Keep the garden ticking over by removing dead wood in summer

Summer's challenging for gardeners, start by removing dead wood

Life & Style
A granular wetting agent (Amgrow Wettasoil) in the soil allows oak leaf hydrangeas, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and catmint to flourish.

A granular wetting agent (Amgrow Wettasoil) in the soil allows oak leaf hydrangeas, Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and catmint to flourish.

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Don't despair, there's lots we can do to keep things ticking over until the weather breaks.

Aa

This summer is a massive challenge for gardeners.

Ferocious heat, little rain even in summer rainfall regions and, almost worst of all, our traditional stand-by of lucerne mulch being desperately needed for stock.

Don't despair, there's lots we can do to keep things ticking over until the weather breaks.

Getting rid of dead wood is a start. Looking at a deceased shrub day after day is intensely depressing: bite the bullet and remove it.

Digging bone dry ground is backbreaking, you need a long-handled shovel and preferably an energetic teenager to operate it.

Teenagers will also happily saw off dead branches from shrubs and small trees, there's nothing they like better than half an hour with a sharp pair of pruners, or a little battery-operated chainsaw if they can be trusted.

Some shrubs and trees shed leaves as protection from drought.

Check first that a plant is absolutely in its death throes by scratching the bark to see if it's green underneath, you may find a nice surprise.

Removing dead wood gives the garden an instant lift.

You might also need to check your soil. Apart from its inability to support plant life, bone dry soil is a problem in itself, as it becomes water repellent.

Water slithers off its surface, taking nutrients with it, rather than penetrating the ground. Dry soil heats up more quickly too.

An easy solution is a wetting agent, available in granular, liquid or crystal form from nurseries.

Each works slightly differently.

Granular wetting agents are the easiest to use on the garden as they are broadcast on the surface according to the application rate on the packet.

We're not talking rocket science here - I find a handful per square metre does the job nicely.

There they sit until they're watered, either from the sky or your hose, after which they penetrate the soil, allowing it magically once again to absorb and hold water.

Mulch protects the ground from the fiercest heat of the sun, adds humus (living matter) to the soil and helps prevent weeds, should any dare germinate under these conditions. - Fiona Ogilvie

Liquid agents work similarly. You can either mix and apply from a watering can or spread from a flagon that includes a hose-on attachment. Liquids are slightly more time consuming than granules but work instantly. Both last up to six months.

Crystals and gels (aka polymers) work quite differently. They hold up to 400 times their weight (a teaspoon holds a litre of water) which is then slowly released into the soil. They don't help water uptake in hydrophobic soil but are excellent when incorporated into 'normal' - i.e. damp - soil.

Lastly, mulch. Anything to protect the soil's surface helps. I'm currently raking up dead grass, kangaroo scats and dried leaves to spread. It's horrifying how much is there but at least it's being put to good use.

Mulch protects the ground from the fiercest heat of the sun, adds humus (living matter) to the soil and helps prevent weeds, should any dare germinate under these conditions.

It's better spread on damp ground, otherwise, you risk preserving dry soil. So, if by a miracle you have a shower of rain, grab the opportunity.

Aa

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