All plants in your summer garden need a feed because they’re at their most productive – and hungry. But not all fertilisers are the same. The common factor is the essential elements – nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), but it’s the percentages that are different. Lawns want food high in nitrogen because it promotes leaf growth. Phosphorous is for cell regeneration and potassium helps your plants develop flowers and fruit. So choose the fertiliser that meets your plants’ needs. The percentage is listed on your fertiliser bags under the label NPK.
Prolong your summer flowering by cutting off any spent blooms, in a process known as deadheading. As their flowers begin to fade, your plants’ energy is focused on producing seeds for survival, however regular deadheading instead channels their energy back into producing more blooms. It’s botanical trickery of the most beautiful and bountiful kind. Meanwhile, in your homegrown vegetable patch, remove produce such as broccoli that’s set to flower – this process is called bolting – and replace it with summer crops such as tomatoes, lettuce and basil.
Water repellent soils
Soils can become hydrophobic – or water repellent – when they’re dry for extended periods. They become compacted, air can’t circulate and a waterproof liner settles on the top of the soil. Check for hydrophobia by watering an area of your soil for about 10 minutes. If the water pools rather than sinking, your soil is hydrophobic. In pot plants, the water runs down the side of the pot rather than heading for the roots. Soil-wetting agents – a spray or granules – help your soil restart its water absorption. They’re like a detergent and break down the waxy coating on the soil surface.
In summer, mulch helps soil retain moisture and keep cool. In winter it helps keep it warm.
- All year round, organic mulch breaks down and adds nutrients to soil for the roots to devour.
- With vegie plots or quick-growing annual summer ornamentals, use lucerne, pea straw or sugar cane as they break down quickly.
- In ornamental gardens where plant growth is slower and flowers, not food, are the aim, use a heavier mulch such as bark that breaks down more slowly
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