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Summer Gardening Guide

Author

Neville Passmore

Published

20 December 2018

Summer Gardening Guide

Many Western Australians take annual holidays during January to coincide with the school holidays.  This, of course, is one of the hottest months of the calendar.  When you go away your garden has a tough time.  What can you do to help it through?

Reticulation

Automatic reticulation systems have become synonymous with successful gardening in Perth because of our sandy soils and Mediterranean climate; no wonder we are among the world leaders in this technology.

Check your reticulation controller, electronic controllers can die, or at least lose function when the operating temperature of the controller itself gets to 40 degrees Celsius. Most electric controllers have a battery installed as a backup for the program.  If a power outage occurs while you are away the battery enables the controller to keep the pre-set program rather than reverting to a default plan where sprinklers typically come on for only 10 minutes.  We suggest replacing the battery if you didn't put in a new one this spring just gone.

If your irrigation runs from a bore then you may have a large filter attached to your system.  These filters need to be cleaned every 2 to 3 months.  We recommend doing a clean-up just before you head out for the holidays to ensure the system is operating at full pressure. 

Filters can be found in individual sprinklers too particularly the pop-up types. Algae can block individual sprinklers as well as form a thin crust on the top of the sprinkler.  This can lead to pop-ups failing to pop.  Have a good look at every sprinkler in action if possible, and clean up filters or sprinkler tops as required.

Even setting the program can help make the system more efficient.  Aim to get your start times as early as you can, ideally just at dawn.  This is usually the coolest part of the day and evaporation losses are at the minimum.  A good soaking drink has time to get into the soil and stick around. 

How long do your sprinklers need to run in order to give your plants or lawn a good soaking? Catch cups are the best tool to use in order to make this judgment, read our blog on Catch Cups here.

A final note on lawns, it is a good practice to avoid cutting your lawn low before departing.  The blades of grass help to shade the roots so leave the lawn as long as practical until you return from your break. 

Mulch

Applying Baileys Moisture Mulch does a lot more than make the garden look great, it also helps to cool soil as well as the garden, reduces evaporation, increases soil water retention, suppresses weed germination, allows rain infiltration and adds organic matter to existing garden areas. 'Bare soil is dead soil' is one of Mother Nature's guiding principles.  Our scorching summer sun can burn the vital soil carbon from uncovered topsoil, further reducing its fertility.  Mulch cools the soil which benefits plants and soil living organisms. Read our blog on The Need To Mulch here for more tips.

Potted plants have a difficult time during the holiday season because they have a relatively small soil volume, which means they tend to dry out much faster than garden soil.  Mulching along with the applications of a wetting agent is also of value.  If you can find a cool shady spot in the garden you can half bury potted plants to keep the potting mix moist for longer.