With summers in Perth so incredibly hot, leaving your beloved garden while you go away for a few days on holiday can be a worrying thought.
Will it still be alive when I get back? Or will I return to find wilted roses and dried up petunias?
If you’re going away this summer, whether it’s just for a few days or for a few weeks, there are some things you can do to give your garden (and indoor plants) the best possible shot at survival.
Here are seven things you can do right now (or ask the Chorus gardening team to help you with) according to Chorus Manager of Gardening and Home Maintenance, Andy Harold.
Mulch your garden
Most gardeners will have mulched in spring before the very hot weather. But if you haven’t, Andy said be sure to do it before you go away.
“What you want is a real coarse, chunky mulch,” he said. “Spread it as thick as you can make it – usually 100mm.”
“You don’t want a mulch that forms a mat easily, because it tends to act like a sponge and retain the water, so it doesn’t get down into the soil and you end up with weeds coming through.”
Andy said to buy a mulch “that’s so rough you can’t walk on it with bare feet”, but don’t buy “jungle mulch” as it doesn’t perform very well.
Add a wetting agent
Perth’s soil is terrible at retaining water. To get around this, gardeners should regularly add a wetting agent to the soil. That ensures water will be absorbed into the soil, rather than run off the top, and that much of the water that gets down into the root zone will stay there.
“Add it to your whole garden – including your lawn and pots, because our potting mixes tend to be water-repellent as well,” he said.
Test your reticulation
Andy advises every gardener to get their reticulation tested. It’s something the Chorus gardening team can help you with.
“Make sure all your sprinklers are overlapping and that you’re getting at least 10mms of water within your 15-minute watering cycle,” he said.
“If you’ve got any plants in pots and it’s difficult to water them, get them into a shaded area.”
The Water Corporation has designated two days a week for watering the garden for every house, with one extra day for houses with a bore. The rules allow only 15 minutes per watering station, per watering day.
“That’s why it’s really important that every drop of water you put in your garden needs to stay in the garden – you don’t want it evaporating,” Andy said.
Try a clever watering trick for pots
Pots dry out much quicker than plants in the ground – especially if they’re in terracotta pots, and particularly in 42C heat.
Andy has a helpful trick: get a plastic bottle, put a few small holes in the bottom, fill it with water, and push it into the soil of the pot.
“It’ll just trickle away. It can last a few days,” he said.
Move your indoor plants
If you’re going for a few days, you can also use the “bottles in pots” trick to keep your indoor plants watered. Andy says that will work for four days or so.
He also recommends:
- Moving the plants to the coolest part of the house
- Moving them away from windows with direct light/heat
- Making sure they’re away from hot draughts.
If you’re going away for a longer period, ask a neighbour or friend to pop around and check on your indoor plants.
A couple of things NOT to do
Andy also had two gardening jobs people sometimes do at this time of year that aren’t a good idea.
“Do not fertilise your lawn,” he said. “Do that at cooler times of the year.
‘And don’t trim any bushes. If you do it at this time of year to something like a diosma or any of the natives, they will die.”