Surviving High Summer

Surviving High Summer

The summer of 2015/16 has been quite severe with dry, extremely hot, very windy conditions, all exacerbated by the El Niño weather system, which is in its peak right now. Most gardens are in distress. The lawn is drying out, plants are drooping and some trees are already losing their leaves.

Those of us who don’t have access to borehole or river water are being put under water restrictions and billing surcharges.

To be honest January and February are the worst months of the year for a Cape Town garden. Every year is the same, El Niño or no El Niño these months are fierce. Every year this time we face the same conditions and our gardens struggle.

Here are my suggestions for surviving the high summer heat.

1. Mulch the beds:

Add a 5cm – 10cm layer of rough compost or mulch to the garden. Applying this in the months of December and January will help cool the ground thus preventing root burn. It acts as a blanket insulating the moisture in the soil, against the heat of the sun, preventing excess evaporation.

Mulch decomposes over a few months, enriching the top soil and feeding your plants.

Try to get this in a loose-form, delivered and applied by your landscaper or Garden service. Buying in bags can be costly for medium and larger gardens.

There are about 33 bags to one cubic meter (or a bakkie load). The more cubic meters you order un-bagged and in the loose-form the cheaper the transport gets and the more cost effective it becomes.

2. Cut Back:

The plants in your garden that are drooping can be pruned or cut back. This will reduce leaf surface area and help preserve moisture in the body of the plant. Once cut back these plants will be energised to produce new leaves which will sprout just after the heat passes and bring new life into the garden in the late summer and early autumn.


Mulch is very important for the Cape Garden in this season

3. Suggestions for lawn:

Most lawns are struggling in the heat. If they do not receive enough water they will become dry and straw-like. Unfortunately, to be green and lush, lawn needs quite a lot of water as it requires moist and cool roots.

  • Water the lawn from sunset to midnight only – early morning water is lost very quickly to the heat of the day.
  • When Lawn is cut too short, the ground heats up and burns its roots. Make sure that the lawn is cut at the highest setting the lawn mower can get to, as longer lawn will help cool the ground and therefore the roots.
  • Apply a 1.5cm layer of quality lawn-dressing to the lawn thatch. Rake it in and then water. This will stimulate the lawn to produce new roots and leaves.