Seasonal Summer Maintenance Guide: Keep your Garden and Water Systems in Check!
With the right planning and thoughtful consideration, laying new grass or preparing your current lawn for the upcoming summer season can be as easy as 1-2-3. Warm Season Grasses – such as Buffalo, Couch, Kikuyu, and Zoysia – are particularly suited to the dryer conditions presented by our Australian seasons as they prefer soil temperatures of 25°C and above to thrive, and as little as 50% of the water cool season types require. Once established, these varieties will easily withstand the summer heat that can damage other plants and turfs.
To allow an established lawn the chance to absorb maximum amounts of moisture possible, apply water in the early morning while it’s still cool. Not only will this prevent you overheating in the summer heat, but it will allow your lawn the chance to hydrate before evaporation can occur. Late watering is not recommended, as it may induce overnight humidity, resulting in fungal growth.
Late Spring is the ideal time to apply a slow-release fertiliser to your lawn, and then again every 3 months after the first feed – meaning you should be fertilising your lawn at least once during the summer. It is recommended that further fertilising is avoided once temperatures reach 30°C and above during mid-summer.
Some weeds may continue to survive and grow throughout the summer, despite the harsh conditions. This is thanks to the large tap roots certain weeds feature, which allows them to survive extreme drought and grow where others may struggle. Applying weeding products can be beneficial in dealing with these invasive plants, but be careful before use as many products are not recommended for use in extreme heats.
Lawn growth can be affected in summer by stress caused by the hot, dry weather. It is best to raise the cutting height of your mower during the hotter months, as leaving grass longer provides natural shade and cooling to the roots and soil beneath. Mulch mowing is also recommended during this time, as the plant material clippings release nutrients back into the soil, help to keep the roots insulated, and reduce evaporation. Alternate your mowing patterns throughout the season in order to avoid creating strips or ruts within your lawn.
As the heat and dryness increases coming into the summer months, it is important to keep good care of your garden. A dramatic change in weather without good preparation, regular maintenance, and mindful planning can all affect the state of your much-loved plants. However, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the health and appearance of your garden stay strong throughout the warm season.
Water is essential for the health of your plants, but equally so is the process of delivering that water. Garden plants require approximately 2.5-3cm of water to remain adequately hydrated through the dry season. This water is best delivered from ground level rather than above, as moisture can be more easily retained within the soil. This is a great time to check your watering and irrigation systems to ensure all parts and fittings are working correctly, and are in good condition for the coming season.
For newly planted trees and shrubs, it is recommended that you water them more frequently (anywhere from multiple times daily, to once every 2-3 days depending on age.)
Summer (early to mid) is the time to apply slow-release fertilisers to garden beds, shrubs, and flower pots, as a lot of plants are at the peak of their growth and flowering periods during this time. Slow-release fertilisers help to ensure that your plants are fed steadily and consistently through the summer months.
Some weeds are able to withstand the harsh conditions of summer – such as dandelions – so weeding into the hot months can be essential for the health of your plants. Depending on the size of your garden and how much of a problem the weeds present, you may require weeding more frequently during these months (weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.) Regularly checking your yard for weeds also allows the chance to check for insect attack or disease.
To ensure weeds don’t reappear following removal, place them directly into a bucket or bag while you work. This will help prevent seeds falling back into your garden, which will encourage the growth of new weeds and begin the process again.
With summer approaching, it is important to keep a close eye on the health of your plants. While maintaining a lush lawn and a thriving garden can be the number one concern of a homeowner, ensuring you give enough water to your plants without wasting water is equally (if not more) crucial. Installing and maintaining a good, water-efficient irrigation system can be key to growing a beautiful yard.
If you pay close attention, your lawn and garden can offer valuable feedback about the effectiveness of your irrigation system. Brown areas in your yard may indicate a lack of water – if the browning is secluded to one area, you may want to check your system for a blocked or broken emitter. If there are multiple brown patches, your system may not be running long enough to provide adequate hydration. Another good indication of under-hydration is a limp lawn that fails to bounce back when walked upon or touched.
On the other hand, wet and swampy areas indicate too much water. If the problem is localised, this may be due to a leak or a broken emitter within your irrigation system. Otherwise, you may want to cut back on watering times.
If you have an irrigation system in place, you should check your emitters periodically to ensure they remain in good working condition, especially as summer approaches. There are a handful of issues common with sprinkler heads, some of which include:
Broken Heads – Sprinkler heads can be hard to spot, and – if one isn’t retracting properly – can easily be run over by a lawn mower and damaged. If you have a broken head in your system, it should be replaced immediately.
Clogged Heads – Dirt, mulch, or minerals from hard water can plug up a sprinkler head or rotor nozzle in no time. You should be able to clean out the screen or orifice of the sprinkler to return it to good working condition, but if this doesn’t work, replacing the unit is recommended.
Leaky Heads – Sprinklers feature a rubber seal that wears down over time with use. A little bit of leakage can be normal, but if the flow increases, it’s time to replace the head.
Stuck Heads – When working properly, sprinkler heads are designed to pop-up during operation and retract when the water flow shuts off. Sometimes sprinklers will get stuck and be unable to retract. Often they will return to their position with a gentle tap, but if they refuse to budge, it may be time to replace the unit.
