Move over, spring – summer is here!
That means long days and lots of sun, plus plenty to do in the garden.
Whether you’re trying out some new plantings or harvesting a well-earned crop of tomatoes, it’s time to celebrate the sunshine.
The increased light and warmth, however, comes with its share of responsibilities for gardeners.
Minimising heat stress for plants is a top priority, so it’s important to get your day-to-day garden maintenance routine right.
We’ve put together this summer gardening guide packed with tips and ideas for making the most of the hot season. Skip to our top picks for summer!
Plants and Heat Stress
The Australian summer can be harsh on plants, particularly those that aren’t naturally adapted to it. Between extreme heat, strong UV rays and lengthy dry periods, plant stress is very common at this time of year.
Stressed plants may struggle to produce flowers or fruit, and to fend off pests and diseases. Some may lose leaves to sunburn or scorching, while others (typically annuals such as lettuces) may bolt to seed, leading to loss of produce.
In all but the most arid inland zones, summer is a great time to get new plants in the ground – it’s just a matter of choosing the right ones. This will vary depending on where you live, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking.
In most parts of Australia, summer is a busy time in the veggie patch. Early summer is perfect for planting chili, eggplant and capsicum seedlings – these nightshades thrive in hot conditions. It’s also a great time for direct sowing many varieties of beans.
Come February, you can squeeze in a late round of tomatoes for an autumn harvest, and get ahead on your winter crop by sowing some Brussels sprouts. Read more here.
From salads to BBQs, flavoursome herbs are a summer essential. Thankfully, there are many herbs that can’t get enough of the heat. Basil is a summer favourite, and chives, parsley and mint are generally unfazed by harsh temps.
Keep in mind that herbs like basil and parsley can bolt to seed when the temperature spikes. Avoid this with diligent watering and shade cloths. Once the plants are big enough to harvest leaves, regular picking will encourage more leaf growth.
Lettuces are a staple in summer salads. Traditional varieties favour cooler weather, but there are a growing number of heat tolerant varieties on the market, which are perfect for summer sowing. These include some fantastic loose leaf, ‘cut and come again’ varieties.
Planting lettuces in successive rounds also gets around their tendency to bolt in hot weather, allowing for quick harvests with a new crop growing in behind.
Adapted to harsh conditions, Australia’s native plants are some of the toughest around, and ideal for creating drought tolerant gardens. That said, young and establishing plants will need some TLC and diligent watering over summer.
If you want to plant natives at this time of year, research which varieties are suited to your local area. Some species, like lomandras and tussock grass, will grow virtually anywhere.
With a bit of care and planning, you can successfully plant shrubs during summer. Choose a day that’s not too hot, and provide some temporary shade while the plant is establishing. Use plenty of mulch to protect vulnerable roots and ensure the soil doesn’t overheat.
For a showstopping display of blue flowers in future summers, try Ceanothus Pacific Blue. Although this plant is low maintenance and drought tolerant once established, you’ll need to be diligent with watering if you’re planting it during summer.