We are well into summer now and have been subjected to some significant hot weather, with more to come. As our climate warms, having a healthy natural environment will become more important.The black bitumen roads and footpaths, dark coloured roofs and hard surfaces all add to the ‘heat island’ effect, where the hot sun significantly increases temperatures in our neighbourhoods.
Large trees reduce this effect by shading the hard surfaces and providing natural evaporative cooling effect through moisture transpiration from the leaves. In fact, lots of greenery helps cool our homes in hot weather. We are fortunate in the hills to have a lot of trees.
The City of Mitcham has been recognised as a ‘Tree City of the World’ (see treecitiesoftheworld.org) because of the high levels of tree canopy cover in the council area. We need to be vigilant however, to protect this as there is always pressure to remove big trees by developers and governments when it suits their other priorities. The greatest amount of open space and hence land for big trees is in domestic backyards, not in parks and reserves, so every big tree we can plant and protect in our garden is important.
Given the number of properties being subdivided, the land available for big trees is reducing. There should be some protection in our new planning code for large existing trees, but that is a separate story. Not everyone has a big property, but every garden can be a place that makes a difference in keeping our environment cooler in summer, in providing habitat for birds and other creatures.
The City of Mitcham provides a guide of suitable plants for the hills – www.mitchamcouncil.sa.gov.au/environment/managing-our-environment/hills-planting-guide.
Native gardens with a wide variety of plants provide the best habitat for native birds. Manicured environments tend to attract only exotic birds. Native plants and native creatures have evolved together over thousands of years supporting each other’s survival. State Flora provides a guide to native plants – www.stateflora.sa.gov.au/the-australian-garden.
Plants that occur naturally in our area, or from a similar climate zone, require less water, as they are designed to cope with natural rainfall. Avoid artificial grass as it can get unbearably hot in summer, kills the soil and degrades into fine plastic fibres over time.As we live in an area of bushfire risk, it is worth considering fire resistant plants. State Flora again provides valuable guidance – www.state-flora.sa.gov.au/the-australian-garden/why-choose-native-plants/bushfire-resistance.