Saturday, 19 April 2008

Playing in the pumpkin patch…

The veggie patch, seed saving and blogging fell off my radar altogether these past six months as I made a final effort to complete my PhD studies on top of running my measurement engineering business. What gardening I did do provided some valuable lessons in coping with the drought, continued high temperatures (15 days above 35 degC) and the water restrictions.
One of the best catchments I have on the property is the concrete driveway; this slopes down beside the house and empties onto the back lawn. I figured there would be some thunderstorm activity every few weeks over summer, and that the run-off would water a large pumpkin patch. Pumpkins need plenty of sun and take up lots of room, so I sprayed out the Kikuyu grass with RoundUp, waited a few weeks for the lawn to die, and planted my seed-saver’s Butternut pumpkins along the top and side of this new ground to take advantage of all the free rainfall I figured would supplement my miserable town water ration.
Well, nearly everything went wrong, as it so often does when one attempts something new.
The seeds turned out to be a few Butternuts, but mostly Jap pumpkins, a few zucchinis and even a cucumber or two. I know I muddle up my seeds, but I figured others were better organised than I was.
The thunderstorms never came, except once, and so my water ration wound up on rogue pumpkins, and I had to use tank water on the rest of the veggies.
However, I’d not been idle at my workbench – I’d invented a low-cost gadget to show me the ‘water level’ in the soil, and this was duly planted in the pumpkin patch. This worked fine, and I could even see it from the kitchen window 15m away, not to mention getting an eyeful each time I visited the seedbeds or the rainwater tanks.
As a scorcher of a summer has passed into a dry autumn, the pumpkins have spread alarmingly. One is heading off over the orange tree to kidnap the old lady next door, and another is trying to creep up on the BBQ and make off with it. I did learn that pumpkins are easy to train; when they threaten to wander out across the path or up the clothes-line, one need only drag their long tendrils back 'into the square' and they err no more.
There are pumpkins, but they’re not the best ones I’ve ever grown – hardly surprising given the poor state of the soil to start with. With all this extra crop leaf area, demands on the soil moisture reserves are high and getting higher; my gadget is telling me to water almost twice per week now.
If only it would rain!


Kate said...

Andrew, I am picking myself up off the floor ! That email must have got your where it was supposed to! Although you sound a bit glum, never fear, a few more posts and you and I will be vying for space again! I hope you find a few things to read here to cheer you up - I have been up and down and everywhere in between and it is good to comiserate with others, at times.

gardengal said...

This is my water meter gadget ...

its depressing too!
thank goodness for the well!