Saturday, January 16, 2010

Surviving the heat! Simple stuff.

It is a bit hard to see, but that thermometer is reading 47 degrees Celcius -in the shade!

Tomorrow's weather forecast is 38, next day 37 and so it will go from now until late March. Perth has had one of the longest dry spells on record, with something over 60 days straight without rain.

People, animals and the garden need to have strategies to survive the heat.

Our strategies are:

Our House

1. The house is well insulated and has only one window facing west, which is the aspect for a lot of heat in the afternoon.
2. We keep the windows closed when inside is cooler than outside, and open them only when it is cooler outside than in. The windows have security screens and so we can leave them open all night to cool down.
3. We have ceiling fans in all the rooms -they use a lot less power than air-conditioning! From time to time I have been tempted to do what most people in Perth do, and install evaporative air conditioning, but so far there has always been something I wanted to save for more than this.
4. We have built and installed simple shadecloth blinds which are over every north, west and east facing window. They stay up all summer. The lovely thing about shade cloth blinds is that the air passes through them when there is a cool breeze and there is still a lot of light in the room. The light coloured shade cloth works very well in bouncing light into the room.
5. Later in the afternoon the front of the house is shaded by the big trees in the park alongside the neighbour's house.

What we would like to do next for the house:
1. Build a pergola on the north side and plant a grapevine. This would provide shade when the sun was at its worst in summer and then lose the leaves for winter sunshine. When we build this the shadecloth blinds on the north windows can go.
2. Build a carport in the front of the block. We have a carport under the main roof but it only has room for one car. Our plan is for a wide carport to provide much needed shade for the car, but it will also add afternoon shade for the front garden.

What we have now:
1. A number of shade sails for the more tender vegetables -leafy greens for example.
2. A Wicking Bed to provide a reservoir of water underneath the plants in that bed, which reduces evaporation and stress. The tomatoes are the first crop in this new system bed.
3. Lots of mulch to shade the roots and conserve moisture in the soil. Recently we took Jacki French's advice and added mounds of mulch to the 7 year beans and they seem to be enjoying it. Seems that they will add roots in the mulch which will feed the plant too.
4. Drip reticulation which provides the plants with a good supply of water which is not wasted by spraying it into the air. We are allowed to water twice per week and the drippers are on for half an hour for each station.
5. Temporary shade structures to act as first aid to those plants which are still too immature to cope with the heat. This has included the young citrus plants, whose leaves were showing signs of sunburn and the climbing rose on the back fence-which gets all the afternoon sun.
6. Today we are putting more shade on the wicking bed where the tomatoes are. The tomatoes are still growing and fruiting, but there are lots of leaves showing signs of sunburn and wind damage. We have bought 70% shade for these ones.
7. We water by hand (this is allowed) each morning, for the plants which are most in need of it. This seems to enable the pumpkins and cucumbers, for example, to droop when it is hottest but still recover overnight.

What we would like to do for the garden:

More trees! I want more fruiting trees and the good thing about many of these is that they are deciduous to let in light in the winter time. I think we need to build the 'groves' that Jacki French talks about -groups of trees which can form a mini climate together to support each other as they cope with this environment.

People and animals:
My elderly cat is stretched out on the floor under the fan-no doubt she knows what to do!

It is all about resting during the hottest part of the day and being active when the temperature is cooler. Many Mediterranean countries have the habit of a siesta -unfortunately we were a British colony and we all know that "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun!"

It is also about having lots of temptingly cool drinks on hand. I like cold peppermint tea, and the coffee lovers have adjusted well to iced coffee!

Finally it is about adjusting our diet to the fact that no-one wants to stand at the stove cooking, or have the oven on to add heat to the temperature of the house.

We eat lots of salads of course.

We often use the slow cooker to roast meat, as it heats up the house less. I am trying to get myself organised to put the slow cooker on in the evening and turn it off in the morning. Meanwhile I am content to purchase ready-roasted meat from my lovely butcher!

I have been planning a 'dip dinner" in which we will have hummous or dhal, veggies and bread and just nibble on them.

I have this weekend made labna -which could turn into a 'tasting plate' meal (a bit like antipasta-olives, cheese, pickled vegetables, roasted capsicums, etc with a good bread.

Last summer we made gazpacho a few times, but I did notice a certain reluctance about the family when I served it!

I keep searching for easy to make cooling meals to tempt us during the summer, when salad, salad salad could get boring! Of course lots of recipes for different kinds of salads helps too. I am making raw beetroot into a salad for tea tonight.

Cafe style toasted sandwiches are an attractive option that seems to be well accepted around here from time to time.

I would love you to add your suggestions for simple ways to survive the heat -and we can share these strategies together.


bon008 said...

I'm afraid I don't have any tips on staying cool, but I did want to ask a question.

What kind of mulch do you use on the vegies, and do you have any slater problems?

I'm using lucerne mulch at the moment, and it seems to be housing an enormous horde of slaters... I thought I might switch to ordinary straw next time around and see if that decreases the slater numbers, but I'd be very interested to hear what you're using :)

madviolinist said...

The Gazpacho isn't too bad! I just find that I keep wanting to blow it cool, when in fact it's already cool!

earthmotherwithin said...

Bon008 we use lucerne mulch on the veggies, which we purchase from Gardeners Direct here in WA. With a slater problem, most success seems to come from eating oranges until all is left is a little half shell, putting them in the garden upside down and the slaters are attracted to the orange peels. Then each day scoop them up and put them elsewhere (wink).

Or put physical barriers around young tender plants -eg a used paper coffee cup -the slaters seem to like them young and tender, later on they leave plants alone.

notesfromthefrugaltrenches said...

It is so hard for me to imagine heat at the moment but these tips are brilliant!