Global Warming/Climate ChangePlant SystemsUrban ProjectsWater Conservation

Psychedelic Garden Love

by Dr Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne.

A huge ‘dome of heat’ over Australia has broken temperature records, and this heat has been so intense that the Bureau of Meteorology has been forced to create new colours for their charts, which had previously been capped at 50°C. Deep red has now been followed by a new deep purple. Bush fires have been raging across the country – a sign of a warming world, the impacts of which are destined only to intensify.

While urban areas are less prone to the risks of fire in such circumstances, my poor vegetable garden suffers terribly when we face extended periods of extreme heat. In my small corner of the world, this has called for some ‘Psychedelic Garden Love’. It’s not what you might think — much less interesting, but still very important.

I’m talking about making garden shade cloth out of bright old sheets from the secondhand shop. Out of love for our garden, yesterday my partner sewed together many old sheets and attached ties, which we then strung up around our dear garden to protect it from the sun which has been scorching our veges. Without shade cloth in these temperatures, all our hard work would be frizzled away.

Shade cloth from a hardware store is very expensive, especially if you were to buy enough to cover an entire vegetable garden. Second-hand sheets, however, do the trick perfectly, and you can usually pick them up for a dollar or two. Sew them together to create shade cloth, and attach them to the fence, poles, house, etc with hooks.

This has become a necessary practice for us, and I suspect that increasingly people around the world are going to have to practice similar shading techniques in order to save their crops from the hot spells. The upside is that your garden assumes a psychedelic feel for a few days, as the bright sheets flap around in the wind in your backyard. It looks like a stoned hippy has parachuted into your backyard from outer space, or a hot air balloon has crash-landed.

Your neighbours will think you have lost your marbles, but your vegetables will love you for it.

Samuel Alexander

Dr Samuel Alexander is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Melbourne, Australia, teaching a course called ‘Consumerism and the Growth Economy: Critical Interdisciplinary Perspectives’ as part of the Master of Environment.


  1. I hadn’t thought of bedsheets. Last year we bought shadecloth for the first time. Through the hot part of the summer we used it over our tomatoes and it made such a difference. In late summer after a week of dark rainy weather we took it down thinking it may be hurting them at that point, but as soon as the sun came back it burnt the plants right up. We learned our lesson and will be shading from the first hot days until the plants stop fruiting this year!

  2. Brilliant, thanks Dr Samuel, I am just heading out to my local op-shop to find some hippy love and cast it over my chickens, as for my neighbors… love never goes astray.

  3. The next best thing is to organise an al fresco dinning and invite your friends and neighbours. But what a great idea. Will look into it for our backyard too. Thanks Sam for the inspiration.

  4. good on you mate anything that saves our food plants and water is the way to go . to hell with the neighbours let them get sick munching away on their chemicalized supermarket food while you save money and your health with home grown foods

  5. Thank you for such a memorable view of Australia’s *huge dome of heat.* Thank you for sharing your innovative, practical response & your great good will.

    I am reminded of Jean Pain’s work, described in *Another Kind of Garden,* which developed as a response to heat waves & forest fires in the south of France. The pdf at this link is 88pp & describes his version of constructing overhead shade for their gardens. As an experienced gardener, I was very impressed that he dipped his crop transplants in a clay slip – to coat them thinly with clay to protect them against sun/heat dehydration until the roots got established.

    Best wishes for your harvests!

  6. Well done and great use of second hand materials. Good luck for Thursday too which is forecast at a maximum of 39 degrees Celsius. The garden looks great. Chris

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