The Hills are always a few degrees cooler than the Adelaide Plains…………….. or are they? Over the last year or so I have noticed some disturbing things about the temperature predictions for Mt Barker where I live. I had always presumed that our temperatures were cooler than Adelaide but when there is going to be a really hot day, or spell of them, what I have been noticing is that Mt Barker is hotter than Adelaide. I am sure many areas of the Hills like Stirling and Aldgate are cooler, but for those that are not, please think through the choices you make for the garden around your home.

I wish I had taken screenshots of the Bureau of Meteorology predictions when I started noticing this pattern last summer, but recently I have been doing so. Obviously, it all depends on where the weather systems are coming from but just over a week ago it was predicted to be 42 degrees in Adelaide, 43 at Mt Barker and 45 at Murray Bridge.

So, whether it’s actually getting hotter, or I simply hadn’t noticed it before, many people around Adelaide and the Hills are worried about how hot their neighborhoods and our city is getting. Have you heard about the concept of the Urban heat island effect, which is worrying governments around the world, and for which South Australia and of course Adelaide is particularly vulnerable?

If the heat is worrying you, do you fancy living somewhere where the temperature is 5 to 6 degrees cooler……………… yet still have the conveniences and familiarity of where you live? It’s easy! Plant a garden and keep it green and healthy. A new study by Macquarie University, the Centre for Smart Green Cities and Adapt West set out to measure how much trees and other home garden vegetation reduced day and night heat. This study was done in the western suburbs of Adelaide and is being applied all over Australia. It has proven and quantified what gardeners already knew – a green garden cools your home down.

It found that “the density of greenery in household yards kept land surface temperatures up to 5 to 6 degrees Celsius below similar non-vegetated areas, particularly in neighbourhoods away from the cooling effects of the sea breeze”. It’s obvious really yet urban infill, the densification of our city, and even our Hills towns, is seeing one house on a larger block which had a garden, demolished to make way for four or five houses jammed with little, if any outdoor space. If that’s what you want, that’s fine but please think through your choices on what to do with the tiny garden areas, rather than simply pave the lot. This whole process raises the temperature of our already vulnerable towns and city. After all heat is the number one natural killer of Australians, yet it appears we have lost common sense, especially in the planning sector.

If you are looking to buy a home, look for one in a leafy green neighborhood, one with an established garden and shade, one in a tree lined street, or one where there are lots of council parks with big trees. And if you are buying or building a new home, and you have only got a tiny backyard but want to cool your home what can you do? (sorry – I may have rabbited on about this a few …….or many times before, but now there is a study to prove it!?)

Create Shade – we are talking natural shade, not just a colourbond or polycarb covered outdoor entertaining area. Shade cloth and shade sails do create physical shade, but they don’t significantly cool the air the way plants do.

Plant trees or vines for shade and if you are smart, use deciduous plants which drop their leaves in winter allowing the precious winter sunshine to come in warming your home. It’s called passive cooling and heating.

The reality is these trees and vines will take a few years to grow, so what if you are renting and can’t put down permanent roots? In this case, why not look at temporary solutions with vertical vegies which grow in a season and feed you at the same time.

Plant a garden and water your lawn

Having a green garden around your home cools it down and as a result you won’t need to use your air conditioning as much.

And if you love a lawn, have a lawn.

Lawns are also great at cooling down your home. While many people stopped watering their lawns when we were faced with water restrictions a few years ago, limited areas of lawn strategically placed close to your house have a dramatic effect on cooling your home. And it’s a great place for kids and pets to play.

Misting systems in outdoor entertaining areas can also have a profound effect on dropping the temperature so you can continue to enjoy our outdoor lifestyle in the heat. A misting system uses hardly any water in fact two hours of misting is equivalent to cutting your shower short by one minute.

Reduce unnecessary hot reflective surfaces, like large areas of paving, concrete, bitumen. Exposed brick walls and exposed metal fencing. Use plants and your garden to cut the heat from these things.

Now there is probably one reader thinking that this is fine, but it will cost them for the water they use create a green garden. Yet water is a fraction of the cost of electricity and so its false economy to stop watering your garden as you will have to crank up the air conditioning.

Want to know more? read on about Summer Shade….