Monday, November 22, 2010

Shade solutions for Melbourne Summer

As plants have started to spring up in our vegie boxes, I've noticed that a number of them that started off quite strong appear to have been scorched by some of the hot days we've had. I'm still getting the hang of Melbourne spring. The weather really is all over the place and when the sun is out it certainly has some bite. I'd put down some mulch, but even with the mulch I noticed that the soil was drying out and getting a hard crust on top, which was causing the young seedlings a bit of trouble.

I'd seen a couple of shade options in the Gardening Australia magazine and TV show that used shade cloth stretched over poly pipe. So with some vague descriptions of this given to the Cunning Plans Dept, we toddled off to Bunnings in search of shade cloth, poly pipe, cable ties and other random bits and pieces.

We ended up getting 50% shade cloth. I'd read somewhere that 30% was the stuff to go for, but the lowest Bunnings had was 50%. Still, I think it will work fine.

The Cunning Plans Dept rigged up some frames using the poly pipe and cable ties.
He drilled through the pipes to tie them together so that they wouldn't shift around each other. The frames just sit inside the vegie boxes and aren't anchored down (we'll see how they go if we get any strong winds).
The shade cloth is simply draped over the frame and pulled down tight by hooking it onto rows of nails on the sides of the boxes. Not high tech, but it works.
It also makes it easy to unhook the shade cloth from any side and pull it back to get to the plants for weeding and watering.
Ta da! Shaded vegie boxes!

To give the plants an extra boos t, I sprinkled some a ll purpose fertiliser and gave them a good soak before putting the cloth back on. Two days later, I checked the plants this morning and they are looking noticeably better. More fresh growth and less burnt leaves. The soil also seems to be retaining the moisture better.

And of course it wouldn't be a proper project if the pups didn't "help" out. Gracie (who loves the shady spot in between the boxes) very helpfully minded the power tools, while Hudson "helped" by eating the plastic lid of the nail container. We'll have to wait and see how "lab-proof" the shade covers prove to be.