When the mercury’s rising and summer’s in full swing it’s the season to cook outdoors, camp under the stars, and drive off into the sunset for a bit of time out.
It’s also the season when water usage, electricity and fuel bills can soar as we try to keep cool, keep the garden alive, and travel about in holiday mode. But with some thought and a bit of planning, the impact of summer living can be kept at bay.
Living Greener has provided some helpful tips and guidelines on how to keep your garden green this summer.
Creating a greener garden
Gardens can really suffer in the summer heat, especially if you live in an area with dry conditions or where water restrictions are in place. By creating a water-smart garden, you can reduce labour, save water and help your garden to flourish under dry conditions. To find if you have a water-smart garden or to read about what you can do to have a water-smart garden in your home click here.
Mulching is one of the most efficient ways to maintain your garden through summer. It helps smother weeds and reduces moisture loss. There are lots of mulches to choose from such as pea straw, sugar cane and wood chip. Don’t water mulched gardens too often as this brings roots to the surface.
Water efficiently. Work out which plants do well in which spot and group plants together according to their need for water and sun —this way your intense watering can be confined to one spot. Only water the plants that need it and do it early in the morning or in the evening. Water deeply — a good occasional soaking is better than several light sprinkles, and water slowly to ensure good penetration. Adhere to water restrictions in your area.
Get to know your soil and what you can do to keep it fertile and improve its water retention. Talk to your garden centre about ways to test your soil, or research online — this will help you to know what your plants need to thrive.
Improve the health of your soil. Make your own organic mulch by starting a compost heap or keeping worms — the new age pets. Composting your kitchen and garden waste or keeping chickens will also prevent food scraps and garden waste from rotting in landfill and releasing greenhouse gases.
A greywater system is a good way to re-use water from the bathroom basin or laundry and redirect it to your garden. There are a few types of greywater systems. Consult your plumber and local council about regulations and options in your area. Rainwater tanks are a popular way to harvest water. Click here to read about the benefits of installing a rainwater tank in your home. If you’ve already thought about installing a rainwater tank in your home but you’re not quite sure where to start, read this article to help you determine which size rainwater tank you need in your home. If you have any other questions about rainwater tanks, call us on 1800 041 111 and we will be happy to help you.
There’s a range of rebates and assistance available to assist with planning and establishing a water-smart garden. You can also talk to your local nursery or garden centre about the most effective way to care for your garden in summer. You can visit http://www.livinggreener.gov.au/rebates-assistance to find out what rebates are available to you.
Lawns can make gardens look great and feel cool under bare feet, but the reality is they’re thirsty drinkers and require quite a bit of maintenance. But with a bit of care, you can keep your lawn healthy in the heat and minimise its water needs — or consider some alternatives.
Summer often gives lawns a beating, especially in drier areas and if water restrictions apply. Don’t despair if they turn a bit yellow or brown — this usually means that your grass is just dormant and will return to green when the weather cools down and rainfall increases.
It’s important not to cut your grass too short. Longer blades of grass are less stressed and provide shade to keep the soil moist and overtake weeds.
Over time the soil in lawns becomes compacted and needs to be aerated —this will allow water to be absorbed more effectively. You can use a garden fork for smaller areas (press a fork into the soil and lever it back and forth a couple of times) or hire a coring machine for larger areas. Wetting agents may also help lawns absorb water if they’ve become dried out.
Over-fertilisation with chemicals makes the soil too acidic for the lawn and pollutes our waterways. You can make up a batch of organic fertiliser by combining equal amounts of ‘blood and bone’, ground chicken manure and river sand and sprinkle it onto your lawn two or three times each year.
Mowing, leaf blowing, fertiliser production and other lawn-tending activities can produce more greenhouse gases than your lawn can absorb. Try switching to a push mower and garden rake —this will reduce carbon emissions and keep you fit at the same time.
Talk to a lawn expert about suitable grass choices for your area and the best way to care for lawns and minimise water use. They will also be able to advise you on other ways to help keep lawns healthy.
You can also talk to garden and landscape experts about alternatives to replace or reduce lawn areas, such as drought-tolerant flowering plants, ornamental grasses or tan bark. There are also porous paving options which prevent water run-off from paved areas.