You should regularly check the quality of your water supply regardless of the season, and the beginning of summer is an ideal time as any to ensure the smell, taste, and look of your water is up to standard. The easiest way to identify whether you have a serious issue with your rainwater harvesting system or not is to test the quality of the water you have collected.
Use this time to check for signs of corrosion on or in your tank, look for evidence of animal or insect access, and ensure debris has not accumulated in your gutters or filters.
Frequent cleaning of your rainwater harvesting system’s components is recommended to ensure you are receiving the best quality water possible. Inspecting and maintaining your gutters, first flush diverters, downpipes and other fittings seasonally (or after storms) helps to prevent debris – such as leaf and plant materials – accumulating and polluting your supply. Trimming overhead branches and carrying out other garden maintenance tasks can also help to prevent the likelihood of materials building up.
Checking your tank for the accumulation of sludge is also essential for water quality. If sludge is covering the bottom, siphon it out or completely empty the tank. Professional tank cleaners operate in most areas and are able to empty your tank quickly and efficiently.
If you use your rainwater harvesting system to collect drinking water, using treatments to destroy any harmful bacteria and viruses present is essential. Animal and bird droppings, dust, dirt and decaying vegetable matter (such as leaves) can contaminate tank water and lead to the presence of dangerous bacteria, such as E Coli and streptococci. Use this time at the beginning of summer to bring your water quality up to scratch.
Most water tanks experience some issues throughout their working life. Some of these problems you can resolve on your own, while other problems may require an experienced pump technician to remove the unit for repair. If your water tank pump experiences any significant issues, you will likely lose water pressure or water flow.
If you notice any of the following problems, contact Smart Water Shop for advice:
Reduced Water – If your water pump runs but doesn’t deliver water, there may be a fault within the pump. Pump impellers and seals may fail, and foreign matter or debris from the tank can clog the pump internals. Low water levels within a tank can also cause dry-run failure.
Stopped Pump – If your pump/motor system stops running, you may have an electrical fault or foreign matter seizure. These problems are often repairable.
Cycling – One of the most common problems with water pumps is shortened run cycles. If you notice your pump used to run for longer amounts of time and has recently started to run shorter or more rapid cycles, call Smart Water for service and support. Short cycles are often the result of faults within the pumps auto-pressure control or an indication of leaky pipes/taps. Over their lifetime, too many stops or starts will limit the reliability of the pressure control and pump.
The best time of the year to enjoy your water garden or pond is during the summer months, so inspecting for issues or damage, ensuring filters and equipment are all in working condition, and checking the health of your fish and other wildlife are all important steps you should take before the warm weather sets in.
It is important at the beginning of the summer months to inspect the overall condition of your pond or water garden. Each piece of equipment should be thoroughly checked for wear and damage (including pumps, filters, lights, all cables, tubing, and connections.) If significant damage or wear is found, repairing or replacing the damaged components prior to summer’s peak is recommended.
For ponds with fish or other wildlife present, checking your filters and filtration system as summer begins can help prevent significant issues popping up later on during the season. Fish grow more rapidly during the warm months, which lead to a heavier diet being consumed and more waste product as a result.
If string algae or green water algae’s begin to appear, check your filtration system to return your water to a healthy state.
Be sure to remove all decaying leaves and flowers, accumulated sediment, soils and debris from your pond (as well as areas directly surrounding your pond) before they have the chance to decay in the warm water.
If your pond or water garden is populated by fish, it is recommended that you only provide them with food in the morning, and that you ensure you don’t over-feed them. Uneaten food decays much faster in warmer water and can lead to pollution within your ecosystem.
Warm water also has poor capacity for holding oxygen, while cool water is capable of holding more. As a result, your fish may find it difficult to adjust to the lower levels present during the summer months. To prevent any serious issues, you should keep your water circulating 24 hours a day, not only when you’re enjoying your pond outdoors. If oxygen is lacking within your water garden, air pumps, fountains, water courses and waterfalls can all be added to increase levels, while adding the overall look of your outdoor space.
You should conduct seasonal inspections and maintenance on your outdoor entertaining or landscape lighting fixtures to ensure a beautiful and well-lit outdoor area year around. As the months of outdoor entertaining, holidays and family festivities arrive with summer, there is no better time than now to check that your lighting system is in top condition.
Inspecting your lighting fixtures can help you identify which ones are broken, failing, or aging, and allow you the time to upgrade or replace the units before the summer begins. In coastal areas where fixtures are subject to a high amount of salt exposure, it is important to check your light fixtures more regularly.
If you notice that your fixture is too far gone – there’s excessive corrosion, the mechanical integrity has been compromised, or the lens has broken or is missing – then replacing the light may be more cost effective than having it repaired.
Checking if any lights have been accumulating excess dirt and dust is a quick and easy way of brightening up your yard. Lumens can be lost from dirt and bug matter building up on the globe and lens, so ensuring you keep your landscape lighting fixtures clean also ensures you’re receiving the most efficient light possible.
Replace your cheap fixtures, burned out globes, or broken lamps with long-lasting LED options – their long lifetime means they require less frequent replacement, and the ensuing labour savings and low-energy consumption justify the slightly higher input cost.
You can help prevent globes burning out from unnecessary over-use by installing timers and sensors to activate the lights automatically.