Getting Your Garden Ready For Water Restrictions This Summer
By Peter Hatfield – Head Horticulturalist, Chiswick Woollahra
With the winter equinox behind us, we’re on our way to summer, and hopefully, lots of new life springing up in our gardens. However, the prediction this year is for a long, hot and dry summer. To get you prepared, here are some tips to help your garden survive a harsh Sydney summer.
Conserving Our Most Precious Resource
I intend to make the most out of every drop of water by getting our Chiswick garden beds to retain moisture longer, stay cool and still produce basketloads of beautiful vegetables for the kitchen.
Level 1 water restrictions for Greater Sydney came into force from June 1st and will get even tougher if water levels continue to fall. That means readying our gardens for the hot months ahead will require some extra effort this year.
First up, I’ll be using all the compost that’s been breaking down over autumn and winter, digging over each bed to ensure it’s thoroughly mixed through. Don’t have compost? Grab a few bags from a nursery or hardware store.
Mulching your beds will be key to ensuring water is retained in the upper levels of your soil, reducing evaporation and keeping roots insulated from the heat of the day. Pea straw and Lucerne hay mulch are some of your options, but personally, I prefer sugar cane for its longevity and weed-free qualities. Spread your mulch evenly over the surface at 50 to 60mm depth. You’ll need to reapply it every few weeks to keep the moisture in.
If you intend to grow vegetables in pots or containers, you’ll want to buy a professional grade potting mix. With the best nutrient and water holding capacity, this will give your plants to best start to surviving the scorching summer days ahead.
Our Chiswick garden beds will also be enriched with balanced amounts of manure, blood and bone, rock minerals and trace elements, depending on the crop I’m growing.
When and How to Water Your Garden
Watering early morning or late evening is the best time – my personal choice is evening as it gives the water plenty of time to soak in deep and cool the roots before the heat of the day. Remember though, don’t overwater! Not overwatering over spring and summer will encourage plants to develop deeper roots to help them through those long hot days.
Use captured rainwater if you can and think about an easy-to-install drip system that directs water close to crops and wastes far less. Water tanks might be a suitable option if you have the space – it’s always a shame to see those summer showers going down the drain!
If you use sprinkler sprays, be aware of irrigation restrictions and check each one is achieving maximum coverage.
What to Plant During the Spring and Summer Season
Clever gardeners will take advantage of semi-shaded areas to plant soft-leafed crops such as lettuce, parsley and mint.
Our spring and summer planting at Chiswick will be cherry tomatoes on frames, and to save space, cucumbers grown vertically with strong bamboo poles tied with soft wire. Other seasonal favourites are basil, radish, zucchini, sorrel and pumpkin.
Expect herbs like sage and thyme to thrive if the weather gets warm and dry.
With the right management, even under water restrictions, you should be able to harvest a bounty of fresh herbs and veggies for your kitchen in the coming months.