Sunday, 2 December 2012

Summer-proofing salad vegetables

In our climate salad vegetables grow best in the cooler months, but Summer is when we eat the most salads. It's always been a challenge. Our temperatures are now in the mid 30s with even higher temperatures forecast later in the week. The tomatoes are stewing on the vine before they ripen. The lettuce are going to seed. Most years I give up when Summer begins, but I'm not ready to give up just yet. It seems silly to buy salad ingedients when there's an empty garden bed outside. This year I'm experimenting with a few ideas to summer-proof the veggie garden.

John has constructed a shade frame from bamboo and 50% shadecloth for the lettuce and beetroot. Hopefully it won't bolt to seed as quickly with some shade. Lettuce seed won't germinate when it's hot, so I bought seedlings - the open non-hearting variety. If it doesn't work I've wasted a couple of dollars and some time. If it works we have lettuce all Summer.
Beetroot grow well from seed. The new leaves are used in salads then the root is harvested - a double bonus crop. They would do OK in full sun but I had room left so I want to see how they go with some shade. We will also cover the soil around the seedlings with a thick layer of finely chopped sugarcane mulch to keep them as cool as possible.

Another experiment this year will be to try tomatoes in pots so I can move them and give them the best conditions possible - maybe even in the shadehouse when it gets too hot. I've grown herbs in pots for this reason for years but haven't tried tomatoes before.
The bed at the rear of this photo is shaded for most of the day. I grow mint and ginger there. It stays damp and much cooler than the rest of the beds.

We've planted cucumbers here (to grow up the trellis giving afternoon shade to the rest of the bed) and beans and a variety of Asian greens - Pak Choy, Bok Choy, Wombok and Mizuna. Again, these will be thickly mulched to keep the soil as cool as possible.

John has also put in a watering system to cut down on the time it takes to handwater each day. Our tanks are all full so we have plenty of water.

I've also planted seed in trays which will go in the shadehouse. They grow slower in there and will be used later to fill gaps as we harvest.
There are plenty of plants that do well in Summer without the extra fuss. Eggplant loves the heat, as do corn, capsicum and chillies. Carrots, rocket and shallots seem to grow anytime so I've planted a few more seeds to keep up the supply.

The rockmelon are powering ahead.

Both the capsicum and chilli plants are producing well at the moment although the capsicum aren't ready to pick yet.

The corn is growing well. Maybe if we're lucky there'll be corn by Christmas - maybe.

John's been really busy this week. He also built a trellis for passionfruit in front of the large tank - an edible screen eventually. I'm going to plant sunflowers along here as well. The sunflowers will grow quickly and look great in a few weeks. By the time the passionfruit are covering the trellis, the sunflowers will be finished.


  1. Oh wow John has been busy building all those trellises and shade-houses. I was just looking at my few remaining cucumber and cherry tomato plants - withered and wilted, even under shade. :( I do have choko, long green beans, amaranth, winged beans, eggplant and sweet potato. Those are my wet season staples.

    1. I'm not confident that the shade will stop them wilting. I think it may be the high temperature that's the problem, but it's woth a try.

  2. I hope all your new gardening experiments go well.
    Everything seems to be doing okay thus far. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you. Don't give up.

  3. I think I know how you feel. Our garden is terrible atm and I feel like giving up because I'm getting nowhere anyway! Good luck with your wonderful solutions.


I would love to know what you think and appreciate your comments.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...