By John Gabriele – This article first appeared on Port Macquarie
As the heat begins to turn up a notch, plants that like it hot are now ripe for the planting.
One of the most rewarding plants for a summer display in any garden is the bright, big sunflower.
Not only do they bring a smile to every face, they are one of the easiest plants to grow, and their flowers signal the height of summer.
Depending on the type, sunflowers can grow to astonishing heights of up to four metres and the flowers can be up to 30 centimetres or more in diameter.
One interesting characteristic of sunflowers is that their flowers will follow the sun from east to west like tracking stations, before returning to the east overnight.
There are a variety of sunflowers available, from dwarf to tall varieties, single and double flowers in a range of warm yellow and orange shades. Get the best from your sunflowers, by sowing into rich organic soil in a sunny spot.
Other plants that like it hot include aubergine or egg plant, chillies and capsicum.
Because of the heat requirement, eggplant, chilli and capsicum are usually planted out as seedlings.
These plants have a long growing season, taking around three months to mature.
They have similar requirements to those of tomatoes, but eggplants and capsicum require much warmer temperatures.
Capsicum is available in a variety of colours from chocolate, black, yellow, orange as well as red. They all start off green and change as they ripen.
Once plants begin to set fruit, they will require staking to keep them upright as they will collapse under the weight of fruit.
Restrict the number of fruits per plant to five or six for bigger fruits and ensure plants are well-irrigated from early fruit set to harvest.
Basil also likes it hot and can be grown as a companion to tomatoes, eggplant and capsicum.
Sweet basil is the most common variety. Greek basil produces smaller leaves on a dense oval bush, but still provides the same wonderful taste. Purple ruffles is a deep-coloured foliage variety with attractive pink flowers and great flavour.
For something a little different try lemon basil, lime basil or cinnamon basil, while fino verde basil and napolitano are ideal for pesto.
Purple ruffles, as the name suggests, is a deep-purple foliaged variety with ruffled edge to the leaves.
The pink flowers make this variety a very attractive plant and the scent and flavour are slightly different from sweet basil being more cinnamon and liquorice, a little more difficult to grow but well worth it for the flavour.