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Nothing can survive without water - and in summer in Perth, it is vital to your garden! Here are some great basics to keep in mind:
1. Water the Roots. This means the water will penetrate the soil where it's needed. Wetting the foliage may in fact promote fungal disease, so keep it on the ground, and make sure it can permeate below the mulch.
2. How much and how often? As a general rule, young plants need less water, more often while established trees need more water, less often. A good, deep watering once a week should be enough for established trees and shrubs, while young seedlings may need water twice a day.
3. Watch the weather. On very hot and windy days, you may need to give your plants an additional water to replace soil moisture lost through transpiration. On cooler and cloudy days, leaves don't lose as much moisture, so you may be able to cut back.
4. Health Check. If your plants aren't looking healthy in summer - inadequate moisture may be the problem. But before making assumptions, dig a hole to at least a spade's depth and check. If the soil feels damp, then moisture is probably not the issue. Do some detective work, ask for advice and try to get to what may be causing the lack of vigour. Make sure your plants aren't getting TOO MUCH water - especially if you have underlying clay, or have used root barrier, or have a wicking bed. Plants need air in the soil too, and if roots are waterlogged, they will literally drown.
5. Slow and steady. Water slowly to allow the water to penetrate rather than quickly flooding the soil, where it may wash away topsoil and cause excessive leaching. This is one reason drip irrigation is so effective. If you are hand watering, take out your own "liquid refreshment" to enjoy while you're working away with the hose. It can be a great time to relax and think.
6. Timing. Watering in the morning is acknowledged to be the best - it allows plants to take up moisture and have it in their cells before the heat of the day strikes. Allowing leaves to dry out will also help avoid fungal problems. However - if you simply don't get time in the morning then early evening will work too. It is better to have a regular time for watering and stick to it, rather than watering at irregular intervals.
7. Preservation. There is no point using precious water on your garden unless you mulch the soil. Make sure water penetrates the mulch, and water is not just simply being absorbed into mulch (which is why we don't like peat mulch). Top up your mulch if required. Soil should remain cool and moist just below the soil surface if you're using enough.
8. Wetting agents. We recommend our Sand Remedy. Adding clay, water crystals or a good quality wetting agent will help keep the moisture in the soil over the hottest months. It is a worthwhile investment - remember clay products last almost indefinitely.
9. Shadecloth. Protecting plants during the hottest part of the day is also essential in our climate - if you want to grow lush vegetables anyway. It will also minimise evaporation and water usage. White horticultural shadecloth is the best, as it allows the full colour spectrum of light through, meaning you don't get leggy growth.
10. Retic check. It is important to know your retic is in good working order - especially if you have an automated timer that goes off in the early hours, you may never see your system working. How do you know if you have a blocked sprinkler head, or a leak? Giving it a quick check now and again will save you the heartache of discovering (too late) that one of your favourite plants has died, due to a sprinkler not working nearby.
Looking at ways to make your Perth summer garden more water efficient? Speak to us - we can help.