Hot Tips for the summer

Landcare Broken Hill

This is the time to enjoy the great outdoors with family & friends

It is good to be outdoors – in the open air. Physical activity is good for you. Put a hat on, some sunscreen, some insect repellent – and get out there – during the summer holidays. Doing things on your block, like creating a new garden, or putting in a new veggie patch, or tending to a few new trees you might plant, or creating some garden structures – these are all activities best carried out with family and friends. Fun, healthy and constructive – and especially so during these COVID times, with health experts advising that activities in the outdoors is better than being couped up indoors where the virus can spread more easily.

Landcare sees the summer holiday weeks as a time to really encourage younger members of families to take an interest in the environment. Give them their own space to be creative, creating their own garden bed, making a bird bath, building an insect hotel, or creating a good nesting area for birds, such as a tree hollow loved by parrots and owls. Encouraging the kids to be creative in the garden when they’re young, is the best means of ensuring they think about caring for the environment as they grow older. So here’s a Christmas gift idea: give a set of small garden tools to your young ones – this should inspire them to be creative outside.

Now some tips for hot days during summer

• Prepare early for the really tough hot days. Monitor the weather conditions: listen to the weather forecasts on the radio or read it in the BDT or download a weather app.

• Cover sensitive plants to prevent leaf burn – say with shade cloth. If you don’t want to build a more permanent shade cloth canopy, then on the really hot days just drape over a temporary cover. Some people use beach umbrellas.

• Some people prune the delicate ends off plants, reducing the necessity for drawing up moisture. I advise some caution with this tip as it is “horses for courses” – varies from plant species to plant species. Some plants do best by having a canopy shading the root zone of a plant, so seek advice before you cut.

• Remember that if the soil becomes baking hot from direct sunlight, it will overheat the roots of your plants, which can cause real harm. Similarly, really hot soil can literally kill off your worm population. The answer is to really heap mulch around your garden, especially around all plants. The mulch will provide a protective barrier.

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Watering plants

Keep in mind that in the Broken Hill region it can become very hot early, so get outside well before breakfast if you know it is going to be really hot and start watering before it gets hot. That might even mean watering a few days ahead or at least the evening before. As a rule, early morning and evening are the most effective times to water

• Remember that slow and steady watering is best as deep penetration to deeper root zone is most beneficial. So it is best to water deeply/thoroughly less frequently, than superficially more frequently. This is the key to encouraging plants to send their roots down deeper, thereby lessening shallow surface roots.

• Consider drilling down small vertical holes beside plants to insert agi-pipe – poly pipe with slots or holes – into the ground. When watering you will fill the pipes. This has the effect of taking water down to deeper levels.

• Consider setting up a dripper system (for slow & steady) ensuring a more targeted delivery of water to the plants you care about. The alternative of a surface spray, more often than not, wastes a greater amount of water as becomes air borne.

• On ferociously hot days, consider inverting plastic or glass bottles filled with water and inserting them to a shallow depth around your most precious plants. The bottle water slowly percolates down into the soil. (This is also a good example of reuse or recycling of a bottle for a good purpose).

Caring for birds and small animals in hot weather

• It is essential that there is readily available water in your garden for birds, so put in a bird bath or two! Also remember the lizards in our gardens become just as thirsty. A lot of people place a shallow dish in a shady patch on the ground for lizards to drink. In the dead of night, small nocturnal mammals, like dunnarts, might also come for a drink

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• If your wild birds in your garden have become accustomed to their water bowl being filled, when you go away on holiday over summer don’t just abandon your wild birds. Arrange for a neighbour to come in and top up the bird bowl. You wouldn’t let your own dog or cat suffer over summer, so don’t let dependent wild birds suffer.

Lawn care

• Aim to mow your lawn as high as you can manage in summer, as the taller the lawn the more it shades the root zone of the grass. If you can see bare earth between your grass the chances are your lawn is too short and you’ll scorch the roots during the hot months. If so, it will lose moisture faster and die off.

• It is a good idea to ‘top dress’ your lawn for summer, that is, raking in across the grass some organic-rich soil, such as really broken-down compost, so that it builds up a nutrient rich cover amongst the grass. The grass will soon thicken and become more resilient to heat.

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