GARDENING

with DERYN THORPE

Planning to Survive Summer

vegetables

In your garden, the New Year is an excellent time to celebrate the things that brought joy to your heart last year, take stock of the failures and continue protecting plants from our searing summer heat.

ASK YOURSELF: WHAT WORKED?

In my own garden, the best dividends came from soil improvement (which in my sandy soil included the generous use of clay additives), coir peat and compost worked into the top 30cm of soil. My sensational roses were still flowering in late October as a result.

WHAT FAILED?

I was a little neglectful in my front vegetable patch and the winter crop of broccoli and kale were under fertilised and watered and their ill health led to a ferocious attack by white fly. Observation is the most important gardening tool and I should have realised they were stressed and rectified the situation as stressed plants attract sap sucking insects.

After picking the crop, I removed all the plants and left the area fallow for a few weeks before planting a summer crop of green beans which is now growing well. If you were slow to plant this year there is still time to plant tomato seeds or seedlings, as well as eggplant, corn, zucchini, melon and capsicum, before the weather cools.

HOW CAN I IMPROVE AND PROTECT IT?

If you have a hot climate it is necessary to provide some temporary afternoon shade for vegetables. Many gardeners now use agricultural shadecloth with 20% to 50% screening which moderates temperatures and reduces damage from wind and radiation over the summer months.

All summer vegetables cope better with the heat if given a fortnightly feed with a complete liquid plant food that contains seaweed. Choose a formula with natural minerals and fulvic acid (which improves nutrient uptake) like Uplift by Yates and pour over the foliage and root zone.

Over summer, soils can become non-wetting and are best improved with an organic-based granular soil wetter like Yates Waterwise Granular Soil Wetter which contains coir peat which attracts and stores water and nutrients along with a fast acting wetting agent that improves the moisture penetration of water repellent soils.

Plants need more frequent watering in summer but you can reduce a plant's water use by applying an acrylic polymer to the leaves. Products like Yates' DroughtShield reduce water usage by up to 50% and increase the survival of plants during dry times. The product stretches up to 100% with leaf growth and lasts for up to 90 days. It will also prolong the life of cut flowers.

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