Gardening Tips For Summer

In the northern hemisphere when summer starts it is good to check how well you are garden is prepared for the heat, less rainfall and so on.

Of course, the first thing to check is how well you have mulched – this saves both water and conserves moisture. This also keeps the soil temperature at tolerable levels for the more delicate plants.

Before I forget – I have published two more volumes of the Beginners Gardening Android App
Beginners Gardening Guide Volume 2decornew
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Help yourself – they are free – more are on this page

Have you sprayed for blackspot on your roses? Keeping this disease under control will ensure healthier plants and better blooming. Feed as buds start to reappear (presuming you have had a spring blooming.

These plants initiate their buds during summer for the autumn/winter blooming. They should have been fed by now. Keep the roots cool with good mulching. More on Camellias, more on Azaleas on this site

As summer really gets a hold, it pays to make sure you are keeping the pots cool – especially terracotta ones as they soak up the sun’s heat and radiated heat from hard surfaces (paving etc.) Just placing them in saucers really doesn’t work, but is more likely to encourage root rot and be a place for mozzies to breed. You can try and use damp sand in the saucers instead.

While it preferable to have planted your new seedlings before summer gets a grip, if you are only doing them now, sun harden them first – cover with 50% shade cloth or an equivalent until their roots are well established – in some regions you may just need to keep the shade cloth on all summer.

Watering, especially winter rains, can leach away nutrients in the soil – so consider a boost of trace elements for your garden plants.

Gardenias and roses in particular benefit from supplementary magnesium in summer.

See this page for information on the basics: Phosphorus (flowering and fruiting and root growth), Potassium (boosts the plants immune system) and Nitrogen (leaf and stem growth

If you have had a habit of mulching, you shouldn’t need to dig over the garden – mulch should keep the weeds down and the soil friable – that is, well aerated.

These are a great idea – they don’t take up much room and give you loads of fertiliser, chew up kitchen and green waste and provide the worms for your garden and the occasional bird who gets lucky. Keep the worm farm in a shady cool area.

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Summer Gardening Suggestions

While most of your garden planting has probably been done by now, there are still things you can consider for later or do as summer marches on.

If you are in the southern hemisphere then keep these in mind when spring has sprung.
Consider the beauty of Lilacs and their perfumezzzzzLilacs2
Consider Daphnes, they are quite exquisite and worth the effort – more information here on the is site.
As summer gets hotter and the spring annuals finish, replant with hardy vincas and petunias – though I think they can be boring, they do survive heat and dry conditions reasonably well.
Fruit trees are hungry feeders – keep them well mulched, composted and fed.
Move delicate potted plants out of direct afternoon sun.

Do you need to feed and weed your lawn?
Renew mulch if needed – save water and keep the soil moisture in. Will also help keep weeds down.
Check your fruit trees – you can see sick or dead branches more easily as the leaves have sprouted to show the healthy ones. Prune away dead stuff – and if needed clear out the middle to encourage the airflow – most important with roses too.
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Midway Through Summer Gardening

Many vegetables have short growing times, and can be planted and harvested within a few short weeks. vegetable growing

Growing vegetables such as lettuce, radish, green onions, green beans, and many heat-loving herbs is easy to do, even starting in mid-summer.

Summertime is also a good time to plant traditional warm weather vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, and peas.


If you have very hot summers with loads of direct sun shining on your veggie patch, it is a good idea to consider spreading shade cloth over it to reduce the burning that can wither your veg and dry up moisture.


  • Water in the morning and evening – not in the midday period.
  • Replenish mulch as needed. This will moderate soil temp and assist retain moisture.rose pruning
  • You shouldn’t need to weed if you have mulched well, but if they are coming up – remove them as they will compete for moisture and nutrients.
  • Rose blooms finished? Then do a medium prune for another crop – and clear out center canes to allow the breeze to help keep fungal disease down.
  • Some annuals can survive a prune too and will re-flower – e.g. petunias, dwarf snapdragons, vincas and salvias.
  • Dig out any plants that are finished or looking scrawny or dying. They only use up water and nutrients

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Nutrients and Garden Manures

There are many benefits to adding organic material to your garden so it is good to know the nutrient value of garden manures.

