Summer Care for Your Garden

The hot summer months can be a struggle for any garden. Three secrets to keeping it looking lush and healthy are; soil preparation before planting, regular mulching and good water management.

Preparing Your Garden

Preparing your soil in early spring is crucial to the health of your summer garden. Improving the soil structure by mixing in plenty of organic matter like Daltons Enriched Compost to your existing soil will add nutrition and improve its water-holding capacities. 

  1. Firstly remove any old or dead plants and weeds, ensuring that any diseased winter crops are removed from the property and kept out of the compost bin – this is so you do not re-infect your summer crops.  
  2. Apply a generous layer of Daltons Enriched Compost, Daltons Garden TimeTM Compost or Daltons Big Value Blood & Bone and thoroughly dig it into the soil, working it in to approximately 1.5 spades deep. This ensures the soil has been fully aerated, improving the organic matter, nutrient content and microbial activity. 
  3. If growing in raised planters or gardens, fill up the area with Daltons Premium Garden Mix. Water thoroughly prior to planting (see Water Management on page 2).
  4. After planting apply your first layer of mulch. Re-apply when and where required depending on the type of mulch used (see below).

Planting Trees And Shrubs
Even trees and shrubs can struggle in the drier months and they are often forgotten when it comes to regular watering. 

  1. Prepare the planting site by digging a hole twice as wide and as deep as the container the tree or shrub came in. 
  2. Add generous amounts of Daltons Premium Garden Mix or Daltons Garden TimeTM Enriched Garden Mix to the hole and mix in well.
  3. Improve drainage by creating a mound at the bottom in the middle where the rootball will sit.
  4. Place the plant in the hole, replace the soil around the rootball and pat it to make it compact and firm. 
  5. The ideal tree position is when it sits in the ground and the base of the stem is slightly higher than ground level. This prevents water pooling around the trunk and causing any rots. 
  6. Stake the tree for extra support if required and apply a generous layer of Daltons Premium Mulch and Grow around the top but not touching the trunk of your tree.
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Regular mulching is a must and it will help you maintain a lush healthy garden.

Mulch is usually a form of organic matter that is applied as a layer on top of your soil in your garden around plants, trees, and especially in your pots, to help protect them against the elements throughout the seasons.

Practically any organic material can be used for mulching, some examples are: bark, straw, newspaper, seaweed, deciduous tree leaves collected in autumn.

Some loss of nutrients can occur if you use certain products such as wood chips as mulch. To help the problem, apply a generous layer of Daltons Big Value Blood & Bone to your soil and mix it in well before applying any mulch. Some people put down a layer of newspaper before they add their organic mulches – just don’t make the layer too thick.

You can purchase bulk or bagged mulch from your local garden centre, like Daltons Premium Mulch & Grow, which is ready to apply straight onto your garden.


When to apply mulch?
Timing the application of mulch onto your garden is very important and depends on where you live in New Zealand. The key is not to apply it too early or you risk locking in the cold moist soils of winter – it’s better to wait until soil temperatures have risen. In the colder areas of New Zealand; such as parts of the South Island, apply mulch in mid-late November. In warmer regions, mulch can be applied from late October/early November.


How much to apply?
When applying mulch to a new garden, tree or plant, the thickness of the mulch should be enough to prevent the growth of weeds. Do not make the layer too thick as it will stop or hinder the penetration of water to the roots of the plants that are being mulched. The exact measurement does depend on the type of mulch being used, with the important factor being its permeability (allowing water penetration). As a guide, a good layer of Daltons Premium Mulch & Grow should be applied approximately 50-100mm thick around plants.

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Benefits of Mulching

Top reasons you should be adding mulch to your garden:

  1. A thick (50-100mm) layer of mulch around your plants will help suppress weeds. This means your plants are not competing for root space and nutrients. Always create a clean slate and remove all weeds before applying mulch.
  2. Mulch shields plants sensitive roots from the elements, especially during the colder and drier months. It keeps them covered and protected.
  3. Valuable nutrients are added to the soil as organic mulches break down over time. They improve the soil quality and structure by encouraging micro-organisms and worm activity.
  4. Organic mulches aid water retention by hindering water evaporation, keeping the moisture in the soil. This is particularly important on exceptionally hot or windy days and prevents plants from wilting.
  5. Soil temperatures are regulated by the added layer of mulch; in warmer months it keeps the soil cooler, and in colder months insulates plants and their roots. Consistent, even soil temperatures also help extend the growing season and harvesting period and reduce plant stress. 
  6. Watering onto mulch versus bare ground limits the soil splash onto your fruit or vegetable crops, keeping them cleaner. For instance, regularly applying mulch around strawberry plants will keep fruit clean, dry and off the soil, therefore reducing the risk of fruit rot.
  7. Mulching helps prevent nutrients from being leached from the soil; for instance if a down pour occurs then mulch absorbs this excess water and releases it at a more regulated rate.
  8. A good layer of mulch encourages plant roots to penetrate deep into the soil in search of nutrients and water, promoting healthy strong plant growth.
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How Often to Renew Mulch? 

Mulch should be re-applied annually or seasonally depending on the type of mulch you use. You may need to re-apply it two or three times during the growing season; for instance if you use pea straw it will need to be applied more frequently as it breaks down faster, compared with a bark based mulch.

Don’t forget to fertilise your plants in spring or autumn depending on what you have growing in your garden and how often you are watering (some plants are gross feeders and may require more applications). Daltons have a wide range of fertilisers available designed to meet all garden fertiliser needs, and include specialised mixes for flowers, acid loving plants, shrubs and trees, tomatoes, citrus, strawberry, vegetables, fruit trees, berries, and potatoes and sweet potatoes. Always ensure that your applied fertiliser is watered in well.

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Water Management

You can’t survive without water, and neither can your garden. The success of your summer garden will largely depend on careful monitoring of the water supply to your plants.

Top Watering Tips

  1. Be regular when watering your garden, little and often is best, avoiding the hottest part of the day when plants are heat stressed. Once a day in the early morning or evening up to three times a week should be plenty. 
  2. Use Daltons Coir Fibre Briquettes around the root zone of your plants to improve moisture retention.
  3. Some plants such as roses do require deep watering to encourage deep root development. So apply extra water to those plant types in the early part of the day.
  4. Water until it begins to puddle on top of the soil which means the soil has reached its water holding capacity.
  5. Avoid getting foliage wet as this can promote the spread of disease on plants like tomatoes and roses. Aim for the root zone instead. 
  6. Don’t overwater – too much of anything is not good. If there has been plenty of rainfall you will not need to water as regularly. 
  7. With many plants (trees and shrubs particularly) if they are not watered well and regularly over the hotter summer months, they will stop growing. If you maintain a consistent regime then you can expect excellent results with continued growth through the hot summer months. This is critical when establishing a new garden as you want plants to grow to maturity as soon as possible.


Don’t Forget Pots and Containers
Plants grown in pots dry out more quickly and need to be watered regularly (until the water appears in the saucer). It is important to check that there are adequate drainage holes in the container prior to planting (if not, add more), and avoid having the pot sitting continuously in wet conditions e.g. directly on the ground. 

When planting into pots, keep the level of soil slightly lower so you have enough room for a layer of mulch on top to help with moisture retention and stop them drying out.

Watering plants
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Gardening Terms Explained

Deciduous trees Trees that shed their leaves every season.
Leaching A loss of water-soluble nutrients from the soil by over irrigating or by excessive rainfall.
Mulching A top layer of organic matter so the soil and plant are protected. 
Foliage Leaves of a plant.