Are you always in a hurry? No time to shop around, no money to spend on expensive garden materials and tools? Try these age-old tricks that work just as well as anything you can buy
1. Making cut-backs
Kangaroo paws have become very popular over the past few years. They deserve a spot in any garden because they flower brilliantly and are tough. After flowering, the whole plant should be cut back to ground level. This will remove any damaged and diseased leaves so any foliage on the plant is lush and healthy.
2. Make shade while the sun shines
To protect small seedlings from the searing heat of late summer, plant in the cool of the evening and then protect with a small branch of bushy foliage to shade them for a few days. This will get them used to the hot sun gradually and within a week the branch can be taken away.
3. Some like it hot
Planting can still be carried out at this time of the year. Just follow a few simple guidelines. Improve the soil with lots of organic matter, add water-storing crystals and a wetting agent to save water and, once planted, water well with Seasol. Mulch with a quality mulch and hand water every day for three weeks while the plant is settling in. Try to avoid planting in the middle of a heatwave and take advantage of the cool of the evening.
4. Take the hint
At this time of the year we still need lots of shade in the backyard. One tree can reduce the immediate temperature of the area surrounding it by 5–10 degrees. A few of these and the backyard can turn into a cool oasis. Deciduous trees and large shrubs allow the sun to stream in when we get into the cooler months. If you don’t have enough shade, take it as a cue to plant a tree or two now.
5. Make a fairy house
A favourite deciduous tree is the weeping mulberry, a gorgeous umbrella-shaped specimen tree. A “fairy cubby” can be created for the children by pruning the inside branches out. Create a secret doorway and they will spend hours in the cool of the canopy, which is large enough for a few children and their toys. You can be confident even on the hottest day that they are protected from the sun.
6. Dress it up
If the lawn is looking a little thin or dead in patches, it’s time to apply a top dressing of organic soil improver. This organic-rich soil will encourage the grass to grow into the dead patches, strengthen the root system and green up the lawn almost instantly, at the same time improving the quality of the soil around the roots.
7. Slugging it to the grubs
Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices of cucumber in a small pie tin around your garden and you will be free of pests all season long. The cucumber has a reaction with the aluminium, which gives off a scent that’s undetectable to humans but drives garden pests crazy and makes them flee the area quick smart. Sent in by Lorna and Bill Harris
8. Control earwigs
Bury a shallow jar in the garden with the rim level with the soil surface. Fill it with vegie or olive oil and a couple of drops of soy sauce — the earwigs literally dive into it and never come out again. Inspect the jar every morning and remove any dead earwigs. Sent in by Pauline, Vic. Another easy method is to use a length of garden hose (about 25–30cm long) and just throw it on the ground next to your vegies. Beats rolled-up newspapers. My grandfather has been doing this for years. He bashes the earwigs out of it for the chooks.
9. Up they go
Recycle offcuts of concrete formwork mesh in the garden by standing them upright and using them as trellises to grow climbing plants. No need to worry about garden stakes and messy string everywhere. Beans and cucumber plants easily find their way around, wrapping their tendrils around the wires with very little effort from you.
10. Can it
So your plants don’t dry out in hot weather, create humidity around them without having to spray water in the air. Simply hang old aluminium cans around the garden and fill them with water and, as the day warms up, the water evaporates, creating humidity around the plants. This will help to keep them hydrated for longer, so they’ll need less watering in the ground. The reflection of the sun on the cans acts as a bird deterrent, scaring them away from your vegies.