They are the great soil improver – and adding plant matter (compost) and manures enriches the soil and nourishes your plants. They aid in moisture retention, help reduce compaction and can buffer extremes in pH. They also helps maintain the structure and nutrient holding capacity of the soil.

It is important to remember that are not the ultimate fertilisers though. That is a different issue. They are need for soil care.

The nutrient level is lower than regular fertilisers. The rate of release is slower, and levels of minerals may vary and are not balanced.

Vegetable and fruits often have high nitrogen requirements, and it can be difficult to provide sufficient nitrogen alone from an organic source throughout the growing season of the crop.

What Manure Does
Manure conditions soils of all types, it does provide a level of nutrients, and, as it is more or less decomposed, it is teeming with bacteria and other beneficial organisms. Animal manures can either be dug into the soil, or they can be spread on the surface of the soil and used as a mulch.

You can dig it in or just spread it over the top of the garden bed. If it needs to age a bit more then dig it in, especially in the veggie patch. Do this a few weeks BEFORE planting. Chicken poo is probably too strong to dig in as there is a possibility it can burn the roots of your plants.

Animals that have a diet of grass or vegetable matter will produce manure that reflects the nutrient balance that plants need from the soil.

Type of Garden

Best Type of Manure

Best Time to Apply


cow, horse

early spring


chicken, cow, horse

fall, spring

Potato or root crop

chicken, cow, horse

fall, spring

Acid-loving plants
(blueberries, azaleas, mountain laurel, rhododendrons)

cow, horse

early fall or not at all

Chicken Manure
always has a higher nitrogen level, making it great for fertilising lawns and for use in the veggie garden. Note, however, don’t over compensate when applying it – an excess of nitrogen will result in a lot of foliage growth at the expense of flowers and fruit.

It is probably best composted with other organic matter and left to break down over a six week period before being added to the soil.

Sheep poo is a gentler soil conditioner and while is has less nutrients it is easy to dig in or be spread liberally over the garden. It has a low nitrogen level.

Similarly with cow poo. It is very good for the structure of the soil.

The smell of manures can be off-putting, to say the least, however if you water it in well it will pretty much be gone by the next day.

Fresh stable manure is also too strong to dig directly into the soil. The salts of the urine contained in the manure and straw will burn plants if dug into, or spread onto, the soil.

Can you use dog poo or kitty litter in the garden? Unfortunately it’s not a good idea – particularly in the vegetable garden – because their droppings often contain pathogens harmful to humans.

Composition of Manure from Samples Reported in Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers

………………………………..Moisture (%) Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium
Cattle 86 11 4 10
Sheep 70 20 15 21
Chicken 73 22 22 10
Horse 80 13 5 13

Other manures (e.g. goose) and the dried commercial ones can be seen on a larger chart at
Knott’s Handbook for Vegetable Growers. Second edit. Pg. 75-76

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Climate Zones for Your Garden

Knowing your garden’s climate zone is important as it is a guide for what plants will thrive in your area.

2016 is suffering form an El Nino – so more wet and more heat! Put plants that are in pots into afternoon shady areas if it is summer where you live.

While you can have plants from other zones (e.g. roses in tropical areas) they will either not thrive as well as their best zone, or will require special care – e.g. roses are more prone to fungal diseases in tropical climates because of the higher humidity.usdazone2

USA Climate Zones – more detailed tables – CLICK HERE

UK Climate ZonesCLICK HERE
This article in Wikipedia has quite extensive tables of weather averages in different regions/cities – CLICK HERE

Europe Climate Zones CLICK HERE

Australia Climate ZonesCLICK HERE

South America Climate ZonesCLICK HERE

Africa Climate ZonesCLICK HERE

Asia Climate Zones (includes Russia)CLICK HERE

(Acknowledgement: information from

Your local nursery is usually the best guide what is suitable for your area as that is what they usually only supply.

