What to grow when you’re told you can’t grow a thing!

I know things can get tough in the garden over summer, for plants as well as for gardeners. Heat, humidity and either baking dry days or drenching rains (in the tropics and subtropics).

But don’t be tricked into thinking you can’t grow anything in your summer garden just because a well-meaning friend has told you that summer productivity is hopeless.

Here are my 10 tips for success and plenty.

Sun through trees 400

Tip 1. Ignore the doubters. Summer productivity can be bountiful and rewarding.

Tip 2. Sow seeds into compost enriched soil. Add Instant Humus too. (Available from Ecobotanica). Both of these maintain soil moisture and enhance beneficial microbes to support plant health

Tip 3. If you are transplanting seedlings into pots or garden beds, soak them in diluted seaweed solution for 10 minutes before transplanting. Transplant them out into moist soil in the late afternoon and water them in with seaweed solution to the point of puddling. Then cover the soil with mulch. They will have the chance to adjust to the transplanting during the cooler period overnight.

lettuce patch 400

Tip 4. Provide shade for young and sensitive plants. Shade cloth on a wire frame, a piece of cotton cloth, an old umbrella or simply branches from your palm trees can all create shade. Seedlings such as lettuce can also be planted on the shady side of a trellis or under a tepee of climbing beans. This creates a layered planting and provides shade for delicate plants.

Tip 5. Plant heat sensitive plants into a cooler part of your garden. Coriander, lettuce, begonias and violas all love a bit of sun relief in summer. Choose a shady spot in your garden and keep the soil moist at all times.

shade tunnel for lettuces in summer 400

Tip 6. Choose varieties of vegies, herbs and flowers that enjoy the climatic conditions in your area. I’ve got a list of heat and humidity tolerant summer vegies below.

Tip 7. For annual flowers that are performing well, cut off the dead heads regularly. This encourages the formation of new flowers and prolongs the life of the plant.

enjoying the heat

Tip 8. A light covering of mulch keeps the soil cool and moist and prevents erosion in heavy rain… A thick coating of mulch can stop water penetrating into the soil, so I use a thin layer of sugar cane mulch about 2-3 cm thick.

Tip 9. Don’t wait until the evening to water if your plants are looking limp. Give them a water when you notice they are stressed.

Tip 10. Pots need a saucer under them to stop ants and to hold a little water for a couple of hours while the potting mix takes it up slowly. Avoid water laying stagnant as it breeds mozzies.

watered society garlic 400

Summer heat and humidity loving edibles

Asian greens eg Pak Choy, bok choy, tatsoi


Beetroot if well mulched






Spring onions and red bunching onions


Bananas – Summer is a good time to start them

Beans: Sword, snake, winged, Purple King Climbing, Rice beans


Edamame soy


Non-hearting lettuces eg Cos and Butter

Radish of all sorts

Snow peas and snaps *

Sweet corn


*Give some shade & weekly foliar seaweed solution to prevent powdery mildew. Add Instant humus & lime to the soil when planting.