My summer gardening tips for Blue Mountains residents is to do as little as possible. It’s too hot, for starters. Planting should wait for the cooler weather in autumn. Mulching should happen at the start of spring. Water availability should be part of the structure of the garden. Your main concern during the warmer months is to establish and take care of your lawn.
We can only lay any of the summer grasses between October and (at the latest) February. We only have a very small window to establish lawns before we get to the colder times.
Although the climate in the mountains has always seemed milder to Sydneysiders, last summer’s bushfires were a stark reminder of how hot it can get.
Extreme summer gardening tips
Even if a garden escaped the direct impact of flames during the bushfires, it was common to see some scorching on the leaves. People have to realise that’s part of the climate we live in, though. We have extremes.
If one of your plants is damaged in the heat, and you’ve done your best to protect it, some days you have to accept what is happening. But keep in mind, just because the leaves have shrivelled, it doesn’t mean the plant is dead. Our advice to clients is generally if your plant suffers from heat damage, give it a good soaking and leave it. We can prune off any bits that didn’t survive during autumn.
You can’t prune in the summer. When you prune, you open up a wound and then that wound seeps. The sap that seeps out dries up during the warm months and doesn’t seal off the wound. When that happens you end up with dieback happening on the stem—the ends of the plant rotting back.
Keep up the maintenance
Ongoing management is always better than reactive fixes. Mulching and fertilising remains important. Make sure your plants have a good, deep water coming into summer. That way, the older plants should hold up well.
It’s tempting, if you get a run of 40-plus degree days, to head out and water anything looking particularly peaky. If you can’t help yourself, you should always water at night. If you water during the day, you’re going to lose most of it to evaporation. Use tank water or re-use water from the house to comply with any water restrictions. If you’ve done everything you can to give the plant its best chance, and it still dies, then accept that it’s part of the cycle of life.
Summer is also the time of year insects and pests are most active. Depending on the plants you have, we don’t encourage people to get out there and spray their gardens with pesticide. Our preventative for pests and diseases is to ensure a plant is fed, watered and mulched. If you’ve done that, a bit of insect damage is not a major problem. Spraying is just an endless cycle of managing. Besides, if you do notice some damage and decide to spray, keep in mind the damage is already done.
Better than spraying is to wait until the cooler months and give the plant a prune back. Pests can be managed with companion planting and proper maintenance throughout the year. Of course, if you plant is a rose, then we know you’ll be spraying it every week, regardless. There’s no other way of growing roses—that’s just the way they’re made.
To be honest, the biggest pests (in every sense of the word ‘biggest’) we have up here are the possums and the kangaroos. They’ll wreak havoc with your vegetable garden. But that may be a small price to pay to enjoy the company of some iconic local wildlife in your dream garden.