As anyone who; lives in Melbourne/reads a blog set in Melbourne/has been watching the Australian Open etc etc etc knows, Melbourne had a heatwave last week. For the first time ever temperatures were over 41 for 4 days in succession. Now in world heat wave terms this is probably not particularly remarkable but for us it was worth talking about, and talking about, and talking about. Melbournians do like to talk about the weather and none more so than us gardeners. So here is my wrap up of the week:
Firstly the crops that clearly didn’t cope with the heat:
The celery struggled. The plant on the left subsequently died as did all the other celery plant I had around the garden. I would be interested to know if anyone had celery survive the heatwave – it may be my variety that is particularly heat averse.
Whilst the runner beans aren’t dead they are looking pretty sad and scorched. I did notice some happier new growth when I inspected yesterday so hopefully they will recover. The wall they are growing on gets afternoon sun so is probably the hottest part of the garden.
I have lots of parsley scattered around the garden. The most exposed plant was the worst affected. Which suggests to me that it is not really the heat per se that impacts on the plants but the combination of direct sun damage and the amount of moisture lost from the soil on hot days.
Direct sun damage is clearly responsible for this sunburn on my Yugoslav tomatoes:
The plants with the least damaged were, unsurprisingly, the ones that were mulched the most heavily. The mulch was great at both keeping moisture in the soil but also keeping the soil comparatively cool. I don’t think I mulch my veg enough in general and this is perhaps my biggest learning from the heatwave.
The heat didn’t just bring damage, in some cases in also brought growth. The eggplants looked happy with the arrival of summer. Some of the chillies started to ripen and perhaps most remarkably the red cabbages hearted up nicely:
Other plants just went about their business as if nothing remarkable was happening. I have finger limes developing nicely on the tree (although I did have many more flowers than I now have set fruit) and the first of the Ebisu pumpkins has set nicely on the vine.
But those are both crops that do well in warm climates. The things I was most surprised by were my kale, cucumber, mint and other climbing beans. No sign of distress whatsoever:
All of these plants are shaded by my neighbours eucalypts from about 2pm onwards. Whilst this shade seems to reduce flowering levels, and resultingly cropping levels, it did give the plants valuable protection during the heat wave so perhaps I’ll have to stop whinging about them for a while.
The weather has now returned to more liveable temperatures (in the 20s and 30s) and there aren’t any days over 40 on the horizon. I am grateful for this and also that all my chooks made it through. For a commentary of events that goes beyond scorched vegetables check out what Foodnstuff wrote about the heat wave.