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Prepare for an El Niño summer


Summer has well and truly arrived and it's going to be a hot one. Prepare your garden now to increase its survival chances.


Perth's climate is known for its extreme summer conditions, and El Niño summers can bring even more intense heat and dry spells. Preparing your garden for such conditions is essential to ensure your plants not only survive but thrive during this challenging period. In this article, we'll explore some basic practical tips to prepare your garden for a hot summer.


1. Choose Drought-Resistant Plants


In areas where you are not looking for food production, natives are better! Opt for drought-resistant or native Australian plants that are adapted to arid conditions. These plants require less water and are better equipped to withstand the scorching heat of an El Niño summer.


2. Mulch Your Garden


We can't say it often enough: Mulching is a great way to conserve soil moisture and reduce evaporation. Apply a thick layer of organic mulch around your plants to keep the soil cool and moist. This helps prevent water loss and keeps the root zone insulated from the heat. Trees and perennial bushes prefer courser wood mulch, vegetable gardens are better mulched with finer straw mulches. Both will feed your soil and increase conditions for your plants. Don't forget about living mulches either. A hardy groundcover will protect your soil from the sun.


3. Watering Schedule


Adjust your watering schedule to accommodate the drier conditions. Water your garden early in the morning or late in the evening to minimize evaporation. Consider installing a drip irrigation system or soaker hoses to ensure water is delivered directly to the roots. Water deeply enough to penetrate the soil to the roots and make sure your soil is not hydrophobic.


4. Use Greywater


In areas where water restrictions are in place, make use of greywater (recycled household water) to keep your garden hydrated. Be mindful of local regulations when reusing water from sources such as baths, showers, or washing machines. You don't need to install an expensive greywater system to do this either. Just attach a hose to your washing machine outlet and rotate it around your fruit trees and collect water in buckets in your shower and kitchen basin.


5. Shade and Windbreaks


Provide shade for your plants using shade cloth or temporary structures like shade sails. Especially vegetables and some young trees like avocados will benefit from this precaution. Additionally, strategically placed windbreaks can help reduce water loss due to drying hot Easterlies and provide a cooler microclimate for your garden.


6. Regular Pruning


Regularly prune and deadhead your plants to reduce stress and encourage new growth. Removing dead or damaged branches also helps your plants divert their energy to healthy growth. Don't prune plants back too hard though and avoid pruning on very hot days, so as not to shock your plants.


7. Soil Preparation


Well-prepared soil is the number one key to retaining moisture. Add organic matter, such as compost, to your soil to improve its water-holding capacity. Our sandy coastal soils also benefit from the addition of some clay, as clay can hold six times its weight in water. Well-nourished soil will also make your plants healthier and more resilient to withstand the stress of an El Niño summer.


With proper planning and care, your garden can not only survive but flourish during a hot summer in Australia. Drought-resistant plants, mindful watering, and shade structures are your allies in maintaining a vibrant garden throughout the scorching season. Take these steps to heart, and you'll enjoy a lush and healthy garden, even in the face of challenging weather conditions.

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