Summer Garden Maintenance in Melbourne
Hendrik Van Leeuwen, January 2017
Garden Clean Up & Landscape Maintenance Services
In summer in Melbourne it feels like everything in our gardens either grows like crazy or gets scorched and dies! The key factors, as always, are plant selection with as many low maintenance garden plants as possible, and water! At Van Leeuwen Green, my landscape maintenance teams are flat out throughout summer, especially if there are any significant rainy days that makes gardens grow. Our clients in St Kilda, Camberwell, Hawthorn, Malvern, Toorak and beyond know that garden maintenance over summer keeps your landscape looking at its best during the main months for outdoor living. Summer is also a good time for major garden clean-ups throughout Melbourne. Despite the heat, it’s often easier to get things done in summer with the long evenings allowing more time to finish jobs and think about what you want to achieve.
Keeping your garden looking good over summer
At Van Leeuwen Green we always emphasise the importance of good plant selection so that your garden needs as few inputs as possible. Summer gives you a great chance to see whether your plant choices have worked. For example, if that beautiful Luculia you planted last year, for its gorgeous scented pink flowers in winter, is now scorched and wilting, you’ve probably planted it facing hot western sun or over hot, reflective surfaces such as concrete or pavers. Wait until late autumn and then move it into a more sheltered position where it will thrive.
We’ve talked before about how Van Leewen Green’s plant selection process is based on creating planting zones with different watering needs. This is so that you can have areas in your garden that require very little maintenance, including zones that need no watering other than what falls from the sky! There are many outstanding plants that fulfil this role. These robust species flower prolifically, grow dense canopies that shade out weeds and look surprisingly luxuriant for drought tolerant plants. A great example is Plumbago auriculata, commonly referred to as Plumbago. It’s one of these super tough species, thriving in hot dry soil and flowering for nearly nine months of the year.
Maintenance tasks: weeding, mulching, pruning and mowing
Quite a few plants need pruning in summer, once they have flowered. These species include buddleias, bottlebrush and lavender. Plenty of climbers grow prolifically in summer and it doesn’t hurt to keep these plants pruned back from climbing onto other shrubs and bushes eg. Star Jasmine and Wisteria. Roses can be pruned from late February to help produce some bonus flowers in autumn.
If you have an irrigated lawn it will grow throughout the summer and you will need to mow it. The key to lawn maintenance is not to cut your grass too short which leads to smaller roots systems and weakens the ability of turf species to access soil moisture. Cut off no more than 30% of the height of the grass at any one time. Your lawn will look lusher and be more sustainable at the same time.
Weeds also thrive in summer, bursting through any gaps in plant or mulch cover. Remove weeds and mulch as much as you can with 5-7cm thick layers of sugar cane, pea straw or wood chips. Mulch really makes a massive difference to a garden’s health. The key to making it work is the right thickness. Make sure the soils is watered before you mulch.
In the veggie garden or edible landscape
If you’ve planted out an edible landscape don’t forget to harvest your crops! Many people often forget this very simple ‘maintenance’ task and end up with oversized zucchinis and too many unpicked tomatoes. Water your veggie garden more diligently than other parts of your garden and apply mulch regularly. Consider using shade over certain crops during heatwaves, including tomatoes and salad greens. On the other hand many species thrive in the heat and require less maintenance as they grow eg. Sweet Potato.
Checking irrigation systems
In our last post, we discussed how efficient irrigation or garden sprinkler systems really save you time on watering. While there’s always a place for watering a garden with a hand held hose as a relaxing summer morning activity, automated drip irrigation systems are highly recommended. It’s very important as a summer garden maintenance task to monitor drip systems to make sure they’re fully operational. As drip systems send water below the surface of the soil, the top of your garden bed can appear dry even though the system is working perfectly. This confuses some people and can lead to unnecessary extra watering. If the drip system is working well, the health of your plants will be the main indicator. If you want to check the system, listen to the sound of the drip system running when the timer sets it off or check 10 cm into the soil below a drip emitter for moisture and make sure your timer’s batteries are still working.
Just a reminder that since Stage One water restrictions were lifted in 2012 you can water your garden at any time of the day although permanent rules still apply and can be viewed here http://delwp.vic.gov.au/water/using-water-wisely/permanent-water-saving-rules. The most important of these is that all hoses must be fitted with a trigger nozzle and be leak-free.