Sure, vegies need full sun to thrive, but not full sun at full tilt! Yesterday’s 38-degree temperatures at my place in Northern NSW reminded me of the need to be prepared when the mercury rises. Some crops can cope… like corn, eggplant and capsicum, but the softer things like lettuce, radish and squash fall over in the heat of a classic Aussie scorcher, and sometimes never recover.
Some gardeners start planning early, laying out the toughies in blocks throughout their beds and planting the softies between them so that they can be protected by the shade they cast. I like to set up a kind of shade house over one or two beds to act as a permanent place for heat sensitive crops to grow throughout the summer. The shade cloth cover works brilliantly, just taking the edge off the intensity of the sun on those really hot days. I’ve even grown super-sensitive coriander successfully under a structure like this.
The frame that holds the shadecloth is a fairly simple affair – just bamboo posts and some poly-pipe. There are many ways that you could design and make a frame. The simplest one that I use is a tomato stake post at each end of the bed, with a long length of bamboo tied to each stake. The shadecloth gets thrown over and held into position with a few bricks to form a kind of tent. It goes up in minutes. I use around 30-50% shadecloth, which keeps things cool below, without getting too dark.
Of course, the other vital thing for keeping your organic crops productive in the heat is water, and you can read my tips for effective summer watering in the latest issue of ABC Organic Gardener magazine
First published: January 2012