(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 30, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Spring was a hectic time in the garden and now summer is here and it is time to relax and enjoy the fruits (sometimes literally) of your efforts. Summer gardening is really about the basics that will keep your garden looking fresh and attractive – pruning, weeding, and watering. Read on for plenty of usefultips to keep your summer garden looking great!
Summer brings plenty of high humidity, which if you’re not careful can have a disastrous effect on the garden. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere – when it is high, the air absorbs and retains moisture, leaving little for the plants. Different plants prefer different humidity levels but most will grow best in a relative humidity level of around 45 to 60%. Relative humidity can be measured using most weather stations.
To combat the humidity you need to ensure you water your plants regularly – by the time they have begun to wilt they are already damaged. The time that you water your plants is an important way to ensure that they are getting all the water you provide them with. Avoid watering during the hottest part of the day (between 10am and 4pm) as the sun beating directly onto the water will cause it to boil and ‘cook’ your plants; this will also evaporate the water preventing them from getting necessary moisture. Also, try not to water any later than 5pm; although watering at night when it is cooler allows the plants to absorb more of the water you provide, it also causes the water to sit longer, and when it is humid this creates a damp, warm environment perfect for encouraging fungal growth.
In the higher humidity, pot plants will also need to be monitored more closely to ensure they are not drying out as they have less soil surrounding them to retain the water. Keep an eye on indoor plants in particular, especially those near windows, as the sun beating through the glass may dry out the plants too much and cook them. Use a basic home thermometer or weather station to determine the temperature in different parts of the house, and use this to determine a cooler area for your plants.
Summer is also the time to spray your plants against insects and pests because at this time of year they seem to reproduce overnight! The most common pests at this time of year are snails, slugs, and caterpillars. Spray with a suitable spray (ask your local garden centre for advice on which one) to protect your plants from being eaten by these pests. Also keep an eye out for aphids – you can spray for these as well or just gently rinse or spray them off your plants with mildly soapy water. If you are applying sprays, check your weather station to make sure it is not about to rain in your area, or your spraying efforts may go to waste.
Due to the extra humidity and water, weeds tend to go crazy at this time of year. The easiest was to keep weeds under control is to pull stray weeds whenever you see them pop up, preventing them from building up and going to seed. Another trick that can reduce the number of weeds is to cultivate the soil on a regular basis. Cultivating the soil is basically mixing the soil, at a consistent depth (approximately 4 inches), this also allows cool air and water to penetrate further to the roots of the plants, and has proven to reduce the number of weeds sprouting.
Summer is also the perfect time for fertilizing. Gardens should generally be fertilized at least twice a year, particularly around blooming time. Use a slow release fertilizer early in the season when the buds are just beginning to open, this allows the plant to take up nutrients over time when it needs them. You can also use a general purpose fertilizer when the plants begin to show colour, and reapply this later in the season.
Summer is also the time to start planning your winter garden. Good flowers to plant in anticipation of winter are Daphne, Hellebores, and Rhododendrons. For vegetable gardeners, now is the time to get planting cauliflower, lettuce, silverbeet, and cabbage.
Amongst all this, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. Summer is a great time of time of year to get outdoors and relax – getting out in the garden is a great way to enjoy summer (and get some exercise), and even better, you will see great results for your hard work. For more information about gardening and the weather visit www.weatherhut.com.