A few days ago my online friend, Sylvia, asked whether I found much time to actually garden at the moment. The pressures of life including a demanding job, family of four kids, this blog, writing a regular column for a local newspaper and administering Blotanical can certainly take an exhaustive amount of time.
The answer to the question, honestly, is not as much as I would like. But then the reason isn’t totally related to the pressures that I’ve already mentioned. For starters, it’s summer here in sunny Busselton. That means scorching days of 35-40°C have mainly kept me indoors or lolling around in the shade during my free time. Getting into the garden is a luxury because I’m restricted to the evening hours when the sun has started falling in the sky and lost some of its fire.
And then, when I finally do get into the garden, it’s mainly to perform chores such as mowing, watering and deadheading just to maintain its appearance.
However, I started planning for my summer garden this time last year. While I still have to mow the grass we’ve removed almost half of it since last summer, and it’s the half that took the most time. Lots of edges, poky corners and high traffic areas have now been replaced with much more suited natives, low-maintenance pathways and all ridiculously mulched to retain moisture and keep the garden weed-free. And it all seems to be working.
This is the key to creating a summer garden – prior planning. For once the onslaught of hot weather pervades your world – and you know it’s coming – you become very restricted with the garden that you have. In the past, I’ve made it half-way through summer but then garden finally beats me. It’s either growing (or dying) too quick and the task of keeping it looking good becomes overwhelming.
So, here are some tips to prepare yourself, and your garden, for summer;
- Calculate how much time you’re going to have available to spend in your garden during the summer months. Summer may mean more time as other commitments slow down, or stop completely for the hot season, but logically it also means it’s going to be too hot to spend all day in the garden.
- Think about the tasks that you NEED to do to keep your garden looking good and also consider the gardening activities that you WANT to do to enjoy your garden. Are there choices that you could be making now that will swing the pendulum more to the WANTS rather than the NEEDS?
- Take a stroll through your garden and consider some of the maintenance tasks that you currently undertake. Are they worth the effort or are there better ways to achieve a similar outcome. For instance, removing some of our lawn meant that edging was eradicated from my TO-DO list. Now plants grow there and require far less of my time to keep them looking neat and tidy.
- Consider your reticulation plan. Can it be streamlined in any way? We went from 9 irrigation channels down to 6 this summer and I’m still planning on losing another two at some stage. Less retic stations means less time to water and less hassles with sprinklers, solenoids and their accompanying blockages and failures.
- Replace flowering shrubs with foliage plants. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into the maintenance-free ideology that many home-owners have succumbed to. But, I do realise that some flowering plants are more trouble than they’re worth so I’ve opted for some to be replaced with foliage alternatives or, at the very least, flowering plants that don’t require a heap of maintenance time.
- Buy a garden shredder. A summer garden spells growth so expect that your plants are going to double in size overnight (well it sometimes feels that way). This means that you’re going to have to do some summer pruning in order to keep your plants growing well. Until we bought our garden shredder it was always a matter of taking the prunings to the waste facility which meant loading the trailer and leaving the unsightly refuse until we had a spare moment to take it away. Now, it all goes into the compost saving us time from removing it but also time in going off-site to source mulches and soil conditioners.
In summary, the best time to plan your summer garden is in winter and vice versa. Once you’re there it’s too late.