Summer is a busy time at Cana Farm at Orchard Hills in Sydney’s West: planting, harvesting and helping the garden survive the heat.
Gillian, a horticulture student at the farm, planted summer crops such as plums, spinach, zucchinis, watermelons and capsicums. “We cooked and sold the vegetables through our cafe space and we now have people coming regularly to buy the produce,” she said.
Here are some tips to help your garden flourish like Cana through the summer.
This is an essential part of summer garden maintenance. Water your garden in the morning to avoid mildew, a common disease that may not kill your plants but will cause them stress. Treat mildew-affected plants such as pumpkin and cucumber with an easy home remedy: simply mix one part cow’s milk with 10 parts water and spray the affected plants.
Australia is an arid country, so it’s important to be water-wise, especially in summer. There are a number of things you can do to save water in your garden. Water established trees and plants deeply and slowly, so the water penetrates the root system. Consider planting natives, which are suited to the climate and often do well in summer. Another strategy is to group together plants that have similar water needs.
Water during cooler hours.
This helps minimise evaporation and ensures your plants get as much moisture as possible to get them through the hot day. This is especially important if you live in a neighbourhood that has water restrictions.
Prepare for summer holidays.
Mulch after watering, keeping the mulch away from the stems of young plants. Install a drip irrigation system to keep outdoor plants watered while you’re at the beach. Place indoor plants in a saucer of wet sand to keep their roots moist. If you plan to be away from home for an extended period, take time out from planting. You won’t be there to tend the young plants through the harsh, hot weather.
During summer your dinner table will be full of produce from your veggie garden. Vegetables such as beetroot, spring onions and tomatoes that you planted in spring will be ready to harvest in December. Summer is a time for sowing, too – plant vegetables such as beans, capsicum and sweet corn if you have the space. Place thirsty vegetables such as lettuce in pots near the kitchen to make use of any excess water you would otherwise pour down the drain.
Don’t mow too low.
Raise the height of your mower blades to allow your grass to grow longer. This is said to improve your lawn’s health and encourage the root system to grow deeper.
At the end of summer, plant a green manure crop – this is not intended for harvest, but to nurture the soil. Mustard, an annual leafy plant, is ideal: it adds organic matter to the soil along with nitrogen, to prepare your beds for the next season’s planting.
Save some for later.
If you find you have more fruit and veg than you can eat, preserve the excess for later like the horticulture students do at Cana Farm. “We made plums into jam and spicy plum sauce that are popular with all our regular market shoppers,” said one.
And finally, enjoy the warm weather out of doors!
Cana Farm has been supported by the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation. Click here for more information on grant applications or check out our Coke in the Community stories.