Keep your garden cool and your water bill under control

If you’re wanting your plants to stay looking good through the warmer months, especially those who plan to go on away holiday, here’s what you need to know



  • Mulching is beneficial in so many ways.
  • It helps keep moisture in the soil; therefore reducing the amount of watering you’ll need to do. It keeps the roots of trees and shrubs cool, imperative for survival in hot weather. It also reduces weeds by not allowing light through to germinate seeds – any that do germinate in the mulch are much easier to pull out.
  • Organic mulches such as garden clippings, bark, untreated sawdust and pea straw are great multitaskers as they eventually break down, improving soil texture as well as doing all of the above. Use them for areas such as vegetable gardens and beds where there is a lot of leaf drop.


  • A good feed in early summer will help keep plants thriving all through the hot months. If you haven’t already done so, it’s not too late! Feeding your garden well will help keep it healthy during its peak growing period so that it can resist pests and diseases.


  • Water is an increasingly expensive commodity but most plants need it during summer. Although watering systems save time and energy they can waste water, particularly those with spray fittings. Spraying water on foliage can cause fungal diseases and it also evaporates very quickly. You’re better to go for dripper hoses that use less water and deliver it to the roots of plants rather than the leaves.
  • Using a garden hose, not a sprinkler, means that you can physically check which areas really need watering. It’s also an enjoyable thing to do at the end or beginning of the day. But, again, be mindful that a garden hose can easily deliver as much as 20 litres of water every minute. This is equal to a bath full of water every five minutes. Fit a trigger nozzle to the hose and you won’t waste water as you move around the garden.


  • Lawns need plenty of irrigating in summer, which is both time consuming and expensive. Keeping them a little higher (around 3cm) means the foliage will shade the grass roots and prevent them drying out so much. Think about cutting back on the size of your lawn and replacing it with garden beds of drought-tolerant shrubs. This is a good solution for sloping areas that lose a lot of water through run-off and are hard to mow.
  • If you really must water your lawn and garden, the occasional deep soaking is much better for plants than regular light sprinkles, which only encourage shallow rooting. The best time to do this is early in the morning, otherwise much of the water will evaporate before the plants can absorb it.


  • Many New Zealand native plants have learnt to survive in dry places. These include arthropodium (renga renga), astelia, coprosma, corokia, cordyline (cabbage tree), hebe, manuka, olearia, pittosporum, pohutukawa, pseudopanax, senecio and xeronema (Poor Knights lily).
  • You have to be tough to survive in the Australian bush so consider planting Aussie banksias, bottlebrush (callistemon) and grevillea, all of which have many, many cultivars to choose from. Lomandra, an attractive Australian grass-like perennial with lime-green foliage, is drought tolerant once established.
  • African shrubs such as protea, leucadendron and leucospermum are normally very drought tolerant but all require free-draining soil. Shade-loving perennial clivia copes well without a lot of water, too.
  • Go for plants with grey or silver foliage as this is often an adaptation to hot and dry conditions. Consider cistus (rock rose), convolvulus, echium, helichrysum, lavender, oleander, olives, teucrium and groundcovers like lamb’s ear and arctotis.
  • Fleshy leaves are a sign of drought tolerance – think succulents such as agaves, aloes, dracaena and yucca, along with smaller senecio, echeveria, kalanchoe, sedum, and sempervivum species.


Words by: Carol Bucknell