Australian summers are hard on everyone, including plants. As the season progresses, lawns brown, flower gardens shrivel and homeowners grow frustrated at their inability to keep their yards looking descent.
We can’t decrease the harshness of Australian summers, but we can give you practical tips and a few landscaping designs that will help keep your lawn and flower beds looking good through the season.
In order to successfully maintain your yard through the heat and dryness of summer, you need to pay attention to three things: 1. The type of plants that you have and how you plant them, 2. Your landscaping and 3. Ongoing maintenance.
1. Carefully choose your plants and how you plant them.
You can significantly cut the amount of maintenance that your lawn and flower beds require, as well as increase their resilience, if you will:
Use native plants – Native Australian plants are hardy and built to endure the long hot days and water restrictions of summer. They benefit you because they are inexpensive and easy to grow. They also benefit the environment by using less water and providing food for native birds and butterflies.Here are some examples of native plants: Sarsaparilla, Hardenbergia Coral Pea, Hibiscus, Flannel Flowers, Silver Spur Flowers, Golden Everlasting, Australian Fuchsia.
Group plants according to their water needs – As you design your landscape and plant the plants that you have chosen, it is important to group them according to the amount and frequency of watering that they need. Lawn care professionals call this creating “hydrozones”.Whether they are native to Australia or not, all plants have unique water needs. Some can go days without water, others need a little moisture every day and a few require water available at all times. If you take the time to learn about your plants and then group plants with similar needs together in your flower beds, your plants will thrive better and you will save water and work in the long run.
2. Create a Water-efficient Landscape
Most homeowners don’t realize it, but one-third of the water they pay for often goes to the lawn and flower beds – and during the summer this percentage increases. If you want to decrease the amount of water that your landscape needs and your water bill:
Minimize your lawn – Wide, open lawns consume the most water in a landscape, because they cover the largest area and allow for a lot of evaporation. Consider installing a deck, a paved recreation area, gravel pathways or even a few additional flower beds to downsize your lawn and water usage.You can also save water by replanting your lawn with native, drought-resistant grasses. These native grasses require less water to stay green, little to no fertilization and tend to grow slowly which means you will have less mowing to do.
Decrease evaporation – As the summer sun beats upon the ground, water in the soil heats up, changes into a gas and then dissipates into the atmosphere. You can increase the overall health of your lawn and gardens, as well as the water-efficiency of your home by decreasing this process of evaporation.Shade and windbreaks are two important ways that you can help keep water in the soil. Shade keeps the sun’s harshest rays from reaching the ground and cuts evaporation in the bud. You can increase shade around your home by planting trees and hedges, installing fences and even using shade cloth during the summer months.The hot, dry winds of summer absorb humidity from plants, increase evaporation from the ground and stir up dust. You can decrease the effects of summer winds around your home by up to 80% if you install a wind fence.
Xeriscape one or two areas – Xeriscaping refers to landscaping designed especially to reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental watering. You can greatly decrease your water usage by choosing one corner of your lawn or perhaps a flower bed or two to xeriscape.Xeriscaping often involves using drought-resistant plants or even natural boulders as a centerpiece and then creating a decorative bed around them with gravel or attractive pebbles. If the area allows, you can also add a stepping stone pathway or a few stairs made from pavers to your xeriscape masterpiece.
3. Ongoing Maintenance
Weekly and also seasonal maintenance are a vital part of helping your lawn and flower beds survive summer. Maintenance includes caring for the soil and the plants themselves, as well as watering efficiently.
Soil and mulch – Plants need more than 10 different nutrients from the soil, including potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus, in order to grow and maintain their health. Adequate maintenance involves replenishing the nutrients in your lawn and flower beds.You can use appropriate fertilizers to provide the nutrients that your plants need, but it is also important to incorporate organic matter, such as composted grass trimmings, leaves and humus, into the soil. Organic matter provides plants with major and trace nutrients, improves soil structure which facilitates root growth and helps the soil to retain water.Mulching will help keep your soil and plants healthy for a longer period of time. A 2 inch thick blanket of mulch increases moisture in the soil, reduces the growth of weeds and slowly decomposes putting more organic matter within easy reach of the plants.
Pruning and mowing – We usually don’t think of pruning plants in the summer, but deadheading flowering plants, pruning shrubs and trimming back climbers, such as honeysuckle, jasmine and wisteria, in the hot months has several benefits. It strengthens the overall health of the plants, decreases the risk of fungi and pests collecting in old leaves and branches, as well as encourages healthy growth and flowering throughout the year.As you mow your lawn during the summer months, remember to cut the grass back by only one-third of its height. Leaving the grass taller helps it withstand the heat and dryness better.
Efficient watering – Lawns and flower beds lose 1-3 inches of water every week during the summer. The secret to replenishing that water efficiently is to water deep.There are various ways that you can water deeply and all of them involve giving the water time to slowly sink into the ground. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use soaker hoses. Water seeps slowly out of the hose, falls directly onto the ground and then sinks down to the roots of the plants or grass. You can also program automatic sprinklers to give short bursts of water, wait several minutes and then repeat the process.As a general rule if the top 6-8 inches of soil are moist after you have watered deeply, you will only have to water your lawn once a week in the summer and even less in the cooler seasons. As you water your flower beds, consider the hydrozones that you made earlier and give each group of plants more or less water according to its needs.
We hope these practical tips and landscape designs will help you and your lawn survive the summer successfully with minimal work and frustration. Remember if you need additional help with your landscaping, just give us a call.