Guide to Gardening

Summer Gardening

As we head into another summer it’s time to take a critical look at your garden and decide how you’re going to prepare it for the coming heat. Some steps are obvious. Check watering systems and hoses to make sure they’re working. Buy and replace worn fittings. Remove competing weeds and spread new mulch over garden beds – but don’t make your mulch layer so thick and dense that it ends up acting as a barrier to water penetration.

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Next, check the actual plants and see if it’s worth removing some and replacing them with heat-hardy varieties. There are extensive lists of drought tolerant plants on websites and in books. Yates Garden Guide, for example, has a chapter called The Water-Saving Garden that is filled with good plant suggestions. Many plants, too, carry labels that indicate their drought hardiness.

Don’t forget, though, that every plant no matter how hardy – needs to be given supplementary water in its first few weeks. And it’s important for this water to be applied at the base of the plant, so that it gets into the existing root system.

Here are some drought-hardy plant suggestions:

Mediterranean plants like lavender (pictured) have evolved to handle dry conditions. Many lavender varieties are available, with a range of flower colours in shades of mauve, lilac, pink and white. Lavenders prefer drier conditions and respond well to regular, light pruning. If soil is acidic (areas where azaleas grow well) sprinkle some Yates Garden Lime or Dolomite around the base every couple of years.

Lots of natives that are classed as low water users add beautiful touches to the garden. Hebe diosmifolia forms a tidy, compact mound that smothers itself with lavender or white flowers in spring and summer. And the many manuka cultivars offer a range of sizes to suit any garden. Because these plants are susceptible to sooty mould caused by sap-sucking insects, it’s recommended that they are given a clean-up spray in November each year with Yates Conqueror Oil or ready-to-use Bug Oil.

Other native plants such as coprosma, pohutukawa and karaka (Corynocarpus laevigatus) can survive with little supplementary watering.

And many of the fashionable structural plants those that are grown for the dramatic effect of their leaves and shape, rather than their flowers require minimal extra watering. Astelia, Poor Knight’s lily, cycads, yuccas and bird of paradise are some suggestions.

Of course succulents, which have evolved to store water, are renowned for their drought hardiness, and there’s a wide range available these days. They don’t all look like cacti – even the gloriously perfumed, warm climate frangipanis are classed as succulents.

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