As the hottest days of the year roll through, imagine how thirsty your garden gets during the day, especially in the afternoon sun.

Knowing what your garden needs in order to survive and thrive can be an art form; if you don’t water it enough you will have problems, water it too often and you create other problems. Achieving the perfect balance and maintaining a healthy garden can all change due to drastic weather changes or something as simple as forgetting to turn the sprinklers on.

When to water?

The most efficient times to water your garden are when the sun will have the least impact, either early morning and/or late afternoon/evening. The best time to water your garden would be when it’s still cool in the morning but isn’t too late and dry. Ideally you would aim for half an hour after sunrise as it will allow the water to rundown to the soil and be absorbed properly before any of the harsh sunlight can get to it. It is impossible for your garden to be scorched by remaining water droplets as they would easily be evaporated, rather than harm your foliage.

Contrary to popular belief, if there is a prolonged dry spell you may not need to water more often. What is better for your trees and shrubs is to water for a longer time so the water goes deeper. This encourages the roots to go down further where there are more stable temperature and moisture levels. Mature trees do not really need watering unless there is a severe and prolonged drought. Deciduous trees have been dropping leaves around this summer but this is not a sign that they are dying. This is a safety mechanism trees use to avoid too much transpiration from their leaves. It certainly confuses them and us, but is not technically dangerous for them.

How to care for your plants in Summer 

If you see signs of stress in trees you could consider watering around the base of the tree at the drip line (the edge of the leaf canopy). Put a sprinkler on low and move it around to water the whole area. Trees need a lot of water so most have already put their roots into the subterranean soil where there is moisture. If a tree struggles to look good every year it may be unsuitable for the location. Look around the neighbourhood and check to see what does well and consider something more suitable. With drier summers becoming the norm over much of Australia we need to think more carefully about our choices for the garden.

No matter your method of watering your garden beds, the amount of water will depend on what you are growing. Most garden beds will look a bit parched at the height of the dry/hot season but once rains come everything looks fresh again. Try to water only once a week, deeply, so the roots are encouraged to go down. A thick layer of mulch (choices include coarse bark, stones, newspaper, straw or other cheap alternative) provides a measure of water conservation through reduced soil drying out. It also works a bit like a sunshade or hat as the root area will be cooler. Look around your garden – bare soil is liable to set like concrete (unless you’re in an area with sandy soil) and then be impervious to water when it rains.

For more tips and tricks on watering your garden, finding the right watering devices or wanting to know more of our gardening tips, check out the Pope Irrigation website.

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