Some like it hot………and some don’t…..

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:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA 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.  KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

Sunburnt tomato

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIn general though my tomatoes did pretty well. There was some loss of foliage around the base of the plants and the occasional singed growing tip but all the plants survived pretty well considering.

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.

Finger Limes  Ebisu pumpkin

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.

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23 Responses to Some like it hot………and some don’t…..

  1. Wow. 41 is pretty hot anywhere. Last summer we had a couple of weeks of temps around 38. Most plants did OK with adequate watering. The long term effect was blossom drop on my peppers and tomatoes. That set me back and by the time the plants started flowering again, we were near the end of the season and a lot of the fruit never matured before the cold killed the plants.

    • Liz says:

      I’ll be interested to see how much the heat affected fruit set on my plants. It’s hard to evaluate at the moment but I did notice my finger lime dropped all its flowers.

  2. Sue says:

    My wee little garden suffered terribly last week but seems to be recovering ok. I haven’t got any mulch down and I know I need to. I’m thinking sugar cane mulch but was curious as to what you use/prefer?

    • Liz says:

      Glad to hear your garden is recovering. I use both sugar cane mulch and pea straw. I like the pea straw better in some ways because little pea plants (not the edible kind) germinate and I like to believe they are fixing nitrogen into the soil. They probably aren’t doing much but the pink flowers are kind of pretty…. The sugar cane mulch on the other hand I find far easier to use. The pieces are smaller so it is a lot easier to get an even coverage around plants and it settles quicker, as a result I have been using that recently. The other difference is that the pigeons and doves like the pea straw because they find seeds in it. If you want them in the garden this is a bonus, but if you would prefer your mulch around your plants rather than dug up for seeds then I’d go for sugar cane.

  3. marisa says:

    Sounds like your garden didn’t do badly, all things considered. My tomatoes didn’t do well in the heat – and they weren’t doing all that well to begin with, so i fear this will be a bad tomato summer for me. The chillies are fine, and assorted zucchinis and squash seem only slightly singed. Next summer I’m going to be prepared with loads of mulch, plus shade cloth for afternoon sun. I hope we never see such hot weather again, but since we most likely will, I want to be ready for it!

    • Liz says:

      I imagine we will see it again, we seem to break some heat record or other every other year. My tomatoes are really variable this year. I have two in my main bed which are doing really well, but the others in a side bed, which actually gets slightly more sun, aren’t doing as well. I think that is largely because the chooks keep digging in that bed and so they must have had quite a bit of root disturbance.

  4. foodnstuff says:

    I had only 2 small celery plants in a wicking tub. They got morning sun only but still most of the leaves were burnt. Note to self…shade celery in future.

    Mulch is great, but only for well-watered soil. Some of the soil in my veggie garden doesn’t hold water well and it just runs off when you try to water. I’m working on that.

    Thanks for the link.

    • Liz says:

      The water phobic soil would definitely be a challenge. Fortunately my garden is flat and the soil is generally clay so water phobia isn’t generally an issue except in extreme drought and watering restrictions. That is interesting that even celery in a wicking tub suffered. I guess it must be particularly sensitive to temperature.

  5. Jodie says:

    Wasn’t it wonderful to have shade last week! the whole exercise really demonstrated to me the whole issue of micro-climates- differences between plants in different spaces. For example the raspberries out in my lane are in a much worse condition than those in my yard- I suspect because of the heat radiating off the brick wall behind them- the canes on the wall side of the plants are completely dead whereas those in my yard are looking fine.

    • Liz says:

      That is interesting isn’t it. I guess its only after a number of years of gardening in a particular space that you really get to know its micro climatic idiosyncrasies. I’m not sure that I exploit different areas of my garden as much as I should – in a bid to enforce crop rotation I often end up with plants in conditions that they aren’t particularly well suited to.

  6. Nina says:

    Nice to see you back, Liz. I’ve missed your posts. I’m in a bit of slump and I’ve been quiet with the comments I make on blogs – no discernible reason – maybe the heat did me in!

