Happy New Year, enjoy your garden this summer!

January can bring extremes of weather – hot and humid with storms, or dry and hot with the ever-present threat of bushfire and the ongoing affects of La Nina. Whatever the weather, the garden offers solace, somewhere to escape the busyness of life and, with the right care and planting, delicious food or flowers to enjoy. Keep on providing regular water, fertiliser and maintenance to encourage plants to keep blooming and fruiting over the months ahead.

Summer shade trees

When days are hot, cool shady spots under trees or a shady verandah beckon. If you have a shady space, make the most of it with comfortable chairs and a table, it’s easy to sit down with a cool drink or to enjoy an evening meal.

If you don’t have a shady tree, now is the time to plan to include one in your garden. Trees don’t have to be tall to give shade beneath their canopy. Ideally a shade tree will have spreading branches above head height so there’s room to sit so look for a tree or tall shrub that will fit the bill and grow to at least 3-5m high and wide.

To allow summer shade and winter sun, select a deciduous tree (a tree that loses its leaves over winter) but for shade all year, select an evergreen tree.

Planting a tree in summer

Summer is a hot time to plant, but it is possible to plant at any time of the year if you are around to look after the new plant and nurture it through any hot weather. Good selections of trees, particularly deciduous trees, are available during autumn and winter which may be an easier time of the year to plant your tree. Water in new plantings with Seasol to reduce transplant shock and aid plant establishment. Continue to apply Seasol regularly every week (30mL of  concentrate per 9 litres of water) to encourage root establishment and aid drought resistance.

For inspiration about what to plant, look around at nearby gardens and local parks and take a visit to your hardware or garden centre to see what’s available. Plant tags give the height and width of trees at around 10 years of growth. Some of our favourite small trees for summer shade include frangipani (deciduous), dwarf flowering gum tree (evergreen), crepe myrtle (deciduous), or forest pansy (deciduous), which suits a cool to temperate garden. Select a named variety if available.

Instant shade ideas

Where there’s no time to wait for a tree to grow and spread some shade, put up a shade sail (this is a good option to shade part of a swimming pool area), or build a pergola that can be shaded with shadecloth while you wait for climbing plants to take over.

As well as providing summer shade, pergolas are also a way of introducing height to a garden and offer space to display climbing plants. Quick growing climbers include ornamental grapevine, wisteria, star jasmine, potato vine, pandorea and climbing roses. When preparing the soil for planting mix in homemade compost and manure and/or Seasol Super Compost. If compost is hard to mix into an already established garden or you prefer a no-dig option, consider using Seasol Liquid Compost. Simply add to a watering can (mix 50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water) or use the hose-on pack.

To get climbers established, plant them in a sunny spot, keep the plants well-watered and regularly fed with liquid fertliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Roses & Flowers.

Reflected heat

Hot surfaces such as paths, paving or concrete get very hot on sunny days, particularly on heatwave days. These hot surfaces not only burn bare feet, but also damage nearby plants, especially.

The damage is caused by reflected heat that radiates from the hot surface to burn leaves and growth. It may cause heat damage to plants that aren’t exposed to direct sunlight.

To reduce the damage, cover hot surfaces on heatwave days (for example with flattened cardboard boxes) or cover nearby plants with shadecloth. New plantings and shade-loving plants are particularly vulnerable to this excessive heat. Water plants thoroughly and, once the heatwave period passes, prune off damaged growth. Applying Seasol GOLD regularly will also help plants to cope with heat and drought.

Five important jobs for summer

  1. Deadhead or lightly cut back summer-flowering plants, particularly roses, dahlias, agapanthus, foxgloves and petunias. This prevents seeding and encourages longer flowering for repeat-flowering plants. Feed and water after pruning.
  2. Water and protect new plantings. Any recent plantings need extra care and attention in summer, particularly during times when it’s very hot and dry. Watering with Seasol helps plants withstand tough times such as heatwaves.
  3. Keep gutters clear. Whether it’s hot and dry or wet, keep gutters clear of leaves and debris to reduce fire hazards, stop water overflowing and keep it feeding into drains or rainwater tanks.
  4. Watch for fruit fly. Fruit fly is a severe summer pest in many parts of Australia. It attacks ripening fruit including peaches, nectarines, tomatoes and capsicum. Use splash baits or protective covers to stop fruit fly getting access to fruit. Signs of fruit fly attack include stings in fruit skin and the emergence of small white maggots which are fruit fly larva.
  5. Pick vegetables daily. Many summer vegetables become over mature and tasteless very quickly. Cucumbers, zucchini, squash and beans can become large and seedy if not picked regularly. To keep on top of crops, inspect plants daily and harvest whatever’s ready searching through foliage to reveal fruit that’s hidden from view.

Pumpkin growing guide

Pumpkins are a long-term crop that needs plenty of space to grow but the rewards in autumn when you can harvest your own pumpkins for soup, roasts and pumpkin scones is worth the investment. To get the best from pumpkins water them regularly as water-stressed pumpkins wilt. Also check that water is going down into the soil when applying it. If you find water running off the soil or pooling on top, then it could be hydrophobic (repelling water). Apply a soil wetter such as Seasol Super Soil Wetter & Conditioner will help to cover come this, plus it has the added bonus of conditioning the soil.

Pumpkins produce male and female flowers. While both are needed to produce a crop, it is only the female flowers that produce fruit. Expect around six to eight pumpkins on each vine but some may have more if they are growing in good rich soil and full sun. If the vine is spreading too far and overtaking other plants, simply prune the tips to stop growth and encourage the vine to develop fruit.

Seven handy tips on how to grow versatile, tasty pumpkins

Harvesting pumpkins

As autumn and cold weather arrives, fruit begins to ripen but the vine will keep growing until frost or very cold conditions kill off growth. Harvest pumpkins as the vine begins to die back when the fruit feels heavy and sounds drummy if you rap your knuckles on the skin. Store pumpkins in a cool, dry spot. If any have damaged skin, use them up quickly as they won’t keep. Pumpkin soup is a family favourite that everybody loves.

For more tips and tricks  on growing pumpkins, check out our growing pumpkin guide.

Liquid feed to keep vegies in top gear

As plants grow and produce flowers and fruit, they need to keep being well nourished. This is particularly the case with productive plants such as leafy greens which are constantly being harvested, or rapidly growing plants such as pumpkins, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes. To keep them looking good, growing strong and producing a continual supply of produce, plants need to be regularly feed with a fertiliser such as PowerFeed PRO SERIES Plant Food Tomatoes & Vegetables. Liquid feed every week (mix 50mL of concentrate per 9 litres of water – standard watering can).