Tuesday, 18 November 2008


It is worth going to some trouble now to help reduce evaporation, keep the soil from overheating and maintain soil moisture around the root zones, during the heat of summer. We have had a week or so of beautiful, cool weather which has been ideal for getting these jobs seen to so and to avoid working in the hot summer sun, battling against the elements. Working with nature is always the best option because you will never beat or control the forces of the earth.

I fork over the soil, lightly dig in some compost and whatever else you like to use. This year I am also adding some reconstituted coconut fibre blocks that are $1 each at Cheap as Chips! They help to hold the water in the soil and are a better option than those granules or other chemical solutions.....and MUCH cheaper. On this whole bed, I used 1 block, reconstituted in about 1/2 bucket of water, or maybe a bit more.....try it and see. I hate buying inputs but I am preparing for extreme, prolonged heat.

Then I have laid out the dripline. I hate the dripper and much prefer small sprays but this is my front yard.....and people walk by all the time so I have to obey at least this part of the water restrictions. Large plants like capsicums, tomatoes, eggplant and okra are fine with drippers. There are 4 rows of dripline and I will plant between the rows, so there will be 3 rows of vegetables. Over each dripline I place about 3 sheets of newspaper folded into thirds, so that's a thickness of about 9 sheets.....thanks to Joy for the newspapers......I have discovered in the past that this does a great job of keeping all the water going down, into the soil. Then I  lay thick 'biscuits' of straw over the top.....if I thought we were likely to get any substantial rain, I would fluff up the straw, so the rain would penetrate.....but it seems unlikely that there will be any rain, ever!

So, now there are 3 channels, between the 4 rows of straw, and into these I will plant the seedlings. They will need watering until their roots reach out to the moisture from the dripline. This method ensures that the roots will congregate in the coolest, wettest, most mulched areas, and there will be a little space around the plants for airflow. This is very hard to photograph...it just all looks like a mass of straw....I hope you get the gist of what I am describing here!

image image image


Another thing I am developing is my water vegetable garden.....4 tubs will all soon be full of various, mostly Asian vegetables like water chestnuts, water spinach (kang kong), taro, water cress, duck potato and nardoo. I also have a few water irises which have been spectacular in the last week or so.

The water chestnuts are doing very well this year..
..3 of the 4 tubs installed..
..A photo for Chook of the whole scene!


The water can get very hot on a 40 degree day so I surround all the sides with straw for insulation and fill the tubs completely and also use some non-invasive creeper to cover the water surface. If I think mozzies are a problem, I get a few of those tiny native fish, that don't eat frog eggs, because there are lots of frog noises coming from this area already! Ideally I would like to have light-coloured tubs but beggars can't be choosers!image


I erected this floppy bit of shade for the new seedlings but I want to make something more like in Scarecrow's garden. In addition to the white shade top, I am going to put some light weldmesh along the sides and grow beans. By the time it is mid-summer, the beans will be providing extra shade along the sides of my curving garden beds, which are more difficult to shade than if they were in nice, straight lines! Under these more substantial structures I will grow softer things like lettuce and cucumbers.



In the full sun, in another bed which always seems to be drier than anywhere else, I am going to put the terracotta pots, with bush beans and celery around them as they do best with more water. So, better late than never and this cool weather is letting me get these jobs done, while listening to the wildlife.....shame snakes don't make a noise though!


Unknown said...

Nice post Kate. I just presented you and your fellow Hills & Plains writers with an award.

You deserve it!


chaiselongue said...

The dripline, newspaper + straw plan looks really good - we'll remember it and use this method for our summer in six months' time.

Maggie said...

Good post Kate, I am going to try to just use our compost and grass cuttings I am drying as mulch so I am not bringing in pea straw. I might try to get some newspapers and try that. Insulating the tubs is a great idea and the fish for the water garden.

Chook said...

I like the idea of putting newspaper over the drip lines. Do you know of any alternative to the pea straw? I'm really allergic to it. ...oh and thanks for the whole scene picture!

Maggie said...

I have been saving our grass cuttings, laying them out to dry and then sprinkling them over the garden as mulch.
Last year we had a lot of mould and stuff so I thought this is the only thing I can use from our garden without bringing pea straw in. Oh we also are making our own compost and some is course enough to act as a bit of a mulch.
Pebbles and rocks can be used but not with puppies and little ones as they tend to eat them.
You can use a course bark or just shredded prunings I guess. I am more a cook than gardener but I think my facts are correct.

Chook said...

Thanks Maggie,
I'll try using compost since its easier to dig in at the end of the season than the other suggestions. Thanks Kate for not fluffing up the straw. I think you caused this rain!