And, of course, glass houses can improve your chances of growing favorite plants not native or suitable for your climate conditions.

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Food Plants for Courtyards and Balconies – part two

Continued from part one

Considerationscourtyard garden 2
When planning your edible garden, some of the key considerations include:

How much space you have – remember, an edible garden can be as small as one plant in a pot
The best place – a sunny position with easy access to water will work well, but many edible plants will also grow well in partial shade
The nature of your soil – well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter is ideal
• What you would like to grow and eat
When planning what to plant in your edible garden, things to think about include:
What are your favourite fruits, vegetables, herbs and other edible plants are – if you plant what you love to eat then you will be enthusiastic about your gardening project
Sensory appeal – grow plants you like to see, smell or touch
• Which plants you need a small amount of, often – herbs are a good example
Which edible plants are rarely found in the shops – perhaps there is a variety of tomato you can’t buy at the supermarket
The climate where you live – consider which plants are best suited to the local climate
Seasonality – consider which plants will grow best at the time of year when you are planting. Seed packets or labels on seedlings will give you an idea, or talk to staff at your local plant nursery.balcony-garden 3

Remember: flowers and herbs can be used in salads, can add flavour to cooked dishes, and can be made into teas or used as a garnish.

Here’s to herbs
I have found that culinary herbs of all varieties are some of the most resilient and reliable plants you can have in any garden and even more so in a potted one.

Good choices are basil,chives, sage, tarragon, parsley, rosemary, artichoke, lemon balm, oregano, marjoram and lemongrass sage, mint, oregano, parsley and thyme— the list is endless and the results always seem to be the same.

(basil and lemon balm are good anti mozzie plants)

Vegetables – lettuce, tomatoes, silverbeet, corn, capsicum and beans
Fruit: strawberries

Benefits of a balcony garden:

  • Almost all the products and materials used can be taken with you if you decide to move.Balcony-garden 2
  • It will add instant value to your property.
  • A well designed balcony or courtyard garden adds another room to your house.
  • An edible garden will provide you with fresh delicious food.
  • The soil – always use a good quality potting mix – and add some water retention crystals.Planters and Pots …. And don’t forget the potential of a trellis!

    Or go vertical (hanging baskets, trellis

    A good design ensures a balcony garden or rooftop garden is functional, stylish and most importantly: it lasts. The conditions up on a balcony are often completely different from down on the ground.

    We like to think of balconies as their own ’microclimates

    Or just for decorative purposes – then plant annuals and perennials

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Food Plants for Courtyards and Balconies – part one

Just because you live in an apartment or townhouse with only have a small courtyard you can still have some great food plants, ranging from herbs to delicious fruits.

Growing Food in a Small Garden
Inner-city living doesn’t mean you have to go without some home-grown veggies, fruit or herbs.

The Basicscourtyard gardening
Gardening in small spaces is all about getting the bones right.

Understand your location, the limitations, the potential, the products available, the maintenance required and how all this fits in with your own personal wish list.

Small spaces can produce an amazing quantity of food to harvest. It can all be done organically and with great sensitivity to the environment.

Plants in a small container garden will only give out what you put in. Start with a good-quality potting mix, mulch and compost and don’t skimp on things such as a regular liquid fertiliser (worm wee is great) and quality manures.

It can all be done organically and products such as water crystals that hold moisture around the root zone of your much-loved plants will make the job so much easier.

Potting Mix doesn’t last foreverbalcony gardening
The use of water crystals and liquid fertilisers or fish emulsions will keep things happier and healthier for longer, but ultimately all potting mix needs to be replaced.

One of the most common problems with a potted plant is the potting mix is simply too old.
Invest in a good-quality one from the start and you make the job much easier.

As a rule of thumb, replace your potting mix every three years.

