1. Arrange cover for plants. A canopy of light bamboo and mat looks ethnic. Gardening yardage, available at nurseries, is also effective in cutting out direct light and heat. Avoid plastic: it acts like a greenhouse. And yes, older plants with broader leaves can canopy younger ones.
2. Divide and water. Group plants according to how much water they need: Keep the drought-tolerant succulents in a cluster; keep thirsty plants such as umbrella sedge and Cyperus papyrus together. This will help save water.
3. Act very early or very late.The trick is to beat the sun, for your happiness and that of the plants. So water before sunrise or after sundown. Planting afresh? Do it in the evening. That gives the plant about 10 hours to adjust to its new home before the sun comes up. No matter how tempting, avoid watering leaves. It can lead to fungal infections.
4. Don’t spare the weed. This is the season for rationing…time, energy, water. So make sure you have only the plants you want. Yank the weeds out before they go to seed and spread, else you’re storing up trouble.
5. Choose colour.You think summer is not the season for flowers? Lay out beds or tubs of vinca (periwinkle, sadabahar or nayantara), zinnia, cosmos and gomphrena. In parts of India, salvia (often considered a winter annual) tolerates moderate heat. Marigold, impatiens and geraniums don’t mind the summer either. And who can forget the portulaca? The new hybrids are worth the extra cost. Clump close rather than spread them out in a rag-tag row.
6. Pot pretty leaves.Colocasia (arvi) is a good summer addition. If you can, plant the edible variety. The brilliant leaves of caladium (elephant ears) make up for any paucity of flowers. Get a group of similar-coloured ears.
7. Cheaper filler?Pick up packets of affordable ipomoea seeds from nurseries and tuck into soft soil at intervals. One variety, the railway creeper (‘Ipomoea cairica’), is thought too “common” to be sold. Nurseries may turn up their noses, but ask the gardener. This one’s a thriver.
8. Mix fruit and flower.Plant fast growers such as cucumber, pumpkin and other gourds. Their leaves are robust and green, the flowers brighten up a summer garden, and the best reward comes when the flowers mature into juicy summer vegetables. Just remember to plant along a grille or wall for them to clamber up.
9. Limit the lawn. Plant hardy low-growers along the edges to reduce some of the water demand.
10. Ward off pests. Both drought and overwatering can leave you battling an infestation.
11. Remember the birds.Don’t forget the water bowls and feeders. Place among foliage, high enough for safety and privacy (from pets and small children).
12. Store up the sun.Wash, dry and put away seeds of jamun, mango, citrus fruits and lychee. Plant them in the rains and you’ll have a bustling orchard nursery. If you have a balcony garden, use tubs or cardboard boxes. By next spring, they’ll be ready to plant in the park or give away at your children’s school.