This is the hottest month of the year and many gardeners are hibernating inside, only to appear in the cool of the evening. Plants are incredibly resilient and will cope with the hot weather better than we give them credit for but remember that a thick layer of chunky mulch to shade the soil and reduce evaporation is one of the best water saving tips for summer.
Spend a few moments to check over the reticulation system and unblock any sprinkler heads or replace any parts that have been damaged. A leaky system or dripping tap can waste litres of water before anyone realises and with the current water restrictions, conserving water is a priority.
Growing vegies by seed is great value and perfect if you have many mouths to feed. Now is time to choose cool climate vegies from your local store. Sow seeds of cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts this month. Use seed raising mix in individual cells to reduce transplant shock when planting them into the ground.
Create a cool shady spot for the dog to stop it from digging in the garden beds. Choose a shady spot and border the area with blocks, bricks or wood. Fill it with clean, washed sand and keep it damp. The sand will stay cool and it will be the perfect spot for the dog on these hot February days.
Retained spring flowering bulbs can be placed in the fridge this month. Six to eight weeks in the fridge will trick the bulbs into thinking that they have been through a cold winter. Plant them around the middle of April into well prepared soil to ensure strong healthy bulbs.
Applying a liquid fertiliser specially formulated for tomatoes will reduce the incidence of Blossom End Rot which is the blackening of the bottom of the tomato fruit as well as on capsicums. This problem is caused by irregular watering where plants are soaked and then allowed to dry out between waterings. It is also caused by a calcium deficiency which is why liquid fertilisers for tomatoes contain added calcium.
Frangipanis are looking and smelling stunning this month. They are the number one small tree to grow in Western Australia for spectacular summer flowering and grow successfully in large pots and in small spaces because they are relatively slow growing. The added bonus is they are easy to grow from cuttings and advanced plants can be transplanted as well. Plant a grove of frangipanis to cast dappled shade for more delicate plantings.
Drought Shield is your friend this summer as it acts as a sunscreen for all plants. Apply it over the foliage before the extremely hot weather is expected. This product is a water based polymer and breaks down after about three weeks so it will need to be reapplied for continued protection. It’s perfect for new plantings and used to protect soft, new growth of plants. Keep a bottle on hand because it’s so handy to be able to reach for it immediately.
Refrain from fertilising with NPK blue fertilisers through the hottest months. These can burn very easily if there is limited moisture in the soil and also causes plants to produce soft new growth that is easily damaged in hot weather. Controlled release fertilisers are the best choice for feeding plants in summer.
Add water storing granules to established pots by digging holes around the root ball and placing a few water storing granules in each one. These can be applied either dry or pre-hydrated but be sure to bury them because the sunlight breaks them down. They will store water in the soil in a form that the plants will draw on when needed.
Written by Sue McDougall, a qualified horticulturalist and experienced garden centre owner who grew up in the WA wheatbelt and has had experience in gardening throughout the entire state. You may know Sue as the garden expert on 6PR radio and by her many TV appearances.