Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the garden… Extreme heat seems to test all things. Like tempers (or patience as the case may be!), watering systems and methods, choice of mulch and choice of plants we use in our gardens.

On top of our little heat wave, is below average rainfall for most of us in the Riverland and Mallee combined with rising water costs, either the water itself and or the cost of electricity to get it where you want it. So little wonder we wander into the garden and are dismayed to find damaged plants through lack of moisture.

Let’s just pretend we have the mythical perfect watering system, I am sure we would still have damaged plants as a result of lush soft growth getting a dose of summer heat. Throw in a few hot nights and there is simply no relief. (Or should that be re-leaf?) So rather than throw your hands up in horror at green leaves that look like they have been in the vegetable crisper for a week too long or even brown and wrinkled leaves let’s use the opportunity to greatest effect. “What opportunity” I hear you ask, “Is this man crazy? The plant is dead!”

The opportunity is simply assessing if the plant was worth having in the first place. Let’s face it. If you have done everything right like watering and fertilising according the plants requirements, mulched and or maintained good weed control and the plant still drops dead at the first sign of a heat wave is it a plant that deserves a place in your garden?

Turn instead to plants that look good now (that is during or after a heat wave) and make a quick list. This list then becomes your guide to planning and replanting. For example if Eremophila subteretifolia looks brilliant and in full bloom it should tell you that this is a plant to use again and there will also be other Eremophila that should perform equally well under similar conditions. If you are not sure what the plants are called that have performed well, bring in samples for identification. Then turn a heat wave to your advantage.

This article first published in the Riverland Weekly © January 10, 2013.