Summer this year has felt like it has come and gone a couple of times but good sunlight hours through spring and the hotter weather in the past few weeks is a real boon for summer vegetables that love the heat.
Those such as cucumbers and tomatoes are really powering ahead with good growth and fruit development ahead of other years.
A good watering each week is critical for many plants. Watering is best done in the early morning if you can follow this practice. It reduces the likelihood of mildews and other rapidly spreading fungous diseases.
Where possible watering the ground underneath the plants rather than the foliage will also reduce the risk of fungus disease. Weeping soaker hoses are very good at achieving this.
It is prudent to stake and keep tying up plants securely as they grow in case we experience more strong winds.
Particularly susceptible are the soft growth of newly planted trees, roses and perennials of this season.
Also tomatoes that are now growing rapidly need regular tying. Use a soft tying material and make sure that the tie material is not too tight as it is easy to ring-bark plants with soft stems.
Stakes need to be firmly hammered; normally a third of the stake should be in the ground. If using a ball of soft tie material, take it round the branch or stem to be tied in the form of a figure 8 and then reef knot off on the stake. This should keep plants stable.
If you haven't yet planted many summer vegetables there is still time. Tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins are best planted before New Year otherwise they may not crop before the cooler autumn weather arrives.
Seed that can be sown direct into the soil now include; carrots, corn, butter beans, dwarf beans and radishes. Continue with successive plantings of other vegetables including lettuce varieties, celery, spinach and silverbeet, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
A couple of summer vegetables to plant now are;
Cucumbers are a warm season vegetable that love the hot weather. If you haven't got any growing then plant one now, they will grow quickly in the current hot spell.
The flavour of these when they are fresh picked from your garden surpasses those that can be bought in the stores.
Plant climbing types spaced 40cm apart and bush and trailing types on the ground about 75cm apart, firm in then water. Grow them in a sheltered site in fertile rich soil that is well drained, but moisture retentive.
The roots must not be allowed to dry out. Feeding with Tui Tomato Food gives good results. Cucumbers grow very successfully in pots, I grow mine in 35 litre tubs and use Tui Vegetable Mix as the potting medium and supplement with liquid fertiliser Ican Fast Food. In pots they are best staked and tied up regularly.
They have no frost tolerance and most are damaged at air temperatures below 10C.
Crown pumpkin is a popular and reliable variety that produces oval grey pumpkins with sweet dry, textured, bright orange flesh.
It stores well and is particularly good roasted, for use in stir fry and of course the traditional pumpkin soup. The rambling nature of the plant growth can be excessive for growing in a smaller garden.
However, a good method of growing pumpkins for smaller gardens is to trim the stems at the fourth leaf.
The plant will still crop well but will not take up so much room.
Butternut is a pumpkin like vegetable which produces 1-2kg of cream coloured pear shaped fruit and bright orange flesh. Harvest when stems start to shrivel in autumn. It can be used in a wide variety of hot dishes and may be blanched and frozen for later use.
Gareth Carter is general manager of Springvale Garden Centre