Summer Seed Sowing Tips for Australian Gardeners

Marigold

It’s November already! 2020 has been all about the home, and hobbies and pastimes you can enjoy at home. Of course, gardening is high on the list. Although it’s now well and truly summer, you can still get away with sowing some of the things you could have started in spring. But your seeds may need a little extra care to give you the results you’re hoping to achieve. 

Before your spring flower garden and veggies get tired, it’s time to sow a few replacements or fillers for any gaps you left. Let’s take a look at what to sow during the Australian summer and how to overcome the challenges of summer seed sowing.

Is November a Difficult Time in the Garden?

Australia has so many climate zones that there’s no hard-and-fast answer to the question of whether November is difficult. In the very hot and arid areas, it’s getting a little more challenging, while the temperate and cool areas are still in prime seed sowing season.

However, midsummer isn’t that far away, and late summer heat can be pretty hard on your plants. No matter where you live, this is a good time to get your seedlings strong enough to take the heat  – and if it’s already very hot, you’ll need to help them along a little. 

As in winter, knowing your microclimates – the niches in your garden that are protected from extremes and those facing the harshest exposure – will help you in making your decisions. 

Summer Seed Sowing Tips and How-Tos

With temperatures rising, seed beds will be at greater risk of drying out. You can still sow out in the open, but you’ll need to check your seed beds more frequently than you did in spring and you’ll probably have to water more often. Container growing for later transplanting allows you to decide how much sun your plants will get while they’re still delicate, but you also need to exercise a little caution, especially when moving them from shade to sun. 

Reduce water requirements by spreading a thin layer of mulch over seedbeds. By protecting the upper layer of the soil, it will help your seeds and young seedlings to stay moist for longer. For truly warm-season crops this should be enough extra protection, but I’d still advise morning and late afternoon checks to ensure that the soil stays moist. As your seedlings grow, you can start thickening up the mulch layer to help protect your soil from the sun’s glare.

Provide temporary shading. One of the handiest things I’ve used for summer planting is a simple frame with 30 to 60 percent shade cloth tacked onto it. I place it over germinating seeds and new transplants for a few weeks to protect them from harsh sun and then simply take it away and store it. Don’t use heavy shade cloth since your plants will get a shock when they lose their extra protection!

Sow in Shade Move to Sun. Transplant shock can be a problem in hot weather. Distrurbed roots can’t take up enough water to compensate for root disturbance and seedlings wilt or die. But you can get around that by sowing in containers in a shady area. If you have pack or plug trays, or small pots, you can transplant single seedlings into them and let them grow for a while before moving them out to their permanent homes. Handle them carefully when it’s time to plant them out, and there’ll be hardly any root disturbance, but do remember to harden them off first.

Hardening off is a must if you’re growing in shade to plant in sun. Move pots or trays from shady spots to areas with morning sun or bright indirect light for about two weeks. Now move them to the sun, but if possible, let them stand for a further two weeks before transplanting into garden beds. 

Water frequently for the first week after transplanting. Even if you were abe to plant your seedlings out with strong, undisturbed rootballs, it’s wise to give them a little extra water while their roots grow into the garden soil. The first few days are the most important. Then you can start reducing watering frequency until they’re growing as normal. 

Plants that Handle Hot-Season Sowing Well

Some plants are happier about the hot summer conditions than others. And in the cooler climate zones, you’re really entering peak sowing time since the last frosts are now well and truly over.  Here are some climate-zone based selections for November or even Early December sowing – but hurry! 

Subtropics and Northern Districts (Veg)

  • Sweet and hot peppers
  • Tomatoes (there’s still time)
  • Basil
  • Sweetcorn
  • Pumpkins and other cucurbits
  • Okra
  • Spinach
  • Amaranth

Subtropical gardeners can still sow butter lettuce as well as melons and summer bean varieties.

Temperate Climates (Veg)

Thanks to the moderate climate, you can grow everything that’s listed above with a few extras:

  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Lettuce
  • Silverbeet

Cold Temperate Climates (Veg and Flowers)

Because summer heat isn’t as harsh, you’re in peak growing season right now. You’re also likely to have better luck with lettuce and other leafy greens that will be more challenging in warmer areas. 

Heat Tolerant Flowering Annuals

There’s no reason why this summer shouldn’t be a riot of colour. Brighten up your garden with these tough, heat-loving hotties:

  • Marigolds
  • Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Salvias
  • Portulaca
  • Geraniums
  • Ageratum
  • Petunias
  • Sunflowers
  • Celosia
  • Celome
  • Cornflower
  • Alyssum
  • Seed dahlias

Nature is Still Giving us the “Grow-Ahead”

A look around you will tell you that nature’s going all out with the growing season right now. While you can still sow certain crops all year round, now’s the time to take advantage of the season, stocking up your garden with a good variety of veggies and flowering plants. We’ve definitely only listed the main crops to have on your radar right now, so if you’d like to add something you feel the Seeds of Plenty community can benefit from, please share!  Need more inspiration? Browse our store. We’ve searched the world over for the best seeds and plant varieties for you to try.

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