5 Tips for a Successful Summer Vegetable Garden
By Jamie Carrol. 27/05/2020
Most people are surprised to hear we grow our fruit and vegetables at home here in the UAE. Even fellow gardeners here in the UAE will tell you the growing season is from October until April. We have been challenging that belief for 2 years now. Would it shock you to know that we successfully grow vegetables and herbs throughout the year, including summer? Yes, you heard right - we grow ALL YEAR! And you can too with these 5 tips.
Mulch is really important for your summer garden. Mulch is simply a layer of material covering the soil. By adding mulch, you are protecting the soil and roots from extreme temperatures. It helps reduce moisture loss through evaporation, reduces weeds and gives your garden a neat and tidy look. You can use compost (our favourite), straw, dried grass clippings, leaves, wood chips or well-rotted manure for mulch. As these materials break down, they improve the soil. Before adding your mulch, thoroughly soak the soil and try to remove any weeds. Make the mulch layer at least 2 inches deep for it to be effective.
The intense sunshine and soaring summer temperatures stress plants. Stressed plants don’t grow as well as they should, often going into survival mode. This will reduce their yield massively. Let’s look at a few ways we can provide our plants with shade.
Shade cloth comes in various levels of light blocking ability. We are using 50%, which should be good for most plants. For our garden we have built a simple framework over our beds which supports the shade netting. We are not trying to block the light for the entire day, just the midday sun. Our plants still get sunlight morning and evening.
Other options we have used are bar stools, kids chairs and umbrellas to give plants some relief from the midday sun - it doesn’t have to be fancy, just use what you have!
You can also use tall plants to provide shade. Sunflowers and vining plants such as sweet potato can be used as effective shade screens.
If you are growing in pots, try moving them to a spot that gets afternoon shade.
Watering is a tricky subject even under the best conditions, but in summer it gets more difficult! I can’t tell you exactly how long or how much water to give your plants. It depends on your soil, on how much sun your garden gets, what plants you are growing and the growing stage of those plants.
The best way to check if plants need water is to stick your finger 2 or 3 inches into the soil. If it’s dry, it needs water. Make sure you give it a good deep drink so the water gets all the way to the roots.
When watering, water the soil preferably in the morning time. Evening will also work, but it can create a more humid environment which may encourage diseases. Avoid afternoon watering if possible. Make sure you water the soil, not the plant. Wetting the leaves can cause diseases such as powdery mildew.
Your choice of plant will also determine how well your summer garden does. To avoid disappointment, choose heat loving, drought tolerant varieties where possible. Plants like melon, watermelon, okra and sweet potato should do well. Plants such as tomatoes and chillies won’t reliably produce fruit in our summer temperatures. Be careful of seed packet guidance on when to plant seeds. It can be misleading as they are generally not intended for our region.
A summer garden is unlikely to be the lush green space you want it to be. Accept that there will be some losses, try to learn something from it and move on. There is a bit of extra monitoring required to ensure the plants grow well, so if you don’t have the time just let the soil rest. It’s ok to take a summer break and get ready for the winter too. If you decide to do that, consider keeping the soil watered so that you keep the organisms in the soil alive!
Let us know what you are growing this summer!
Jamie from @amirah.and.dadas.garden