Summer in Perth is a great time for beach, barbecues, backyard cricket and enjoying the sunshine. It’s also the time of year many watch their veggie patches turn to burnt plants and dried out, nutrient starved and dried out soil. All that hard work and Winter/Spring time growth!
Summer gardening can be difficult, but it can also be a lot of fun. Simply by following some basic guidelines to get the most out of your yaad. As we know, our Summer’s can be quite intense with heat so just like what we do for our gardens, we must do for ourselves. Sun reflective shirt and pants, wide brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen!
Perth is classed as a Mediterranean climate – cool winters and stiflingly hot, dry summers – and we average around 60+ days of over 30-degree Celsius weather each summer which can place a lot of stress on our beloved fruit and vegetables. What do we do? Shades up and watering’s up but my plants still seem wilted and weak. Why, what am I missing? Holy Lion of Mt ZION, my soil. Time to sort my soils health out in preparation for the incoming heat. Summer soil is made during winter and Visa Versa. Isn’t soil life amazing!! Any soil that is left to dry for over 3 days with temp’s above 25 degrees CELSIUS, surely will turn good, healthy soil to burnt out, dry, gutless, baked dirt. We used to love this as children, baking dirt cakes, but as Suburban Farmer’s this is not always so good for our plants and soils. Hydrophobic soil is a no no but can happen to us all.
Let this Rasta Gardener show you some of my best tips for keeping your soil, thus your fruit and vegetables growing strong over these hot summer months.
- Soil preparation – After Winter/Spring crops are done, we need to address the soil for Summer. Remove all unwater plants, spent plants (unless wanting to go to seed like I do) leaving the root systems in the soil. We want to keep the MYCOLOGY as intact as we can, the more fungi the better. Then top dress with well-rotted, aged compost and leaf mould/litter or add in a Green Manure crop of BUCKWHEAT, FENUGREEK, CHICKPEA, SUNFLOWER, ALFALFA, MUSTARDS, BARLEY GRASS, ANY OLD LEGUMES as well. Cover the soil in the seed and then add a top dress of compost and mulch over with Lupin Mulch.
- Make sure you plant suitable vegetable and fruit varieties that thrive in the heat. Pumpkin, Zucchini, Cucurbits, Sweet corn, Beetroots, Tomatoes, Chillies, Eggplant, Capsicums, Chicory, Silver beet are some varieties that love the heat.
- Fruits like Apples, Citrus, Stone Fruits, Passionfruit, Strawberries, Gooseberries, Grapes, Avocado, Banana, Pawpaw’s cope very well in Perth over Summer. Just remember to get a tree with the correct Frost Hours/Zoning, Semi or Dwarf plants are great for smaller area’s whilst standard size does great also provided there is enough space and conditions for growth. Making sure the soil’s STRUCTURE is correct, more so than its TEXTURE. pH levels should be close to the plants require but as we work in synergy with our soils Microherd/biology, Mycology etc (Living Soil), the levels can vary and will change over time, many times, but subtle and harmless to soil life.
- Check your irrigation. Do a basic systems check, making sure there are no blockages, leaks or issues before they are turned back on for Summer. Check Sprinklers/Drippers and test that coverage is sufficient.
Water early in the cooler periods about 7:30am and 9:30am when Photosynthesis is at its highest.
DON’T water late afternoons or night as mildew left on leaves going into night-time can cause Fungus, Moulds and Mildew problems.
Similarly try to avoid any works in the garden during the middle of the day when it is above 30 degrees Celsius. Plants and roots will be stressed so minimizing any potential damage is key. The only time a sprinkler or watering system should be on is when it’s above 30 degrees Celsius and the wind is up. And this is in extreme cases where coolness is essential. If you follow these guidelines, you shouldn’t have to do anything during the heat.
- If you are planting new seeds and seedlings keep them coveredwith shade cloth or under the canopy of a larger tree for a few weeks until hardened with healthy root formation and ensure the soil always stays moist. Cover all your vegetable beds with a 50% or more shade cloth during days over 30 degrees Celsius. I put mine up early September and leave it on until April.
- Mulch Mulch Mulch, whether it be leaf Mould/Litter, Lupin, Pea Straw, Lucerne, Woodchip etc. It’s main use other than feeding the soil, is it stops evaporation and soil drying out too much. Add a layer of around 2-4” every month. As we layer this, season by season, with composts, green manures and such, it conditions the soil to cope with our dramatic changes in climate. No need for Wetting Agents and gimmicks like that.
- Use a soluble fertiliser weekly, Suburban Farmer’s COMPOST TEA and Brew work specifically for Perth, all year round.
- And always give thanks for Life, The Life Giver and Creator, Master Builder of Nature and Blessed Mumma Earth. More Life = More Love.
Lat thing to do now is go and enjoy your summer garden and the reward of fresh salads, fruits, beautiful gifts of Creation from your own back yard.