    Thanks for always acknowledging the seeds I (and others) have shared with you. Your manners are impeccable! I’ve adored your rocket. It’s been so tasty and giving and surprisingly resilient with our weather extremes. The (tiny) celery seedlings grown from the seed you shared are hanging in there but unfortunately the watermelon radish were engulfed by the climbing beans so I’ll try them again, a little later.

    I’ve been surprised by the red Russian kale, too. It has been so prolific and tough (in the resilient sense). Do you find the leaf formation fascinating, like I do? They really highlight the plant’s primitiveness. I love those weird little growths randomly scattered across the leaf. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Other things in the garden are still getting over the shock of the heatwave and the earlier cold snap so a little patience will be needed. But the cucumbers I planted are going NUTS. I’ll definitely be making a lot more of your bread and butter cucumbers. I have one friend in particular who just can’t get enough of them (as long as I make them, not her). That’s okay, I can use them as leverage!

    • Liz says:

      Thankyou for thanking me, although I have to say as I typed it I wasn’t entirely sure the seeds came from you – glad that I acknowledged correctly. I agree regarding kale leaves – they are fascinating, well the ones that haven’t been shredded by the chooks are fascinating. I do like the idea of pickles as leverage…

  7. Daphne says:

    That is hot to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that temperature here. I’ve only seen in the 100Fs (38C) once in the Boston area that I remember. We think a heat wave is three days at or over 90F (32C). Most people wouldn’t call that a heatwave. But we like our cool ocean breezes in the summer. It makes growing hot weather plants like melons a challenge, but it is so much easier to be outside.

    • Liz says:

      My English partner’s version of a heatwave is remarkably similar to yours although after 6 years of Australian summers he is slowly adapting. Boston definitely sounds like his kind of climate though. I was down at the coast for the start of our recent heatwave and the ocean breezes definitely make a huge, and very welcome, difference.

  8. Mark Willis says:

    Well, there is no doubt whatsoever that temperature is a key determinant of success in the garden. Over here we have had no 41s to contend with, but our Winter is producing some problems of its own. The temperatures have been exceptionally mild which has meant more pests have survived, and many plants have sprung into premature growth. On the other hand we have had copious and persistent rain, accompanied often by furious gales of wind. Most gardeners’ plots are waterlogged and unworkable. Many people would probably swap our conditions for yours right now!

    • Liz says:

      Yeah I know despite the occasional heat event our conditions are pretty favourable the majority of the time. Basically as long as the plants survive the odd hot week they are usually fine. Waterlogged seems something of a foreign concept to me although we are currently having our first rain for the year but I suspect it will barely penetrate the surface.

  9. Blimey, your plants have had it very hot! Poor beans, but I bet you’ve been feeling pretty scorched too. Seems amazing that your Kale looks very similar to mine – what a hardy brassica to flourish in both heatwaves and wet English winters.

  10. Dave says:

    It is always interesting to see how gardens react to heat stress. I tend to think they do better when the onset is gradual and not sudden, but I guess it depends on the plants, soil moisture, and so on. Right now we are struggling with much cold, and the plants are not liking that very much, and neither am I!

    • Liz says:

      I think you are right about the gradual onset, I always notice that plants seem to wilt more during the first few hot days of the season than they do later in the season. Hope it warms up for you soon.

  11. Maree says:

    Yep it sure is trying times. I posted how I prepared before we went away to minimise heat stress and it seems to have paid dividends. There is also a photo of where grass has been fried and the only explanation is that everywhere else had shade at some stage during the day. Quite amazing the distinct line around the ‘hot spot’.
    Just done some more protection with a bit more shade cloth, mulch and deep watering and fingers crossed all will get through. My celery that is among tomatoes, beans and strawberries doesn’t seem at all unnerved! We just keep giving it our best and celebrate the wins!

  12. Therese says:

    I am new to your blog and noticed that you seem to grow cucumbers differently.
    Do you just put some stakes around the plant and tie string to it to try to keep them upright? Up to now I have not had much luck with cucumbers at all. The flowers fall of before they have the chance to grow into fruit. Do you have a secret how to???

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