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Wednesday November 30, 2011
Post Title: Food gardening in the hot season  

As climate change brings more uncertainty to our weather, many countries of the world are experiencing hotter conditions in late spring and summer. For backyard organic gardeners, school and community food gardens and hobby farmers, coping with extreme's of heat presents many challenges in achieving successful crops.


Fortunately there are many things you can do to reduce the impact of too much heat and if done properly, you can actually take advantage of the heat to get more food than you would have normally expected.


Let us start with the impact of too much heat in a food garden:

  • Soil becomes dry, dusty and hot especially close to the surface
  • Vegetables wilt due to lack of moisture and vitality and fruit drops from fruit trees;
  • The grasshoppers and other pests clean up the weakened plants;
  • Leafy plants tend to go to seed much faster than normal with stunted leaf growth;
  • It becomes uncomfortable to work in the garden;
  • The harvested food is likely to be more bitter in taste, except if its fruit.


What can you do to reduce heat impact on your food garden?

Garden Design

  • Be sure your garden beds and fruit tree surrounds are level so they hold water
  • Create shade spaces with edible trellises and bordering trees
  • Have more in-ground beds for your veggie garden, as these will keep the soil cooler than raised beds in metal structures.


  • Monitor water levels in soil and make sure soil around plants is moist
  • Keep up your soil fertility practices with composting, liquid manures, companion planting and crop rotation. These create plant vitality, helping them to resist the heat.
  • Make a compost heap for your autumn garden and rest part of your garden with a green manure crop

 Plant selection

  • Only choose plants that are suitable for the warmer time of the year for your location.
  • Experiment with new plants that like hot temperatures, you will be surprised at how many there are to grow.
  • Use high quality planting stock that is propagated in your climate, ideally from your own saved seeds. These are much more likely to withstand extreme’s of your climate.


  • Always plant after 3pm in moist soil, giving the plant some time to settle in before the heat of the next day.
  • Monitor young plants in the garden very closely and give them extra liquid fertiliser if your soil is not in good condition
  • Strengthen plants by letting them experience the heat before putting them into full sun.
  • Consider growing higher plants or climbers that can create shade for lower plants and use more edible ground covers rather than heavy mulching.
  • Plant in tune with the planets, by doing this you add strength and vitality to the plants

 Garden care

  • Water either in the late afternoon or early morning and get as much of the water as you can on the base of the plant,
  • Do not over water as you need to encourage plants to send roots deeper to find water
  • Have virtually all  open soil, planted out either with food crops or green manure crops
  • Lightly mulch open soil with no crops.
  • Work in your garden in the cooler hours

 Pests and diseases

  • The pests will always attack plants that do not look vital, so maintaining plant vitality is your number one job and this flows from all the points above.
  • Use the pests as a guide to action and resist using chemicals.
  • Leave some older plants in your garden for the pests as a distraction from the ones you want to keep them off.
  • Sometimes it’s better to remove plants or crops ravaged by pests and prepare your bed for the next crop which may be more suitable for the time of the year.

Our Gardener subscriber web site provides much deeper instructional information on all the points above, as well giving you a selection of 300 food plants to work with that are aligned in the site to more recent localised climate data than any traditional planting calendar. This will enable you to be very objective in working with climate change and rather than fear it, to embrace it and grow more food.

Happy gardening

Peter Kearney – www.cityfoodgrowers.com.au



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Peter Kearney, Cityfood Growers

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