Coping with the heat

Radiant heat is a harsh reality for a lot of plants in the summer garden. Heat reflected off paving, metal screens or panels, brick walls or fences can make life unbearable for nearby shrubs and trees. Unfortunately plants can't just nip inside and turn on the air conditioner.

In our recent 44C day, the poor new frangipani 1m away from my mini orb screen got a roasting and even the honeysuckle is now sporting black leaves.  Very few plants can stand that sort of temperature without burning, particularly if their roots aren't moist. 

If you have an abundance of hardscape (ie walls/paving etc) which gives off extra heat in the summer, consider shade - even temporary. This might mean an umbrella, hastily erected shade cloth or Nana's nylon curtains (these are fabulous!). Always make sure the shade cloth/umbrella  isn't touching the plant as where the two contact will often burn the plant. Use bamboo stakes or long branches and fasten with clothes pegs. It may not look gorgeous but it will save your plants in the high 30's, and gasp, early to mid 40's.

Another thing to consider is your garden shed. Just hot does that (usually) metal shed get in summer? Bioactive fertilisers, sprays and microbe containing soil conditioners will fast lose their effectiveness in temperatures over 30C. But what to do? Air in steel sheds can get up to 50C due to radiant heat.

One simple solution is to insulate your goodies in a foam or plastic esky (the latter available free or for a couple of dollars from your local grocer). Thanks to Peter Coppin for this handy hint.

By the way, if you're a keen gardener and often forget to wear gloves while foraging around in the soil, a quick jet spray under the nails with the hose is a great way to clean out the dirt without hauling out the nail file.