Summer is an exciting time in the garden with flowers blooming and fruit, vegetables and herbs growing in abundance. With three to four months of warm weather in store, now’s the time to plant things that will grow well in summer.
The key to a long-lasting display of summer flowers is to deadhead regularly. Andrew Grant of Enrich with Nature recommends that, as plants fade out of bloom, pinch or cut off the flower stem below the spent flower and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves. “Repeat with all the dead flowers to encourage more flowers to develop and prolong the plant’s flowering season,” he says.
The warmer weather means plants in summer need regular watering to prevent wilting and even death. Tomatoes, for example, love to be watered, says Andrew. “And if you are growing them in a pot, water well so they don’t dry out,” he advises. “The more you water your tomatoes, the juicier your fruit is going to be. Water at the base, not the leaves, to avoid mildew.”
Keep an eye on your edible goodies – tomatoes love a good feed, too. Andrew recommends giving them a good boost with some fertiliser every couple of weeks as you water them.
When temperatures rise above 30°C for prolonged periods, plants will stop growing and show signs of stress. Leaves may wilt, roll or brown, and flowers and fruit could drop off and blister or discolour.
For successful summer gardening, water regularly and deeply to keep temperatures down. In addition, mulch to retain moisture in the soil and provide shade cloth if necessary. If growing leafy greens, such as lettuces, provide afternoon shade; otherwise, they’ll produce bitter leaves and will quickly go to seed.
Early summer is a great time to give plants a boost to help them cope with rapid growth over the warmer months. Robbie Yortt of Grosafe recommends a slow-release seaweed fertiliser. (Slow-release fertilisers work for four to six months.)
“This is high in organic matter and great for overworked and tired soils,” she says. “Plants will also have the added bonus of being stronger and more resistant to pest damage during dryer periods.”
If your flowers, crops and even lawns fail to thrive, try giving their roots a boost with a mycorrhiza-enhancing product. Look for an organic product that’s safe for all plants.
“These liquid fertilisers feed beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhiza fungi that activate root function and revitalise and improve soil activity,” explains Robbie. “That leads to better uptake of nutrients and moisture, and better plant growth.”
Unwanted visitors such as scale, aphids and stink bugs start to multiply quickly in warmer weather, so be on the alert while gardening in summer. “Pinch them off with your fingers or try certified organic products,” suggests Robbie. “Choose ones which can be used on both ornamental plants (shrubs and flowers) and on fruit and vegetable crops.”
Products like these will protect against chewing and sucking insects and can be sprayed directly onto plants.
Wondering what vegetables to grow in summer? It’s important to choose veggies to suit your garden space. For patios and small areas, large plant pots can accommodate smaller cherry-type tomatoes, dwarf beans, eggplants, capsicums and chillies. Look for compact varieties that produce prolific crops. Specially bred baby-sized pumpkins and melons grow well in large containers, too.
However, climbing beans, zucchinis, cucumbers, and large-size pumpkins and melons are more suited to planting in the ground to ensure better production of vegetables and fruit.
Tip: For an abundance of tasty tomatoes, plant varieties that set small fruit on trusses. Specially developed extra-small tomato plants produce intense flavoured cherry-sized fruit, which are ideal in salads, lunch boxes or as a healthy snack.
Summer flowering plants are an excellent choice to enjoy outside; you can also cut some to brighten up your home indoors. Flowers that are perfect for both garden and vase include cosmos, dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, salvias, statice and zinnias. Pelargoniums and hydrangeas are top sellers for a reason – their large blooms appear over many months.
To cover fences and arches, plant climbers such as mandevilla, pandorea, bougainvillea, clematis and star jasmine. In hanging baskets, try petunias, calibrachoa, impatiens, begonias, portulaca, fuchsias or sweet alyssum.
Tip: Multicoloured marigolds can provide a bright border for your summer garden.
Keep on top of your backyard with these tips for a lush lawn this summer.
Neglect or bad weather can leave a lawn looking and feeling less than lovely. For an area that seems dry and dead but still shows some green, try watering it well – grass is resilient and may recover.
If water runs off, improve moisture penetration with a soil wetter. Compacted soil can also prevent water and nutrients reaching grass roots. Use a garden fork, spiked roller or lawn sandals to aerate it.
Barren spots of lawn can be replaced by sowing seed or laying turf. Yates lawn specialist Steve Jackson says seed is economical and is suitable for large areas, as well as for repairing small patches. “But it can take months for the grass to establish, and you need to stay on top of weeds,” he advises.
Turf is an instant but more expensive option – and you’ll need to improve the soil and clear out weeds, stones and other debris, Steve says.
During summer, apply a granular, lawn-specific fertiliser and a liquid fertiliser in periods of active growth. Mow regularly, but trim only one-third of the grass blade length. “Removing too much of the leaf blade stresses the lawn,” Steve says.
For deep root growth, water less frequently, but for longer. Check with your local council for watering restrictions in summer that may apply in your local area.
Dig out weeds as soon as you spot them while gardening in summer or use a product suitable for the type of weed and your variety of grass. Irregular patches of dead grass could mean common lawn pests – such as sod webworm, grass grubs and armyworm – are active; treat with lawn-specific insecticide.
Tip: During the growing season, monitor your lawn for potential problems, so you can nip them in the bud before they progress.
Check out our steps to create a vertical garden.
Photo Credit: GAP Photos, GAP Photos_Elke Borkowski, Getty Images, GAP Interiors_Jonathan Gooch