Guide to Planting for the Australian Summer Climate
Australia’s climate is governed mostly by its size and by the hot, sinking air of the subtropical high pressure belt which moves north and south with the seasons. The climate is variable, with frequent droughts in some locations. But Australia’s climate is not just ‘hot’. It offers a climate to suit everyone across its eight states and territories.
Changes in altitude significantly affect local temperature. For every 100m of altitude you gain, the temperature drops by an average 0.8 degrees Celsius. Changes in latitude have a bearing on temperature, too, and the more you move towards the poles and away from the Equator, the cooler it gets. An accurate rule of thumb is difficult, however, as there are a number of interacting and confounding factors.
A general guide to Australia’s varied climate can be found below.
Planting for Australian climate is important any time of year. But it’s especially important in the summer months. This is when Australia’s weather is at its most extreme and when plants take the biggest battering. When planting with summer in mind, consider the following.
Planting for future climate
When planting your garden, it’s crucial that you pay attention to your local climate. It’s also important that you consider climate change and the future effect it will have on your garden environment.
Plant species are reacting to climate change by adapting or migrating to better conditions. But this is not an option for gardens, therefore careful consideration is needed. As the climate continues to change we will need to introduce species not previously grown in some areas, using plants that are better adapted to newer climatic conditions. To help with this, we recommend reading guides such as the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and the Atlas for Living Australia. Bear in mind, however, these resources are aimed at expert or scientific audiences.
Planting for drought
If you live in an area that doesn’t get much rain, or you simply want a low-maintenance garden, using drought-tolerant plants is a great idea. What you choose will depend on your local climate and soil type. Some plants thrive in light, sandy soil that drains well, while others prefer heavy clay soil that holds water near the roots.
If you’re unsure of what type of soil you’ve got, dig up a sample and take it to your local Bunnings nursery.
Plants you might consider include agave succulents, aloe vera (great for easing sunburn, too) and bauhinia corymbosa, a sun-loving orchid vine that looks delicate but grows tough. Ideally though, you want to try and plant natives where possible.
Choosing to grow natives in your garden will benefit you, the local wildlife and the environment. Established native plants are drought tolerant and need less water than exotic species. They’re easy to grow too, generally inexpensive, and provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies and lizards. On top of this many of Australia’s native plants are visually stunning – think wattles, waratahs, bottlebrushes and kangaroo paws – and planting them helps to preserve the country’s heritage.
For planting guides and step-by-step advice on planting natives in your local area, we recommend reading the Australian Native Plant Guide.
Planting for beauty
For colour and vibrancy in the garden during summer, nothing beats a few punnets of annuals. These plants will only last a season but they are generous in what they offer for a short period of time. Try planting petunias, calibrachoa, celosia, marigolds, cleome and cornflowers and mix them up by adding them to borders, hanging baskets and in front of shrubs. To get a good 8-12 weeks of flowers, add water crystals, a sprinkle of blood and bone, and controlled release fertiliser. Pull off flowers as they finish to make way for new ones.
As well as annuals, work with Armstone to ensure your landscaping brings out the best in your outdoor space. Beautiful pavers, creative cobblestone paths and stunning stone walls are excellent features but your plants need to complement these and ensure comfort (and not just beauty) in the summer months.
Planting for food
The Australian summer means long hours of sunlight no matter what region you’re in. Make the most of this and you can enjoy some of the best crops you’ll ever taste.
Summer is a great time for eating fresh fruit and vegetables planted in your own backyard. It’s also the ideal time to plant for a salad crop and autumn soups. Plant zucchini, tomato, pumpkin, cucumber, eggplant and more and water early in the morning two to three times a week for long periods. Watering deeply will ensure the roots sink down deep into the soil, protecting them from the hot summer sun.
Planting for shade
Adding shade to a sunny backyard will ensure you can use your garden all year round. On a sweltering day, heat absorbing surfaces exposed to the sun, like concrete, pavers, or dark man-made materials are likely to raise the ambient temperature of your garden. Offset the heat by planting trees, shrubs and vines that will increase shade and lower the ambient temperature.
Strategically-placed planting doesn’t just cool your garden, but your home, too. With proper shading, you can reduce your reliance on air conditioning in the warmer months. Aim for trees with dense foliage – the size of the tree will depend on the size of your yard. You can also plant tall shrubs in pots on your patio, plant short shrubs and flowers to cast shade on walkways, and place an arbour in your yard and train a vine up the structure. The goal should be to create pockets of shade rather than shade the entire yard.
Thinking about how you can make the most of the Australian climate? Talk to Armstone about transforming your outdoor space into the ultimate garden haven.
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