Friday, 28 March 2008

HOW TO RE-WET YOUR DRY SOIL

Or: The Challenge of Growing!

From now on everything starts to come alive in South Australia. Some of the gum trees are coming into flower - such as the blue gums around my place - and I noticed that one wattle - acacia iteaphylla - has buds which are fattening by the day. Even some early correas have their first flowers of the year while others will wait until mid-winter. The fact that all these local, native plants flower and then put out new shoots during autumn and winter is proof enough that we have a unique climate and we must take advantage of every moment to get the most from our food gardens. Soon, maybe even tonight, they say, we will get some real rain and then you will see the botanical world around us smile with joy and soak up those tiny droplets of rain and use them to prepare for the heat of next summer. I say it every year - do as other gardeners in Mediterranean climates all over the world do - go forth and sow now. Unless you have been keeping space aside for sowing into then, like me, you will have a garden full of capsicums and okra and eggplant and beans and so on, so sow into trays or pots for now.

This afternoon I started to prepare the next area for planting out some more of the seedlings I sowed in late January and through February. One dreadful thing is that the soil is so bone dry it has become water-repellent, after so long with water restrictions and the extreme heat. Don't plant into dry soil - it will kill your plants faster than you can blink and, once they are planted or sown you won't be able to work the soil to get it damp. The area I was working on previously had been used for tomatoes but they were a failure and I had removed them months ago and discontinued watering that area.
Here is what I did to wet the soil today: I soaked a 'brick' of coconut fibre in 1/2 bucket of water until it was all reconstituted - use too much water and you end up with a slurry. Then I sprinkled 1/2 of this over an area about 2m by 1m or so and lightly forked it in. (Save the other half for another section ). Then I got the regulation watering can and put the hose in it and, holding it with one hand I watered the whole area for several minutes. Meanwhile I held the fork in the other hand and twisted it over and over as I watered. At first nothing seemed to be happening and the water would not penetrate at all. Slowly though, with the watering and the twisting, eventually it started to work and the texture began to change and the moisture was absorbed. I put down the watering can and had a closer look - it was still completely dry only about 5 or 6" down. So off I went again, watering and twisting (who needs a gym to build up their biceps?) It took me over 1/2 hour to get anywhere near damp enough deep enough to consider putting my gorgeous beetroot, fennel and broccoli seedlings into. If you are not planting into it straight away, cover it to reduce evaporation and to start getting the life back into it.

If you can't manage the fork and the watering can at the same time, work them alternately but do not be tempted to think it will all come good when it rains. It will take too long and all that work in getting those seedlings looking so big and strong will have been wasted. Ideally we wouldn't have to bring in something from so far away, as coconut fibre and you could use Saturaid or some other water-granules but it has been a tough summer and I have never had to do this before. This soil is full of the best home-made compost I had ever made, that I added last spring before the tomatoes, so I am confident it will hold all the rain that falls from now on. If you doubt the wisdom of applying all this water to my vegetable garden in the middle of water restrictions, think about where your food comes from and tell me, with all honesty, that it was grown with less water and food-miles than mine!

2 comments:

Deb said...

Good start Kate BUT...... now its time to firstly stir some Biodynamic Barrel compost & put it over your garden Then the following evening stirr some 'Horn manure'ie BD 500
STAND BACK & WATCH YOUR GARDEN COME ALIVE.
Afer all the biodynamic preparations are what makes organic growing work & gives real life to the soil & the gardener.

Deb said...

PS You can pick some preps up on Monday when you visit.