Summer in your Garden
As I dip the quill in the ink it’s another sizzling hot day, nudging over 30 degrees celsius without a breath of wind. Summers arrived with a bang and so too is the garden starting to produce the goods for us, based on our spring efforts.
I have a scarce garden this year, I’ve focused all my time on building a Natural swimming pool from scratch, more on that later.
So here’s a few gardening thoughts on these long hot summer days.
If you’re lucky enough to grow garlic unscathed by the dreaded rust it’s definitely time to pull it out, let it dry in the sun, grade it into best in show, medium and not so flash. Now you have to hang it up to dry, under the eaves of a carport or shed out of the sun with good airflow usually in bunches of 6 to 8.Now work out how much garlic you want to grow next year. Your best in show is the next Junes seed. It’s one of the travesties of growing your own garlic that you don’t get to eat the biggest bulging beauties you’ve grown.
Our classic spring and autumn crops that we keep bunging in the ground will struggle in these high temps wanting to bolt and go to seed.
All the brassica crops of which you could easily plant 50% of your garden in at times, need loving care in every season with our cool nights and sizzling days.
The simplest care you can do is to give them some shade using a frame of some sort, that could be hoops made from reused irrigation piping or a purchased product like the Kerilea hoops. Over these we secure some shade cloth or even better use your frost cloth.
This will give you a few weeks head start on the white butterflies that are coming hunting around now.
I have a friend who’s used big shade sails over his whole veggie garden to create this exact effect, with great success in these summer months. He leaves them up all year round.
Another friend has built large shade bed boxes to sit over his beds, same result, climate modified thankyou very much.
I use the Kerilea hoops (available from local garden centres) with frost cloth, no need to double up on shade cloth, I am considering the shade sail option over a portion of the garden. Imagine tender leafy greens at this time of year not frying in the summer sun. Hopefully readers of this article are already employing some of the above methods to keep a year round supply of tasty salad greens.
At this time of year water is crucial, if you haven’t already move tomatoes to the bottom only watering, no overhead sprinklers, this will keep diseases to a minimum. Less humidity is the enemy for most of the ‘heat’ loving crops... Zucchinis, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, eggplants, cucumbers, capsicums and chillies.
With the extreme days consider a second timed watering session. First session should be early in the morning, the second session late in the day for some rehydration. It doesn’t have to be deep water like the first session, just enough to rehydrate the garden and soften the harshness of a sizzling day.
This is a perfect time of year to use your Compost, giving everything a few handfuls around the base of plants if you can spare it. If you have a worm farm, this is the time to harvest some vermicast and apply sparingly to the most needy and hungry looking plants. Cucumbers will thank you later, with a longer productive season with a generous application of compost or vermicast. Or maybe you’re a step ahead of the game and those cucumbers are planted on top of a winter bokashi bucket burial.
Keeping up the tender loving care, how about some homemade seaweed brew or liquid weed/comfrey tea. It’s this time of year when everything is in full super size me mode and your plants are in need of nutrients to get big and tasty. Make Sure you dilute 10 to 1. If you have some compost and vermicast available, chuck that in the liquid brew last minute, stir well and apply too drenching root zones generously. Especially your tomatoes and pumpkins.
Mulching with lucerne or Pea Straw at this time of year is another way of feeding your plants, keeps moisture levels up, reduces evaporation rates, and keeps the soil a little cooler and your plants a little happier.
As one crop finishes you can quickly sow or plant the next. Give the bed a light covering of compost and off you go again. If planting seedlings you can chuck a handful of compost in each seedling hole. A great way to increase biological diversity in the bed and give the seedling a super boosting head start. Remember when planting new seedlings on hot days to give them some shade from the heat of the day for 2-3 days as they acclimate to their new situation.Frost cloth or shade cloth is good for this. Either plant first thing in the morning or early evening.
Back to the natural swimming pool, there’s been a bit of a global movement of these being built around the world including lots around NZ, think big pond you can swim in with plants, frogs and bugs.
The idea is to have a dedicated swim zone and a dedicated regenerative plant zone. The plants oxygenate the water and gobble up any loose nutrients floating about that would cause algae blooms. Take a look on any media site and you will see some amazing creations.
It’s amazing our natural swimming pool has only been up and running less than a month and we already have a couple of different types of water boatman insects and dragon flies buzzing around. The frogs haven’t arrived yet, they might get a little nudge. I want them as an apex bug eating predator. I have a friend with a similar pond, he released a few goldfish, now he reckons he’s in there with at least 500 of them. Not my cup of tea... Bring on the frogs…
That’s not to say everyone has the space and inclination, even a small pond without a swimming zone adds more diversity to your backyard. I have a big tub submerged in the tunnel house to ground level that has frogs in it.. The frogs pop out at night and feast on the bugs.