Hi folks, welcome to Summer. Unfortunately it appears that my dreams of another blissfully mild summer like last year are just that. Dreams. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, we’re in for another stinker. I do hope they are wrong but alas, they probably are not.
Summer in Perth usually means hauling out the vegie nets or 40-50% shade cloth, putting up umbrellas/shade sails, and spraying certain plants and trees with Drought shield – aka Stress guard. 
When the mercury soars toward 40C and beyond, many gardeners lament the fact that they didn’t plant more trees in winter and spring.
At this time of year, many of the spring crops are going to seed. Parsley flowers look stunning in a vase and are perfect for attracting predators which eat the ‘bad’ pests.
However, there’s a fine line between letting a plant go to seed, awaiting the predators; and attracting pests like whitefly which love attacking plants like rocket and kale, particularly when they are dying down. I found the whitefly population almost disappeared overnight when I ripped out my rocket and kale plants after a few weeks of flowering/seeding. A plant at the end of its life cycle sends out a chemical messages broadcasting to pests:  “Come and eat me, I’m nearly for the compost heap!” 
With this in mind, after collecting any desired seed and allowing the bees and hoverflies have a forage for a few weeks – out they come. This makes way for new summer vegies, flowers or herbs. 
Whatever style your garden, why think about how you can enjoy it even more? Is there anywhere actually in the garden you would be likely to want to recline or sit on a strategically placed bench, comfy chair or daybed? Do you want privacy or company?
Is a fire pit or conversation pit something you could see yourself creating as a new place in which to entertain your family and friends?
An episode of Gardening Australia some time ago, showed presenter Millie Ross creating an inexpensive living seat.  This segment inspired me to make my own (below). 
This seat cost me next to nothing using a 35L plastic pot inside a large terracotta one I found at roadside shopping – the best kind! It is now a few months old and is very comfy to sit on.
If you would like to make one of your own, it’s very easy - check out Leafy Lounge 
Frangipanis are almost as synonymous with summer as are sunflowers. Their fragrant petals are beautiful both on the tree, behind your ears and floating in bowls of water, wafting their scent in pleasant intervals during the day.
Frangipani cuttings are easy to strike and if you have access to a mature tree, you can even take cuttings up to 1.8m long. Simply prune off a branch from the mother plant. Make sure you cut from old wood and not the new green growth as the latter may rot. The cutting needs to be at least 30cm long and if desired, can be multiple branched. Allow it to dry for a few weeks in the shade or until the cut starts to swell, indicating that it is ready to grow some roots.
Dip the end either in rooting hormone, unprocessed honey or fresh aloe vera gel. Any of these will discourage fungal infections and encourage roots to grow.
Dig a 50cm diameter x 40cm depth hole in the ground, and prepare the soil with soil conditioner, compost and clay amendments. Click here for our article on How to plant in sandy soils.
Then dig another smaller hole within this, say about 15cm x 30cm and fill with a standard potting mix or succulent/cactus potting mix, ensuring free drainage.
Make an insertion hole with a stake or rake handle instead of just poking the cutting in. This avoids damaging the cutting, although they are quite forgiving.  Place the cutting in the hole, about ¼ - 1/3 the way in. Firm up the potting mix around the cutting and stake if necessary. Roots should take in about 4- 8 weeks.  Alternatively, place cutting in a pot. Water minimally to avoid rot.
Every year, I stretch out the lettuce season to December and every year I regret it. In Perth it is simply too hot to grow lettuce unless you have the perfect cool shady spot in your garden in which to pander to their fussy needs. Beans and cucumbers are a more sensible choice if you are after crunchy greens for salads and light meals.
Both cucumbers and beans are ridiculously easy to grow. They both come in climbing or and bush forms and only require half decent soil, adequate water and fertiliser and some shade when the temperature hits the mid – high thirties. Diggers Club have a staggering amount of heirloom varieties of both,  from the wonderfully named Dragon’s Tongue and Lazy Housewife bean to Mini Muncher Lebanese cucumber. Easy from seed.     
One of my favourite parts of the day is my daily walk listening to ALL THE DIRT or ROOTS AND SHOOTS podcasts. These free local programs are an entertaining way to bone up on your gardening grey matter regardless of how little or much you know about gardening.
Search the podcast app on your iPhone or go to iTunes.
TIP – if you haven’t already done so, get into the habit of foliage spraying.
Potash and trace elements are particularly effective on certain plants and the difference this makes can be quite astonishing. Our sandy soils in the coastal/metro area are usually on the alkaline side which may bind up nutrients, particularly magnesium, iron, zinc and other trace elements. The leaves will look yellowed, small, striated or generally wan, depending on the deficiency. Fruit may fall off prematurely or flowers may be small or non-existent.  
Foliar spraying is also ideal if you have a nutrient starved plant next to say, a greedy tree. The smaller plant roots are competing fruitlessly with the bigger tree roots and going nowhere fast. Foliar spraying either liquid fertiliser or trace elements often solves the problem. If unsure what sort of deficiency you have, take a leaf to a good garden centre and talk to a qualified horticulturalist. They will help you. Invest in a good quality sprayer – the Garden Boss 1, 2 and 5 L are good. Eco Growth have a nifty 360 degree 750ml sprayer for small plants.
TIP – do you have a metal shed which gets stiflingly hot in summer? If so, it may be worth getting a polystyrene box from the greengrocers and boxing up your fertilisers and garden sprays to protect and insulate them against the heat. Heat often renders garden sprays useless so it’s well worth doing.
Stumped for Christmas gift ideas? Why not give a Garden Deva consultation gift voucher? Call Cherise on 0423 385 568 to arrange.
Happy holidays!
Cherise Haslam
0423 385 568


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