“I love a sunburnt country” but on day three of our trip to Australia; the temperatures, almost Australia-wide, set record-breaking temperatures and there were many bush fires as the temperatures rose to just over 42 degrees C – and at night the temperatures were still very high. Record high temperatures throughout Australia were broken in the dozens in the first two weeks of our visit. This resulted in a permanent change to the weather map of Australia. This unprecedented heat also took its toll on the plants in the garden of the Victorian country home where we were staying.
Above Photo: Bureau of Meteorology
High Temperatures Burn Plants
There are a few news articles in the links of some of the “hot news” during these weeks of high temperatures but this article focuses on the suffering vegetable and flower gardens and how to prevent the plants and fruit being burnt. Some suggestions made:
- Plant native (non introduced) endemic species as they should survive the searing hot sun e.g wattles and gums
- Plant fruit, flowers and vegetables according to their growing habits i.e rhubarb and Hydrangea like shade while other plants can survive in more intense heat
- This includes buying drought and heat-resistant vegetable seeds as well as slow bolting varieties (of lettuce)
More ideas to help your plants survive High Temperatures
- Provide all your plants shade from the blistering sun (permanent structure or temporary shade cloth or white cheese cloth which is reflective)
- Grow some of your plants, including vegetables in containers so they can be moved to a more suitable (shady) area in the heat of the day
- Mulch, mulch, mulch ~ this will keep the plant roots moist – organic, natural mulch, sheep manure, (grass and leaves, etc) are best but even a few layers of paper covered with grass (or sheep manure) will work both in containers and everywhere else in your garden
- Water – very early in the morning or very late at night – or both – it is amazing how quickly the soil can dry out in one day of intense heat
- Reflective heat (from walls, fences, etc.) can greatly increase temperatures around plants
- Remember to water the roots only – a drip watering system works well
- Plant French intensively – that is where the leaves of the mature plants just touch each other providing shade for the roots and soil below and creating a good growing environment for all plants
- Sometimes in severe prolonged heat removing permanently damaged leaves and stems is the only option
With the forecasted increase in hotter weather, with weeks of very high heat days expected more as the norm, if you are a serious gardener try the above suggestions to aid you in your endeavours. Permanent structures for some plants may be more cost-effective and the best solution in the long run. Continue to enjoy growing your own fruit and vegetables even in sunburnt Australia!
Remember when in Australia the Emergency telephone number is :
0 – 0 – 0
Stay safe, cool and be ready with an emergency kit.
- In the local garden catalogues are ideas for protecting plants from heat such as portable garden frames (made from 1 x 2’s) with brackets. Shade cloth can be attached to wood frames with staples, pegs, etc. Affordable and mobile. This type of frame can be converted for frost protection simply by covering with plastic.
- Compost! This goes without saying ~ compost your (non meat) kitchen and yard waste as well as pesticide free lawn clippings ~ if they are not left on the lawn for mulch.
- In the Southern Hemisphere grow deciduous trees on the north side of your house for summer shade and winter sun (with the opposite being true in the Northern Hemisphere).
Links & References
- Heatwave emergency plan and survival kit
- Country Fire Authority, Victoria, Australia
- “Climate Change is Real” hotter and drier in the future for Australia “State of the Climate” report by CSIRO
- News of heat and fires
- Devastating fires in Tasmania, January 2013
- The new colour purple … the Bureau of Meteorology’s interactive weather forecasting chart has added new colours. Photo: Bureau of Meteorology