With December and Birak’s Noongar season approaching, it’s time to start thinking about the impact of the sun, heat, and high temperatures on your garden space, large or small.
Hard to believe considering the season we have had so far but there you go!
Protect your soil and plants from the harsh westerly afternoon sun.
Not only to help with evaporation, but to protect the soil from wind and rain erosion, to lower the temperature of the soil directly next to plants and reduce reflected sun and sunburn, to help with general coverage habitat for worms and microbes, to keep weeding by making sure that the plants you want to grow have access to the food and water you provide, and let’s face it, mulch looks great too.
Watch the type of mulch you add – the softer mulches are great for vegetable beds and general garden beds, while some of the harder mulches work well around established trees, on trails and around. where weeds are a problem.
Always apply to wet soil first, add manure before mulching and apply a soft mulch about 100mm thick – noticeably less and you will lose water, it will not suppress weeds and the effect cooling will decrease, thicker and the water may be trapped in the mulch layer and not soak into the soil.
Great examples of soft mulch include straw (make sure it’s aged or it will fall off once), silage, leaf litter, and live mulch are also pretty cool, such as nasturtiums and alyssum. , although I find both to be prolific self-seeding and can get completely out of hand if you’re not careful.
For hard mulches, I prefer to use organic materials like tree bark and wood chips, as they break down again, just slower, adding to your soil life and microbes.
Hard mulches like pebbles, rocks, stones and gravel add nothing.
I apply the harder organic mulches at a slightly shallower depth – no more than about 70mm as you can keep oxygen from reaching the root layer if you stack them too thick.
Good for garden paths but not as good for around your tall trees, especially shallow rooted varieties like citrus.
Try planting vines on warm fences to cool things down a bit.
I especially like annuals like some of the melons, squash and pumpkins, which do well with something to climb.
Snow peas and snow peas also love a fence, as do cuca melons or as they are commonly called – mouse melons.
Table grape vines are wonderful, dropping their leaves just at the right time.
I have tried many passion fruits over the years, but have found that they thrive to the point of growing through and on anything in sight, including in the canopy of surrounding trees, or under – thrived, remaining small and sickly producing very little fruit.
Transplanted or not – I had problems with both.
They can also grow into leaves and stems, producing very little fruit, and thus become a nice little refuge for rats and mice.
My advice would be to think carefully before planting, especially in a backyard environment.
And if you’ve managed to get a prolific producer of the right size, you’re in luck!
Consider the height of the sun and plant your shade-tolerant plants like lettuce and leafy greens in these spots.
They will do very well in the shade during the summer months.
What else are we planting in the area in December?
An all-time favorite can come in now – basil, with beans if you’ve got something to climb on or if not, why not try bush bean, a clumping variety that doesn’t require a trellis.
Add these tomatoes if you haven’t already, along with the corn, all squash, yellow and green zucchini, cucumbers, and of course, more sunflowers.
Raspberries are also doing very well in Margaret River and there are both summer and fall fruit varieties.
We’ll have some for sale at the Honesty Roadside MRPS booth in December, potted on runners from my raspberry field at home.
Make sure to check that your reticle is working properly and set your watering days.
Two decent, deep waters per week is always better for your plants than a lot of shorter waters as your plants will grow their roots down in search of moisture which will give them better resistance to hot days which tend to arrive in February and March.
Tip number five is therefore quite simple: everything revolves around the ground!
Take care of it, feed it, water it, protect it – and it will make you tenfold what you put in it.
Good summer garden to all.
Terri is the Garden Coordinator and Specialist for the Margaret River Elementary School’s Vegetable Garden Program and a Horticultural Lecturer at TAFE Margaret River.
His column focuses on tips for a productive edible garden – what and when to plant, when to harvest, disease and pest control, and general advice on what works (and doesn’t) here in the Margaret River area. .