Kitchen Garden Summer11 December 2019 Linda Ross
Summer brings the vegetable patch’s peak of production.
The heat of the sun powers growth, but threatens disaster too. Rise with the birds for early deep watering, and let your mantra be mulch, mulch, mulch.
Photo - Shutterstock.com
To protect summer crops from intense summer sun on heat-wave days erect shade structures from bamboo canes and shade cloth; wire cones and cotton pillowslips held in place with pegs; muslin wraps; or even a beach umbrella.
Plant another tripod of tomato/bean/cucumber to extend the summer bounty well into March-April.
Veggie tripod. Photo - Robin Powell
A 60cm length of agricultural pipe gets the water down to tomato roots. This is just where they need it and will see them shrug off hot dry summers.
Tomato on the vine. Photo - Shutterstock.com
Even planting spots that were well-prepared with compost and manures in spring will benefit from fortnightly liquid fertiliser through summer. This will offer easy-access nutrients for tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums and eggplants.Store-bought fertilisers are quick and easy to use, with known and consistent nutrient levels, but if you need to keep costs down make your own.
Colour doesn't have to mean flowers. Photo - Shutterstock.com
Soak a bunch of comfrey leaves or a handful of manure pellets in a bucket of water for a couple of weeks. If your local council permits seaweed collection from beaches use the same method to make seaweed tonic. First hose off the salt, then soak in fresh water. Ensure homemade tonics are diluted to the colour of weak colour before using.
Side dressing is another way of amping up soil nutrients. You can do this with homemade compost or well-aged cow manure.
Treat herb pots and vegetable beds with a soil wetting agent, such as Eco-hydrate, to improve water penetration in potting mix and soil, ensuring that summer rain and watering is effective.
Top up mulch to a depth of 5cm. We keep a small stick marked at 5cm handy to periodically check depths while we do this job. Mulch too thinly and weeds won’t be suppressed. Mulch too thickly and water won’t get down where it’s needed. Use rice straw or lucerne for preference.
If you are planning a summer holiday, organise a friend or neighbour to visit daily to water and harvest.
Plant blue flowering plants such as borage, lavender, rosemary and sage in the vegetable patch to attract bees, increase pollination and boost your harvest.
Use a soil wetting agent when watering vegetables
In cool and temperate areas, sow extra summer crops to extend the harvest. Pop in more cherry or grape tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers, zucchini, French beans and mixed lettuce. Don’t forget baby beetroots and radishes to add interest to summer salads, and lots of herbs like basil, dill and mint.Consider some mini-melons too if you’ve got some spare space.
If you find your coriander bolts to seed quickly, consider growing it indoors in a well-lit kitchen where temperatures are more even, or switch to perennial coriander (Eryngium foetidum). It looks nothing like regular coriander but tastes the same. Buy seeds online from rare seed suppliers.
In tropical and sub-tropical zones, plant capsicum, eggplant, cucumber, pumpkin, sweetcorn and melons.
During late summer, jump-start broccolino, cabbage and cauliflower by sowing seeds, keeping them protected on hot days.