Thursday, 29 January 2009

Peaches and pumpkins

OK, that wasn't so bad!
Temperatures yesterday reached a new record high for the city of Adelaide, coming in at 45.7 Celsius (or just a tad over 114 Fahrenheit) and we should get that again today, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (known universally in Australia as the BoM). 'Very hot, dry and sunny' pretty-well sums up the weather for the next week...
All the lettuce seedlings are still battling on, and I have had to set the alarm for 6am to be up and getting water out before trundling off to work. One young chicken gasped it's last in the heat yesterday, but that wasn't any surprise, given that it's looked pretty weird ever since we bought it in as a day-old chick to get a broody hen off the nest by giving her a new interest in life.

Cherries, apricots and nectarines have disappeared from our daily breakfast table, as they generally crop coming into Christmas and for just a few weeks beyond. Luckily for us, the peaches and satsuma plums are just starting to ripen, and all these trees are bearing heavy loads. It's been raining lemons for three months now, and they are starting to wind up as well, dropping the very largest lemons as the crop comes to an end. Even the chooks - who spend the hottest part of the day under the lemon tree's deep shade - have picked up the rhythm of it. As soon as they hear the characteristic fluting sound of a lemon starting its downward rush through the upper foliage, they scatter to the winds to avoid the latest citrus-bombing organised by Mother Nature.

More than half of the vegetable garden is out of production this year, as we simply don't have enough water to keep it in action. The BoM are predicting above average rainfall for February, so we might get 12mm rather than 10mm, which would be a 20% improvement! Still, we are going to be ever-more reliant on a winter growing season here in Adelaide, when good water is assured and temperatures are still warm enough for brassicas and root vegetables.

And so I've been working on new ways to boost the water-holding capacity of the soil, and have been using deep trenches cut through thick compost layers to hold water for long-enough periods to push water well down into the root-zone when trickle-irrigating. This works because new compost is practically impervious to water when freshly-made from green wastes around the city. The pumpkins are over in the half of the garden that's out of action, with only climbing beans and asparagus for company. The compost acts as a deep mulch 300mm thick, and straw laid over that keeps the surface temperature down a bit so that the growing tendrils don't cook (the dark surface of the compost gets very hot in the sun).

Over in the background of the top photo one can see the giant heap of waste garden material I've yet to get around to shredding. Once that's done (while the weather is still dry) it will be spread on the paths to be further broken-down underfoot, while acting as a natural mulch to catch and hold in any summer rain that falls during thunder-storms.

And those brassica seedlings for the winter crop? I've planted the seeds along a drip-line that keeps a long thin seedbed active even through the hottest part of the day...the drip line is permanently connected to the rainwater tanks each afternoon while the rest of the watering system is dormant, keeping the surface moist enough for germination. That's it to the right of the evergreen shallots...

1 comment:

Maggie said...

Those peaches look good Andrew!