Weathering the Extremes; Heatwave Survival in the Garden.

in hive-120078 •  3 months ago 

As Christmas was approaching we had an extreme heatwave which culminated in an official temperature of 46.6°C (115.88°F) in the shade, on 20th for our area, setting a new record for December. Much of the garden, which is out in the sun, would have had over 50°C (122°F) to endure.

There was no getting around the fact that copious amounts of water were needed to get it through this heat. I tried to deep water before it started, but ran out of time with various trips out needed in the run up to Christmas. So I rotated through the garden over the next few days with deep watering to a different section each day and a slightly quicker watering to the rest. Certain areas with seedlings needed watering several times throughout the day and I still lost one.

For several days the smell of bushfire smoke was in the air from the nearby hills fires and it cast an orange glow over us with a dusk feel in the middle of the day.

My camera didn't capture it very well, but this is unedited and the sky looked browner in reality.

Currently we're experiencing temperatures over 40°C (104°F) again. I've been assessing how the garden is fairing, which plants are coping the best and which ones are really struggling. Each year I can pretty much guarantee we'll get some sun damage to some of the plums. This year the sun practically stewed them on the tree and the current wave of heat has only added to the tree’s stress, cooking some more plums and leaves.



Normally I remove the worst affected ones, but some have already dropped on their own.

The mulberry and loquat have singed leaves too, but they should bounce back.



The plants which have been unfazed are the Mediterranean ones, mostly; the olive trees, bay tree and the some of the Mediterranean herbs. The sage seems to struggle a bit, though, with its softer leaves. The oregano can get a bit scorched too, but it never affects its ability to send out new growth fast and spread some more.

One of the turmeric plants started to come back through, but I think that's the last I'll see of it now. It's in a bed that gets shade from all bar the midday sun, but because I struggle to access it easily it gets neglected on occasion and on days over 40°C it really needs to be shaded to allow anything tropical to survive.

Shortly before the first heatwave, I'd planted a fig tree on the front and an elderberry, which was a gift from my friend @ligayagardener. The elderberry I planted between some oregano plants which sheltered the bottom section. This is probably the only thing that saved it, because the top got fried.


I was given two root stocks and knowing the heatwave was coming and how bad I am at keeping things alive in pots, I split my options, putting one in the ground and leaving one in the pot. It's not looking good for the one in the pot which I didn't bring far enough under the shade and the sun caught it part way through the day.

The fig is in full sun, because it's natural environment is apparently dessert like. It lost all its leaves in the heat, but had some new buds starting. These got eaten by weevils which came out in plague proportions each night and I couldn't keep on top of them before they polished off those fresh new buds. The plague is under control now and amazingly this little twig is putting out some more leaves! There's hope yet. What resilience!


Some plants that came through the heat brilliantly, just making sure the soil stayed moist, were my new chilli plants. I've been digging this area out and removing all the rubble while adding lots of manure and organic matter. Capsicum plants are resilient, but they are also heavy feeders, which means they need good soil and they need it to stay moist to be able to access the nutrients. In theory, they are perennials and as long as we don't get frost, they should be able to survive the winter. I've never yet gotten one through more than one winter, however. I think this could be down to poor nutrition and allowing the soil to get too dry in the summer growing period. So I'm hoping to give them a better chance this time. I've added gypsum to the soil as well, to break up the underlying clay layer and lower the risk of them getting water logged in the winter rains.


At this point I'm reassessing what sort of plants we should be growing moving forward as these summers become the norm and while I still don't have much time to attend to the needs of less hardy plants.

I'm pleased to say we had no losses on the poultry front. All flocks had shallow water containers that they could stand in, in the shade. I also dampened the soil in the shade to keep temperatures down there. The quail run and the run with the apple tree in were the coolest. Living, leafy shade is the best shade hands down. Under the apple tree with damp soil was nearly as good as being inside with the evaporative air conditioning.


The other run used to have an apricot tree, but that died. They have the aviary, with a bamboo screen, but once the afternoon sun hits it, the bamboo may as well not be there.


The cruiser works better, being solid wood, and let's minimal sun in throughout the day. They have a paddling pool in there. On the hottest days I'll put bottles of frozen water in places around the shade and in their pools. This probably works best for the ones in the cruiser as it can contain some of that coolness and the biggest bottles aren't always fully defrosted at the end of the day.

The cruiser had a couple of broody hens in When I took this photo. Once the heat sets in I open it up for them all to access it and hope the broodies don't decide to sit in the hot nest boxes in the aviary.

Another place they like to shelter from the heat in this run is under the feed storage tub. I couldn't tell you how effective it is, because I can't fit under it, but I make sure to wet it each day under there. I know the tub itself gets quite hot with the black lid.


The bunnies have been mostly inside; only briefly outside when I needed to clean them out. The babies are over six weeks old now and have moved to a separate cage for weaning. When they are 8 weeks old they will be ready for moving to new homes.




On a final note, can anyone tell me why little cockerels look so darn cute!



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Glad the trees and chooks will live to see another summer - sucks a bit the damage to the fruit, but I'm sure nothing will be wasted. With my apple tree I let the the wild parrots have them.

