In South-Africa we take pride in our warm sunny summer days. However, with the sweltering heat we have been experiencing lately, this is taking our love of the summer to the extreme. Luckily for us, we can always retreat to the shade, or cool down in other ways. Though unfortunately our veggies and herbs don’t have this luxury and we have to help them through the blazing heat. Here are some useful ways to help them survive the summer:
- Improving the quality of the soil is key to enhance its water retention qualities. Compost and mulch are the best tools.
- One can easily cut one’s watering down by half using mulch effectively, learn more here.
- Recent studies have shown that tilling the soil can even be detrimental to the health of the soil. It disrupts the layer of beneficial microbes in the top layer of the soil. Therefore best to practice no till gardening and keep on adding organic material on top.
- Mulching and applying no till gardening also helps prevent that hard crust forming on top of the soil.
- With bigger plants it is best to mound up the soil around the base, creating a basin that one can fill up with water and have it soak through the to the roots.
- Water less frequently but with more water at a time; thus allowing the soil to dry out in between watering.
- Rather water early in the morning than at night. Watering at night can lead to fungal outbreak and root rot.
- Simplify watering by grouping your veggies together depending on their watering requirements.
- Generally, the bigger and softer the leaf the more water the plant will need, and vice-versa.
- When watering tomatoes try not to get any water on the leaves as this can lead to blight and rust.
- Rather plant leafy veggies like lettuce in semi-shade (morning sun afternoon shade) as this will prevent them from setting seed too quickly.
- Plants in pots and hanging baskets can easily be moved around if the sun is too intense for them.
Pots and hanging baskets
- Plants in pots can easily be moved around as the Sun moves or when we experience a period of intense heat.
- Most veggies and herbs can be planted in pots and hanging baskets, thus making it easier to water and work with.
- Mix coco-fibre in with your potting mix to improve its water retention and remember to mulch frequently.
Pest and disease control
- In hot conditions pest such as red spider and whitefly are more prevalent, keep an eye out for them underneath the leaves.
- Plant water wise repellent plants such as marigolds and wild garlic in between your your veggies to keep the pest away.
- Fungal diseases tend to occur more in wet rainy weather, just keep an eye out when watering at night.
Food gardening has had a major revival in recent years and we shouldn’t let the current dry spell slow down this momentum. Keep in mind that everything we are able grow for ourselves helps with the fight against food insecurity. Using these tips and tricks you will be able to get the best out of your veggies and herbs whilst saving water and time. May you enjoy the veggies of your labour!