Summer gardening for the brave hearts

Written by Krisy Goodwin

Growing vegetables in SE Qld at this time of year can be extremely challenging. We have heat, insects and fungal disease, to name a few obstacles – making for weak, unhappy plants.

For those gardeners not up to the challenge it would probably be a good idea to simply prep your garden beds for more sympathetic conditions. Lay a thick layer of mulch, plant some green manure legume crops such as cow pea or mustard greens and dig them in before they go to seed. Then all you need to do is rest your beds until the milder temperatures come around again…

But you brave hearts have some preparation to do if you want to continue to grow strong healthy plants over the summer.

To give your plants strength to cope with the summer, cover your beds with 30 to 50 % shade cloth, making sure you are protecting them from direct afternoon sun.

Mulch thickly (at least 10cm thick) and water deeply early in the morning so plants are well prepared for the daytime heat. Avoid watering late in the afternoon as this will encourage fungal disease from water sitting on the leaves overnight. Check regularly for moisture levels at different times during
the day.

Insects are abundant during our summer, flying from plant to plant spreading disease. Grasshoppers, whitefly, fruit fly, and grubs are all wanting to eat your vegetables before you get a bite. Cover your veggies or beds with insect netting or use a natural Pyrethrum vegetable and tomato spray, there are many on the market. Planting lots of good insect attracting herbs and flowers will also help combat them.

Summer survival Hints & Tips

  1. Old screen doors can be used as shade, take out the fly mesh and replace with shade cloth, support the doors on star pickets or garden stakes.
  2. Water the ground and not the leaves to help prevent fungal disease especially in tomatoes and capsicum, it will also help prevent sun scorching.
  3. Don’t overcrowd your plants, follow punnet or seed directions, plants that are too close will be weak and easily susceptible to disease and will be competing for nutrients.
  4. Keep the lower leaves trimmed on your tomatoes and eggplants pinching out suckers to leave 3 main branches…this will provide good airflow and larger healthier fruit.
  5. Don’t fertilise during the very hot weather, contrary to helping strengthen your plant, it will likely put more stress on it.

Sweetcorn, tomatoes, (cherry tomatoes do better than the large types), lettuce (plant under taller plants like corn), eggplant, silver beet, zucchini, okra, sweet potato, beets, Asian greens, snake beans, pumpkin and melons.

The heartiest plants survive because they weather the storms and never stop reaching for the light.
– Robert Clancy