It's predicted to be a long, hot summer. Protect your lawn and garden from the intense heat and dry conditions, with these survival skills.
In a bid to help gardeners protect their lawn and garden from the ongoing effects of the warm, dry conditions predicted, the garden and lawn experts at Victa have developed a number of spring survival skills with horticulturalist Adam Woodhams.
Whether it’s adding nutrient-rich organic matter to soil or sharpening your lawnmower blade, these tried-and-tested gardening tips will ensure your precious plants thrive through spring and summer.
“This is a great time to reacquaint yourself with your lawn and garden and spruce up areas that have been neglected over the winter months,” Woodhams says.
6 ways to mow like a pro
1. Mow before the heat of the day
For the best cut, mow mid-to-late morning when the dew has evaporated. If you’re fortunate to have had some rain, wait at least a day before mowing to achieve a straight cut.
2. Don’t scalp your lawn
“Scalping” means mowing off one-third of the grasses height making your lawn less able to cope with hot, dry weather. Grass about three inches (8cm) tall usually looks better, encourages a deeper root system, and helps prevent invasive weeds from spreading.
3. Change directions
Switch up your mowing route to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your mower and causing grass to grow in the same direction – and eventually falling flat.
4. Stay sharp
A sharp lawnmower blade keeps your lawn looking better while helping your mower to run more efficiently. You can also achieve a cleaner cut quicker with a new blade.
5. The one-third rule
Mowing lawn too short reduces its root system, which in turn prevents it from growing strong and healthy. For a luscious lawn, a general rule of (green) thumb is not to mow more than one-third of the total leaf surface at any given time. This might mean mowing every four to five days during the spring and summer months when growth its at its most rapid.
6. Tune up your mower
A properly serviced mower will do the job quicker and more efficiently, decreasing wear and tear and increasing the time you spend enjoying your lawn rather than maintaining it.
5 jobs that get results
1. Adding organic matter
Plants growing in soil which contains a high percentage of organic matter grow larger and more vigorously, and tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases. Organic matter, which has that loose, crumbly texture, also acts as a sponge, soaking up extra water and releasing it during dry conditions. In late winter or early spring, dig the organic matter into your garden with a pitchfork, or spread it on the surface and let the worms do the work for you.
2. The magic of mulch
Mulch is an essential element in a healthy garden, as it protects the soil and roots of your plants from the harsh summer sun. Mulching keeps the roots cool, adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down (unless you use inorganic mulch like pebbles or gravel), and conserves moisture by helping to prevent both soil and plants from drying out prematurely during those hot, rain-starved days. After removing weeds from your garden bed, use chunky bark (for trees and ornamental shrubs) or straw mulch (fruit trees and vegie beds), leaving some space around the tree base to avoid rot from developing.
3. Pruning and trimming
Reinvigorate plants after an unseasonably warm winter by pruning back older plants before the onset of spring. This will stimulate new growth and increase their chances should El Niño continue through the latter part of the year. Start by removing dead, broken or diseased branches then trim overhanging or drooping branches till you get the desired look.
4. Weed before seed
Many weeds flower and set seed earlier in their growth cycle when the rains taper off, making it important to remove them as soon they emerge. You can also create inhospitable conditions for weed seed to germinate by mulching bare ground and restricting your watering to the areas directly around the plants rather than waving the hose around the garden indiscriminately.
Install a sub-soil or sub-mulch drip-line watering system and connect it to a computerised timer set to turn on a couple of times a week in the early morning. (Make sure to read the manufacturer's instructions before you install it as too much water pressure can cause the system to fail.) Now is also a good time to replace the batteries in your automatic tap timers and clear leaf litter from the trap on your rainwater tank.