Wednesday, 17 February 2010


  imageBy now our summer vegetables are all established and should be producing well but with another heatwave looming down on us, it is hard to stay positive about gardening in summer, in South Australia. I think a covering of the white 50% shade cloth is the answer to keeping leaves and other soft vegetables going well. To a human the white does not seem to provide a sense of shade but to the plants it is the perfect solution as they need to keep photosynthesising to survive and only the white shade cloth allows the full range of sunlight through, but cuts the intensity by 50%. In my little shade house made of this fabric, lettuce and other leaves flourish and nothing is as uplifting as walking in and seeing such happy plants, even though temperatures may be in the 40's. Have a look at Scarecrow's garden for ideas on how to erect the white shade cloth.

image At Hugh's he has developed a different approach, as we have had the time to toss ideas about together and time for him to learn little by little by direct experience. Living in a rented house with a yard completely covered in concrete has made him learn to be creative and to adapt to what is cheap, easy and possible. For example, he has lettuce and other leaves growing under the tall amaranthus, making a perfect microclimate. After the accidental success of the bok choy planted around the bird bath, Hugh has put a large pot of water amongst the amaranthus to raise the humidity and on hot days this certainly seems to work, as amaranthus in other places tend to get burnt edges on the leaves. It is amazing how fast this water evaporates in our searingly dry heat.

The floor of the tomato bed is covered in herbs such as the Laksa herb, garlic chives, various basils and tarragon. The capsicums are planted so as to be shaded in the late afternoon only; galangal, beetroot and beans receive afternoon shade from the neighbour's gum tree while sweet potatoes and purslane creep between the eggplants. There is no shade cloth,other than the little shade house only careful planning and, despite the abominable mass of concrete, the garden is flourishing like an oasis.

imageOf course there have been casualties! The biggest problem that is very hard to alleviate is the wind which rips through everything, bouncing off fences and rattling even the seemingly most protected areas of the yard. Luckily tomatoes love wind and it keeps away diseases but a week of dead calm has seen the arrival of some mites..... now we are hoping again for the wind to return! Whether it was the wind or something in the soil we don't know but the corn was a disaster, after starting strong and magnificent and everything planted in that bed has failed to thrive..... cucumbers, beans, even zucchinis. But the idea was good.... the tall corn was to protect the cucumbers and the beans were to climb up the corn and everything was supposed to be one big happyimage family!

Before Hugh became interested in growing fruit and vegetables, a lovely old apricot tree died of neglect. Hugh has sown his tallest beans around the dead tree and this is fast becoming a bean tree. Underneath are also marigolds and echinacea and there is a single comfrey plant establishing itself and hopefully soon it will form a clump from which Hugh can harvest the nutrients said to be inside those magical leaves.

There is a dreadful little walled section of garden just wide enough to cook the soil in summer so into it we planted native sand dune plants from this area as well as some okra which loves extreme heat and dry soil. At one end some established spring oniony things are doing fabulously too.


The water from the rain water tank is used to water those things that suffer most from our salty mains water..... tubs of fruit trees and the salad garden, purposely planted right next to the tank because neither of us believe we should be using pumps... that is something I have written about before and no doubt will again. In the '50's when this house was built, people did sensible things like putting the tank up on a stand to give some head or pressure; today this seems to be all forgotten and people use pumps and make pollution in order to save water !!! To make most use of the vertical space and to keep the tank water cool, Hugh has just planted 3 different passionfruit in tubs, after covering the tank in chicken wire for them to climb up..... what terrible English this is but I am running out of time and need to get ready to go to Wednesday gardening at Sally's!!

Everything is thought through here and lessons learned, as best we can, for next year. It is amazing what you can do, no matter what your constraints. All you need is observation, imagination and ..... oh, please find the word that eludes me to go here..... it means effort/to bother/.....oh yes... determination! These 3, as my old school passage from the bible goes, but the greatest of these is observation !


chaiselongue said...

It's fantastic what Hugh has achieved in his garden! And the shade cloth sounds like something we should try here. Lettuces here go to seed by midsummer's day - it's not too bad because there's so much else for salads by then, tomatoes, etc. We have lettuce again in the winter. But I think we should try it. We found that lettuces planted between rows of tomatoes did do well - that was a suggestion of our neighbour, Antoinette, whom you met, Kate, when she gave us the cherry tree.

Maggie said...

Wow! That all looks great Hugh.
I hope you are not too busy at work so you have time to enjoy your garden.

Kate said...

Yes, I remember the cheery tree that we had to dig up that minute! I found it was hard to get some of the things in France that I was used to in Australia and one was white shade cloth. Being hot and dry, South Australia seems to be a world leader of water conservation and heat reduction technology. But sometimes just planting your lettuce amongst the tomatoes can be just as good!