This is my last blog post for 2017. Thank you to all who have read, followed, liked and commented on my posts. It’s a thrill to receive a response after sending my weekly creative offering out into the ether!
I’ll be offline until January, working on some interesting projects, which will be the subject of blog posts early in 2018. Here’s a clue, in a suitably festive colour scheme.
Have a wonderful Christmas!