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Greens in netted bed

How to grow greens in summer

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A bit of shade makes a world of difference, SIMON WEBSTER reports.

Growing greens in summer can lead to all sorts of disappointment. Of course, each region has its own climatic challenges, but here in the subtropics, if the blistering sun doesn’t do your lettuce in, the torrential rain will.

There are ways around this. You can grow tropical greens, such as Ceylon spinach and Egyptian spinach (see online retailers for seeds). But while there’s definitely a place for these plants in the hot, humid garden, their textures don’t always suit a salad. Sometimes you just want a good, old-fashioned lettuce.

If you want to grow more familiar salad greens, such as lettuce or chard, it’s a good idea to provide some shade.

I’ve set up a new bed for greens in a position that gets shade from the hot afternoon sun. And I’ve put a net over the top to keep pests off, provide some protection from heavy rain and a bit of extra shade too.

I’m also hoping the mix I’ve used in the raised bed – straw bales topped with about 20cm of compost – will provide good drainage. I anticipate the soil level will sink as the straw breaks down, but hopefully it will last a season. I’ll keep feeding the bed with fish emulsion and chook pellets as we go.

So far so good. We’ve had plenty of days with temperatures in the mid-30s, some heavy rain and hail, and the patch is pumping.

For more on shading vegies in summer, see Phil Dudman’s story here.