A balcony garden isn’t just limited by space but is often also at the mercy of more extreme weather than most gardens, from stronger wind gusts and turbulence to baking sun or freezing cold and shade that limits what, where and when you can grow whatever it is you want to plant.

For those who want to grow a cropping garden on a balcony, it’s all about sunlight: if you don’t have good sun you just don’t have the right space to grow fruit and veg. Sorry. High winds can also be a problem for a cropping garden, even when you have the sunlight you need.small gardens

Espalier gardens are another type of vertical garden and very traditional in form. They can also be found in funkier, contemporary gardens but the principles remain the same: a highly structured layout to the planting, which is clipped and shaped into geometric grids and patterns flat against a wall or fence.

Watering is also critical. Those that have automated drip irrigation do much better. No one remembers to water everything every day without fault.

Don’t forget to choose your plant wisely as walls can reflect a lot of heat.

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Clematis One of the Best Climbers

There is a huge range of climbers that will trail along a pergola, cover a fence or hide an ugly shed.

One of the best is the old favorite – clematis.

Spring is a great time to plant clematis, so if you visit a garden centre or nursery, you should find – plenty available in bud or flower.

Spring clematis has smaller flowers than summer clematis. So if possible a mix of both can be interesting.

Spring clematis are easy to grow, but not in dry soil that bakes in summer. Their roots need to be cool and moist at all times, so it helps if you lay a thick mulch at their feet.

To bloom for spring, clematis must develop fertile buds on previous year’s stems. So prune only if absolutely necessary, after flowering in spring. clematis 2

Summer varieties flower on new growth. So they can be winter pruned, as hard as you like, at the same time as the roses.

While moderately vigorous, they are easy to keep confined to where you want them.

When lined up for sale, all clematis look roughly the same size. But growth habits are diverse and vigorous varieties such as evergreen C. armandii or better-known C. montana grow huge.

Both are wonderful plants but only if you have plenty of space. Armandii is a sprawler whose young stems can grow 3 or 4 metres in a single season. That’s great if you can harness the floral energy by training the stems along a wall or over a pergola.clematis3

But to keep control, you may have to prune quite hard each year. And since C. armandii produces its avalanche of fragrant white blossoms at Eastertide, pruning must wait until the last petals fall.

The great clematis buff Christopher Lloyd cut his back to the ground every spring. Wise counsel, because you can then arrange and tie in the new leads as they extend.

C. montana varieties are whoppers, too. Unfettered, they’ll scale a 50ft tree. Unlike C. armandii, they don’t like being cut to the ground, but must be controlled.

So plant montanas only if you have space. They’re heavenly spring climbers – especially white Grandiflora and shell-pink Elizabeth. But if you don’t keep them within bounds, they’ll be up and into your roof tiles before you can say ‘Ranunculaceae’.

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Planning Your First Vegetable Garden

First Point
Growing vegetables can be fun. It’s a great way to spend time with children or have a place to get away and spend time outdoors in the sun.

If you plan it right, you can enjoy a beautiful garden full of the fruits of your labor — without having to spend hours and hours tending it.

Planting a garden that includes vegetables and flowers means you’ve combined natural companions, and that can turn a potential eyesore into an attractive landscape feature.

What to Plant
If it is your first effort – then thinking small is probably best. This will help you know what limits there are – such as your time – in addition to the learning process. tomatoes pot 2

If you take on too many different vegetables with their differing requirements, you may become over-whelmed – and discouraged.

The first taste of successful vegetable planting will encourage you to then expand and experiment.

AND, don’t worry about failure! We all have them.

The Size of your Vegetable Patch
Before you decide on what plant/s you want to grow – determine how much space you have!

AND, You don’t need a large area. Some vegetables can be grown in pots and planters. Herbs especially are great in pots and you can keep them near the kitchen door – for quick harvesting to add to your cooking.

