Nature certainly does know how to turn it on. As soon as Christmas arrives we get the hot weather. Every year I forget how harsh the sun is and I’m always surprised at how certain plants thrive through the hot weather, while others struggle. Soil conditions certainly play a major part in keeping a garden looking fantastic through the hottest part of the year. The more organic matter in the soil, the more water it will hold.
I can’t stress enough the importance of improving the soil at planting. Sandy soils are fantastic when it comes to the speed of being able to dig a hole in it. But, as far as holding water around the plants roots, they are the worst. Planting a garden is possible through the summer months if you improve the soil, add water storing granules, a wetting agent and apply a layer of mulch around the plant.
Just one small planting tip to ensure the new plants won’t struggle is to mix a solution of seaweed extract and a wetting agent in a bucket. Dunk the whole plant’s root system in the solution for a period of 15 minutes or until the bubbles stop coming to the surface. This will ensure that the water soaks in around the plant’s root ball when it is finally in the ground. Often the root ball becomes water repellent and even though adequate water is being applied to the area around it, the plant dies as the water doesn’t get near its roots.
Jobs to do
Cover newly planted seedlings with a small tree branch. This will shade the soil and seedlings until they get established.
Do not spray fungicides or insecticides during a heat wave. Wait until a cool spell and spray in the cool of the day. Many of the manufacturers do not recommend spraying if temperatures are above 30 degrees.
Check for ants in pots. They are busy excavating the potting mix right under your nose. This causes the plants to dry out quickly and the soil tends to become water repellent in the pot. Treat with a wetting agent and ant control. I tend to not use an ant control on fruiting trees as I don’t like the idea of using a chemical on my fruit trees. Instead, I lift the pots up off the ground as this will reduce the number of ants that can enter the pot.
It’s the time of the year that the orchids are setting their flower spikes for the next season. Start feeding with a high potassium fertiliser and keep in a humid environment. Humidity will help them set flower spikes. Increase humidity by damping down the surrounding environment and placing the pots amongst other potted plants.
Grapevines would have to be one of the easiest fruiting plants to grow. They screen an ugly area very quickly and have the added bonus of fruit. At this time of the year the grapes are forming and with humid weather they are susceptible to powdery mildew.
Mildew is easily recognised by a light coating of what looks like a white mould on the leaf. This will affect the fruit and will need to be sprayed with a fungicide. Milk can be used as a mild fungicide. Reducing leaf growth to allow air circulation will also be beneficial to the vines and the fruit.
Fig trees are developing small fruit at this time of the year and are susceptible to fruit fly. Hanging fruit fly traps and baits in the tree will help to control this pest. Fig trees will fruit successfully in large containers such as wine barrels.
The Black English Mulberry is starting to fruit now. In my opinion it has the best flavour of all the black mulberries. The trees are relatively slow growing but develop a lovely shape and start fruiting from an early age.
It’s the time of the year for succulents. These hardy plants just love the heat in summer. The fleshy stems and leaves store moisture for hard times, making them perfect for our climate or for gardener that forget to water plants occasionally
Sow or plants seedlings of beans, dwarf beans, beetroot, bok choi cabbage, capsicum, carrot, celery, chilli, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, endive, honey dew melon, lettuce (all varieties), pak choi, radish, rhubarb, rock melon, silverbeet, squash, sweet corn, sweet potato shoots, tomatoes and zucchini.
Sow or plant seedlings of ageratum, alyssum, amaranthus, aster, begonias, celosia, cockscomb, coleus, cosmos, dahlia, geraniums, gerbera, gloxinia, impatiens, marigolds, nasturtiums, petunias, phlox, portulaca, salvia, sunflower, verbena and zinnia.