Speaking of parrots, I planted a new lemon tree and the buggers landed on it and pulled half the leaves off nearly killing it, what is with that?

Cheeky sods! Citrus is supposed to be safe because most birds don't eat it, apparently. Try telling that to my chickens, though.

Very true, no waste. The quails will have a go at any dropped fruit and when they've had enough the soil will take it back to feed next year's crop.

I read something that certain bird deliberately destroy non native plants (as an eliminate the competition type thing). I think this was most likely as they just threw the leaves on the ground and didn't eat them.

hehe well at least the quails like the outcome, i.e. extra juicy treats (as long as they survive the heat)

Crozzled us the word. I have sheets right now over tomatoes. 42 degrees. Thinking micro climates and plants that dont mind being blasted with heat and wind.

And crozzled actually is a word! Never come across it before. I'm going to have to use it now.

I’m thinking for now focus on plants that don't mind the heat until they're big enough to start shading other plants. Then maybe work on the micro climates underneath.

I think the avocado tree is cactus. I'm still giving it a drink twice a week, but its almost definitely a lost cause. Even if it bounces back, there's next Summer, and the next.
It was a pipe dream :(

I daren't even try something subtropical at this point. It probably needs a shade house and maybe some misters running on the hot days. I'm struggling to even get citrus trees established. I'm thinking maybe a removable shade thing I can put around it for the first summers.

It's common here in Asia for fruit and veg to need shade cloth in the hot season - i makes a lot of sense, prevents things from being scorched and reduces evaporation. Here they make simple bamboo structures and cover them with shadecloth - the fruit trees are pruned low to keep it all manageable.

This is the new normal so some different ways of doing things are going to be needed.

Hoping you're OK through the fire season. Happy New Year.

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I guess it also comes from us growing in a different way to nature. I'm guessing many tropical fruiting trees would normally be the understory in rain forests, so naturally be shaded by the canopy. How to mimic that in the home garden, though.

Thai people either create bamboo supports (poles or frames) and suspend large sheets of shadecloth. Attach some string to each corner & connect to bigger trees? Shadecloth is reusable & easy to work with. Im headed back to Thailand today. Will try to remember to snap pics when next I see it.

That would be great if you get the chance.

That's a horrible temperature you poor things. Those poor trees x_x glad all the chookies are coping. Bunny babieeeeessssss XD

Did you get the heatwave your way, or were you in that lucky area of WA which it seemed to bypass?

Wish they could stay babies for longer. We're rather falling for the runt, she's such a cutie and is always the first to greet us when we go near the cages. She's the one in the third bunny picture.

Runt staying with you then? XD

Seems like we missed the heatwave, we had some warm temperatures here (high 30s low 40s), nothing that disgusting.

"Runt staying with you then? XD"

I should really be answering no to this. Still undecided, though.

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Crozzled IS the word.. and darn he IS cute x

Oh wow that is hot, glad to hear that most things survived even after suffering a lot. ope it starts to cool down soon for you xxx

Congrats! on your upvotes from the IBT Community

I never realized the heat and sun can be so damaging - a problem I have never had to contend with!
glad your chooks are doing okay and hopefully you will get a break in the weather soon!
Have you seen @riverflows wicking beds? They seem to work really well for her in the hot dry Aussie weather!
Thanks for sharing! Good to see what's happening in gardens on the other side of the world!

You gotta love the resilience of nature ( and we should sometimes remind ourselves that it's in us too, we just need to believe in it )
Sounds like you did a pretty great job, under the circumstances.

It was an intriguing read and I liked all the different pictures. Plus I learnt a new word: weevil. It sounds cool, pest or not ( we evil ). Had to look up its translation and now what it is now.

Happy 2020!

Lol! Yes, we-evil is an odd one. There is a joke about the lesser of two weevils.

They aren't something you often encounter. You used to get tiny ones in stored grains, but since so many pesticide treatments have be home the norm it's rare now. I'd never seen any bigger ones which feasted on actual plants before we came to Australia, though.

I love your posts. Thank you for sharing all your info. It amazes me how really hot it can get there. The bunnies are so cute. xo
Wishing you the very best in 2020

Thank you. I hope the year ahead is a good one for you.

It still amazes me how hot it gets here too! 😆

Incredible heat 122F!

I'm wondering about the feed storage getting so hot. If it is not (or maybe even if it is) whole grains, in heat of that type, the nutrition is severely affected almost immediately. Though at 122F outside, not sure what you could do, beside store inside where maybe it's cooler?

With temps like that, it's amazing you lost so little. Diligent watering pulled you through. Glad the birds all did well.

The heat is unimaginable. Some days I wonder what we were thinking coming to South Australia, but we couldn't have imagined what this would feel like.

On days like that we can only knock about 10-15° off the inside temperatures even. Evaporative aircon is cheaper to run, but not as effective as reverse cycle and even that can struggle. So the feed wouldn't fair much better indoors. We don't store a great deal, though, so we cycle through it quite quickly.

Over the years we have lost a lot of plants in the summers and that's taught me to stick to those that can tolerate the heat better. Water certainly plays a huge part and a good soaking is the best bet.