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Help Your Garden Beat the Heat

Summer was an absolute scorcher, and there's plenty of heat in store for us still. While some plants love heat and sun, most gardens are susceptible to heat damage. The team at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has been inundated with requests for advice on keeping plants alive during the hotter months. Here are some expert tips which will help make sure your garden beats the heat!

Choose your plants and planting locations wisely

  • Selecting waterwise, preferably native plants that are well adapted to the prevailing environmental conditions and future climate of your garden is the best measure to prepare for scorching temperatures. 
  • To prevent plants from competing for water, space them out well.
  • Shade and wind protection provided by small trees and medium-sized shrubs helps protect smaller plants from severe conditions

Moisture is key 

  • Plants need more water throughout late spring, summer, and early autumn, as they give off more water vapor. Aim to give your garden a deep watering once or twice a week.
  • Want to water efficiently? Use a drip irrigation system, which will keep your plants hydrated and protect them against the heightened risk of rot and disease associated with overwatering.
  • Morning watering is ideal as plants that are adequately hydrated before the heat intensifies are less likely to dry out and experience heat stress. Avoid watering plants at midday as most of the water will evaporate before reaching the roots. Late afternoon or evening watering also minimises evaporation, but it’s important plants dry fully before nightfall, to prevent fungus issues associated with damp foliage.

Watch for weeds

  • Weeds can be problematic, particularly if not dealt with before they seed. They can impact growth in your garden long-term and compete with plants for water and nutrients. Effective weed control over hotter months will reduce the number of weeds in your garden for years to come.

Clever containment

  • Shift potted plants to somewhere shady sheltered from harsh sunlight and dehydrating strong winds - possibly even indoors.
  • Dark coloured containers are more likely to absorb heat and cause root damage than lighter colours, so repot plants into lighter containers ideally before summer.
  • Porous pots dehydrate rapidly over in hot weather and might require multiple drinks of water daily.
  • Heat-stressed plants are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Clean pots and containers well by soaking them in a bleach solution if reusing them.·
  • Don't re-pot when it's hot. Leaves get damaged during repotting which can stress out plants and cause them to weaken.·

Love your lawn

  • Heat can make or break your lawn. Mowing too low scalps your lawn and evaporation on warmer days, and letting it grow excessively leaves you with a yellow lawn the next time you mow. Maintain your lawn by mowing regularly on a medium to high height setting, and drench it thoroughly at least weekly. Sunny areas of your lawn will require more water than shadier spots.

Throw some shade

  • Plants can get sunburnt! When choosing the placement of containers, aim for a spot with bright morning sun and afternoon shade.
  • Shade cloths can work wonders, but make sure your plants have plenty of breathing room, otherwise, the heat will get trapped and beneficial insects can’t access plants.
  • Lighter coloured materials absorb less heat and are less likely to burn plants.
  • Avoid green cloth, which absorbs green light-waves that plants need for healthy growth.

Nutrition

  • Don’t fertilise heat-stressed plants until temperatures drop. In outright survival mode, they aren’t prepared for and cannot utilize extra nutrients - fertilizer may damage them. Wait out the heat and pamper your plants in the autumn!

To prune or not to prune?

  • Prune dead or damaged foliage after the hottest months. Pruning encourages new growth which, if pruned regularly during hot weather, may be subject to severe damage.

Don’t neglect your hedges

  • Though hedge-growth rates slow after spring’s peak, try to maintain them through the warmer months with light trimming and frequent watering.

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