Summer survival guide to keep garden going
Christmas is wonderful, but it can also be a bit exhausting. I hope at least some of you are now looking forward to enjoying some rest and relaxation. Especially if you're going away, it's a good idea to spend a bit of time preparing your garden and pot plants to look after themselves as much as possible for a while.
We're entering the hottest time of the year now, so we need to pay extra attention to ensuring that plants have enough water to survive the heat without damage. Even sun-hardy plants will suffer on a hot day if they don't have enough moisture within them.
Start by drenching the whole garden, including the lawn, with a soil wetting agent, which will allow water to penetrate the soil more readily. These are available in various forms, including liquids, granular forms and hose-on packs. They really do work, and can reduce your water use by up to 50 per cent.
Next, add a layer of organic matter such as manure, compost or organic soil improver to your garden beds and cover with a thick layer of mulch. This will improve your soil, feed your plants and suppress weed growth.
Potted plants and hanging baskets dry out very quickly. The best way to water hanging baskets is to take them down and soak them thoroughly by immersing them in a bucket of water. Make sure the entire pot or basket is submerged, and keep it there until no more air bubbles rise to the surface of the water. You can do this with smaller pot plants too.
Treat all of your pot plants with a soil wetting agent, top up the potting mix if necessary, and add a layer of mulch to the surface. At the nursery, we use a product called Eco-hydrate, which contains a blend of organic humectants (water attractants) and soil wetting agents, with added seaweed extract and plant growth stimulants. It needs to be re-applied every two to four weeks for continued effect.
If you are going to be away for more than a day or two, move all your pot plants to a semi-shaded position. Make sure they are not under the eaves or out of the reach of any rain that may fall in your absence. Indoor plants can be outside in the shade where they may get the benefit of rain.