In the Southern hemisphere, Spring has sprung and Summer is almost upon us, you can almost smell it in the air. I love this time of year when the breeze starts to feel warmer and you have the whole of the Summer ahead of you. We have all had a tough 6 months and gardening is the perfect antidote to lift your mood. Grab your gardening gloves and throw on a hat and get ready for some gardening therapy!
Eggplant is a warm weather crop that is harvested in mid- to late-summer. The eggplant's tough leaves grow broadly, in effect shielding the soil beneath against overheating. When choosing what variety of eggplant to grow, let the timing of the season help you determine. Thinner varieties, such as Lebanese, develop earlier than larger fruit and also cope better earlier in the season, so choose accordingly.
Capsicum is best planted once the soil temperature has balanced out at a balmy 20C and above. It is a heat loving variety that will prefer a sunny place in the patch with a little airflow to help avoid any fungal disease. Plants will produce for an extended period of time – sometimes well into winter depending on where you live! Peppers can be grown side-by-side with tomatoes as well as eggplants because they have similar growing requirements. They all prefer full sun, rich soil and consistent deep watering.
What would a summer garden be without tomatoes? The two go hand-in-hand. Tomatoes generally need a long growing season with plenty of heat and full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours a day. Some patio and bush tomatoes have shorter growing seasons. As a rule of thumb, it is best to plant tomatoes as soon as the weather warms in Spring. Tomatoes thrive when planted with marigolds, basil and chives, among other companion plants.
Now is a great time to be planting basil. It's a fragrant and quick growing herb that you will be eating in 6 weeks. There's no better example of companion planting than rows of tomatoes with sweet basil in between. It's a match made in heaven because the two plants like the same soil conditions, moisture levels. And they happen to taste great together!
Now is a great time to plant lettuce for your Summer salads. It is best to plant lettuce from seed as they don't transplant so well. Water regularly and remember to give a little extra water on the hottest summer days.
Cucumbers are a classic summer vegetable. With consistent soil moisture and good fertility, just a few plants will produce enough for plenty of salads and homemade pickles. Growing cucumbers on a trellis provides good air circulation, to keep leaf spots at bay, and makes harvesting a snap.
Sweet Potatoes grow well in summer and produce abundantly in as little as 90 days. Wait to plant them until the weather is good and hot for best results. As a bonus, sweet potatoes need little cultivation once the vines begin to spread across the ground. Plant in well-drained soil with compost mixed in. Sweet potatoes grow well near dill, thyme and parsnips. Do not plant them near squash as both vines spread and can cause overcrowding.
For lots of gardeners a vegetable plot isn't complete without that ever-dependable staple: cabbage! Shredded into a slaw, stir-fried, steamed or baked, there's not much you can't do with cabbage. Planted now, Summer cabbages crop from Summer into early Autumn. For the healthiest growth they need an open, sunny site and rich soil.
Chillies like a warm, sunny spot, well drained soil and regular watering during dry weather. Chillies are well suited to growing in pots. In cool areas, growing them in pots also means that you can bring them under cover if you're expecting frost.
Flowers and Companion Planting
Companion plantingis all about plant diversity - putting together plants that enjoy each other's company which require the same light, soil and water conditions. Choose plants that balance each others' needs. And plant decoys to distract insects from your crops, e.g. calendula will attract slugs and snails, instead of eating your vegetables. Growing flowers in your vegetable patch will make it beautiful and balanced! Sunflowers are the perfect plant for the gardener who wants to seed something and walk away. The plants will grow and flower, producing edible seeds. Having around 10% flowers in your patch will keep things in balance and lure in bees and other beneficial insects.
Growing your own vegetables at home is one of the most enjoyable ways to reduce your carbon footprint. By doing so your household can connect to what's in season, reduce food waste and avoid food miles
By Allison Licence
Allison Licence is a Sydney-based freelance writer and 1 Million Women volunteer who is passionate about the environment and finding ways to live more sustainably.