Regardless of the size there are three basic requirements for success:
1. Full Sun. 6 to 8 hours of direct Sun is a normal requirement for most vegetables. Lack of light usually means they will not bear as much and they’ll be more susceptible to insect and disease attacks.
One exception to this possibly other leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach.
2. Plenty of water. Vegetables generally are not drought tolerant so they need to have regular watering especially during dry spells which will also occur in winter as well summer.
3. Good soil. The key to any type of gardening success is having really good soil. That is, soil that is friable, able to retain moisture, well-drained and rich in organic matter which you will get from your compost and mulch. See this page too for more info!

These three basic rules apply to any size vegetable patch. Pots, planters, inground beds.

Our Suggested First Vegetable to Grow.
Because they are so tasteless when bought from a supermarket, I suggest that you try to grow your own tomatoes. I have successfully grown them in pots and in small garden beds – which measure 36 inches by six feet. Last season, I had six tomato plants growing in such a small bed and reaped a great harvest of tasty tomatoes.

Once the plants start to grow up I use simple trellising to tie the growing plant to. As branches start to form I tie them to the trailers as well.

I cut off the lower foliage so that it helps prevent pests crawling up the plants.

Tomatoes do like to have plenty to drink and regular feeding. One additional feed that I give in addition to a tomato specific fertilizer is the occasional spray of sulphate of potash.

This encourages flowering and helps sweeten the fruits.

In fact, I use it on most plants, fruit trees, flowers and vegetables.

Just remember to mulch well for moisture retention and weed suppression. If you do this properly you will not have to weed between the plants.

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Hanging Baskets for Color

Create a dazzling display of rich colours

Every summer, many village pubs and homes put up superb hanging baskets.
The ones that work best are those that are kept simple. For example – full of petunias or lobelias. In most places these will bloom and look gorgeous from June to October (northern hemisphere – in the southern just use the equivalent period).

Keeping up good maintenance (feed and water) will ensure better longevity. Petunias can be pruned if they get straggly.

May is the perfect time to buy your plants. Basket design is important. Old-fashioned models with hollow hemispheres of wire, suspended on triple chains and lined with moss. Plants slotted between the wires as well as into the top, and with rapid growth the works were soon hidden.hanging basketsHanging baskets are tricky to keep healthy through the summer months, but get them right and you can enjoy six months of flowering glory

Modern baskets are made of plastic or coated metal, often with coir mats, not moss. The best have a ‘cup and saucer’ reservoir at the base that extends periods between watering and helps when plants are growing and thirsty.

Once plants are mature, frequent watering is essential. If you let compost dry out, it’s difficult to re-hydrate. Use only top-quality potting composts and add moisture-retaining gel — if it isn’t already included in the compost.

The key to long-term success is to feed well over the growing season. Apply a liquid fertiliser weekly or place slow-release sticks or tablets in the compost. If plants become undernourished, they will be hard to rally.

Baskets hang fairly high, so make sure you’re equipped for watering from below. You can buy hookshaped or telescopic lances to attach to hosepipes. If you have lots of containers, consider an automatic watering system.

Baskets dislike extremes. The ideal hanging spot is well-lit, sheltered and easy to access for watering and dead-heading.annualslobelia2small

Strong winds, roasting sun and oppressive shade can all influence performance. So if your site is less than ideal, choose your plants cautiously.

Be adventurous when deciding what to grow. Any trailing variety will do as long as it performs all summer.

You can play safe with ivy-leaf pelargoniums, bidens, trailing fuchsias, lobelias and busy lizzies — or go out on a limb with something exotic.

In ferocious sun, select arid loving plants such as Delosperma, mesembryanthemums, Portulaca or blue Convolvulus sabatius.
In dense shade, choose ivies, drought-tolerant ferns such as tender Nephrolepis exaltata or hardy Cheilanthes lanosa. Or try variegated ground ivy, Glechoma hederacea Variegata.

Whatever the conditions, pick plants that flower constantly and have attractive foliage.

Those grown solo must have a good balance of flower to leaf. Million Kisses and Illumination begonias are perfect in this respect and come in colours ranging through pinks, reds or apricot shades.

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