Yesterday, December 1st, was the first official day of summer here in Australia. And it arrived with one of those unpleasant summer days: partly cloudy, drizzle and heat (36 C / 97 F) and awful humidity. I found it uncomfortable (no, I don’t have air conditioning) but I’m sure my garden loved it.

I thought it worth recording what my garden looks like on the first day of summer. Everything is green and healthy and yummy looking (and tasting). I’m pretty chuffed with this result.

Summer Garden Beds

Summer Garden Beds

Once my sunflowers open, then it will not just feel like summer, it will look like it too.

Banana and Sunflowers

Banana and Sunflowers

Last year I was in Germany all summer (Aus summer, that is) and I missed this most productive time in my garden. This year I’m going to eat my way through my backyard and try not to complain even if it is hot and sticky out there.

I made a good start with a fantastic green salad (based on my mixed crop of Asian Greens) washed down with the final bottle of my last batch of home-brew  Luckily I have the next batch already bottled and progressing nicely 🙂 For dessert, freshly picked strawberries (I can’t believe the plants are still productive so late in the year) and home-made sherbet. Oh yeah, it’s going to be a good summer in the kitchen.

Maybe a bit less good for my girls – all 50,000 (give or take) of them. The 3 chickens walked around panting like St. Bernards and lifting their wings like they had burrs under them. My bees hung outside their hive flapping for all they’re worth trying to get some ventilation happening. What will they all do if it hits 40?

Bees Trying to Cool their Hive

Bees Trying to Cool their Hive


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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21 Responses to Summer!

  1. Coop Poop says:

    I sure feel for you, your chickens, and bees! My chickens can’t stand the heat and humidity (humidity is the worst!) They do struggle, don’t they? I used to freeze 1/2 watermelon overnight and then give it to them – just like that – and they pecked at it to keep cool – kind of how we eat frozen sherbet. It really worked for them. Even though it’s a hot start to your summer, I must say, your yard is just gorgeous! Well done!

    • I gave my girls chopped broccoli trunks straight from the fridge topped with cold yoghurt thinking it would be cool and give them some liquid. The watermelon is a great idea. Watching them try to cool down inside that down coat is sort of distressing 😦

      • Coop Poop says:

        Frozen watermelon is what mine went crazy for and it will stay cold for quite a while (hours.) I cut a whole watermelon in half and keep one always frozen and ready to go. They peck at the frozen watermelon meat and it helps keep them cool. I also kept a sprinkler going…good luck!!

        • I have been trying to avoid buying anything special for my girls (beyond chook feed obviously) so try to get their treats from the garden or my home made goods. I have watermelon planted but they have about 5 leaves on the vine so it would be a big ask on the girls to wait for that harvest. Maybe time for a rethink about spending money on their comfort.

          Do the girls go under the sprinkler or it just cools the air with evaporation? My husband took a watering can yesterday and watered the grass in a shady area where the girls go to cool off thinking that would help cook it down. We don’t do sprinklers here (too often there are water restrictions that make that a no-go in this dry country) but, like with buying treats, maybe I’ll have to look at the comfort factor of my hens as the thermometer rises.

          • Coop Poop says:

            The sprinkler is on just a bit and acts evaporatively, so it works best when there is some wind to blow the mist around.

            I definitely understand the need and desire to live sustainably. I’m not the best model of that, even though, I do try…if you can believe that. Each person has to find their personal comfort zone for what is acceptable. I myself have a fairly small footprint compared to the average American (I know that’s not saying much), but it helps me to justify to myself, the little extra I do for my animals. And there are lots of things I don’t do – like spend money on grooming every month, not too many vets visits, little to no yearly vaccinations — stuff like that.

            One dog trainer I know said something that has stuck with me. She said that our animals have such short lives — that in our care, we ought to give them the best we can offer them. I think I agree. If that means a little temperature regulation on those extreme weather days and some extra treats we know they love, then if we can, why not?

            But, don’t forget now – your chickens have a wonderful quality of life. Look at your beautiful yard. You are providing all the creature comforts a chicken could ever imagine!!

            • I primarily spoil my girls because they are adorable and I’m a softie. The fact that they are 100% dependent on me does weigh on my thinking and anything that depends on me deserves the best I can do for them. My environmental footprint isn’t so much an issue when it comes to my chooks because what they love is space, fresh vegetables, a bit of my time (they really like just sitting near me) and a good dollop of yogurt now and then – if only we humans had such simple needs (or should I say “wants”).

  2. pattigail says:

    That is HOT! Especially if it is humid. I would be melting. Your gardens do seem happy though. It is strange to see pictures of your garden and look out my window and see snow. And fresh strawberries?! Yum. Wish I could share some of our cold air with you. Take care, Patti

    • Oh yes please, a blast of cold air would be nice.

      My garden is happy…. for now. This humidity has a nasty tendency to encourage leaf mould on my squash. And the heat will take its toll, especially on green leafy vegetables. For now though, I can enjoy while drinking cold ginger beer and sitting under a fan.

  3. We have just had our first sub zero days. It was so good looking at your nice hot garden!

    • My garden (and me) never has to suffer sub zero. Last year I was in Germany at this time and really enjoyed watching winter set in and even walking in the snow. But I’ll keep my house in this temperate climate all the same.

  4. It’s lovely reading about Summer when its so cold over here. Your garden looks great. I showed my husband the picture of the bees and he asked have you really got 3 brood boxes on and no supers?

    • No – sorry, did I imply I had no supers? Each hive has 1 brood box. One hive has 1 super and 1 hive has 2. Plenty of honey out there already. We harvested on Halloween and it won’t be long before we can harvest again. Both hives are really strong and the weather and blooms obviously suit my little colony.

      • From the picture it looks as though the brood and the supers are the same size, whereas normally the supers are a smaller depth than the brood – that’s why we were a bit confused.

        • Here the broods and supers are “normally” the same size. There are half-supers that I know some people use for ease of handling, but that’s the exception. I confess that a 10 frame super full of honey is way too heavy for me, if hubby ever gave up the hobby I’d have to switch to half-supers.

  5. Oh it looks like a little Eden – I am amazed at how productive your garden is. I remember when you moved in after the renters moved out and you had a few little sad fruit frees! I would think even a light misting with a hose every now and then would keep the chooks happy.

    • It has really recovered after the tenant shock. That took quite a bit of work but, honestly, now it’s very easy to maintain.

      My chickens hate being squirted with water. Sometimes they get splashed (on purpose or on accident) when I’m watering and they head off in a hurry. Maybe I should douse them anyway on hot days for their own good. Hard to know.

  6. cohutt says:

    I like the shot from above- a busy productive place.
    I put in some misting nozzles on one zone of my drip irrigation system and left it on pretty much all summer in daylight hours. They use very little water- 3 or 4 gph. The 4 I had on the pond kept area cool and also topped the pond off sufficiently to keep the adjacent bog planting thriving.
    A tiny bit of mist goes a long way for influencing a micro-climate of just a few feet.
    During our unusual June heat wave and drought a hive somewhere to the northwest of me discovered the misty pond and it obviously became its main water source for some time based on the activity: dozens of bees arriving and taking off every minute, all following the exact same trajectory out of the yard.

    • Right now my rainwater tanks have no pump so no drip feeder or mister will work. I do have town water I could use. I am going to have a look at misters next time I go to my local gardening shop. I’m intrigued.

      Those bees are fantastic. In the heat mine started hanging out around my birdbath. I have no idea where my bees have been getting their water – I sure hope it’s not one of my neighbours’ swimming pools!

  7. Pingback: Winter 2013 | Laura Rittenhouse's Gardening Journal

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