Time off in August

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August is traditionally quite hard for me – it’s cold and dark and I struggle. By September things turn a corner but in August I have to work quite hard to notice the little beautiful things that make life rich and good. Luckily there were a tonne of glorious sunsets like this one to help with that.

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I took a couple of weeks off work at the start of the month. I spent a lot of it resting because I needed to deal with some of the stress that I’d accreted from the last nine months or so of work which have just been stupidly busy and understaffed. But I also did some things like making marmalade and lemon curd with lemons from a friend’s tree.

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Remind me to post my favourite lemon curd recipe some time.

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I also spent some quality time just being, sitting in the garden and soaking it in. It’s nesting time for the crows so there’s lots of territory shenanigans going on which are a delight to watch.

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I also uncovered our water meter which had completely been taken over by Kikuyu grass. Then we mulched the front yard but I didn’t manage to take any photos of that apparently. So now we officially have no lawn, unless you count the nature strip which I don’t vacate mowing it is S’s job. I’m so thrilled to have no grass.

And I spent a lot of time at the beach. Still too cold to get my toes wet but it’s never too cold to find interesting rocks and soak up the sea air. This included going to Glenelg for gluten free fish and chips, which we ate by the sea. To be honest, I find the suburb a bit creepy in a stepford wives kind of way – while we were waiting for our meal I witnessed someone sweeping their street parking spot free of leaves. But hey, I’m there for the hipster gluten free cafe so really I can’t be complaining about the tone of things, can I? Steven fed his chips to the seagulls by holding them in the air and letting them grab them from his fingers, which he loves to do (I hate it). We were then mobbed by them which vindicated my hatred of this activity. He’s now agreed to only do this as we are leaving a location.

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And I found many cool rocks at my own beach, including this hag stone. The story goes, if you find a stone with a hole in it, and you look through it, you can see past glamour, and spy any fae folk who may be hanging around. I have yet to spot any, but this hagstone is a rock with fossils in it so surely it will be extra effective.

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August through september

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Last weekend was the first few days of spring. We spent the Sunday in a traditional spring ritual of being rained on at the Adelaide show. Typically, for show weather, the Saturday was absolutely glorious – sunny and warm and bright. I got a burst of energy and spent some time in the garden, tidying up.

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I pulled out out weeds and spent plants, although I forgot to take before photos. Trust me when I say this is an impressive after.

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I tied up the broad beans that are falling over in the wind. I draped drooping peas over their trellises – once again I have not had success with peas. Too windy I think. Maybe when my trees are more grown. And I pruned the parsley and the yarrow right down to nothing. They’ll spring back.

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I sewed seeds for greens of all sorts in the newly blank spots, and snuck a few potatoes in too.

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I soent some some time admiring the lush growth of winter, and trying to capture the first blossom on the nectarine tree with limited, fuzzy success.

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I pulled some weed nettles and hung them to dry, for tea.

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I went nuts on the golden passion fruit. Last summer it got water stressed with the result that it’s suckering like crazy and, once it got enough water again, grew all anyhow. So I pulled it back so I could train it properly. It’s been troublesome so I’m not sure it will make it but we’ll see.

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I worked on a long term project of clearing out the stones around the citrus. When we moved in this bed was canna lillies and white stones for mulch.

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We’ve recently pulled the lillies out for good as they were crowding the citrus. I only left them as long as I did because he native nectar eating birds loved them. Now I’m working on moving the stones to somewhere more useful, where they won’t choke the shallow roots of the citrus trees.

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And most importantly of all, I spent some time just being, admiring the colours of the dill and the silverbeet, listening to the crowd squabble over territory and resting my fingers gently on the dirt. What a joy is a garden!

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Winter morning

This morning everything was crisp and beautiful after a rainshower, and I couldn’t resist dawdling in the garden. The raindrops on the washing line looked like fairy lights.

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The self seeded buckwheat seedlings looked like love hearts.DSC_0471.JPG

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And the yarrow was bright and inviting.

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May we all have many more mornings like this one.

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Changing season

Technically it’s the last month of autumn and winter is just around the corner, but I feel like autumn has only just started gaining momentum in the last few weeks. We’re drifting slowly from mild days to crisp mornings, and the leaves are turning.

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It’s our third autumn in this house and I was delighted this morning to see my favourite autumn colour pallette on the way to the train. This sight always stops me in my tracks, the dusty blue green of the pigface against the scattered orange leaves.

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I went in to work a bit later than usual, too, and got the best of the morning, me and the birds. Perfect weather for listening to the magpies sitting on the top of the lamps and practicing their territory warbles. The crows were in fine form, mucking about in the trees and getting back at the Noisy Miner birds who harrass them. And the Rosellas were all over, just charmingly chirping to each other in the treetops as they ate nectar from the native trees. The call of Rosellas makes me think so forcibly of autumn, because they loved the apple trees we had in my childhood home and would feast on them. The apples were self seeded and very bitter so if all we got was a crop of Rosellas, we were very happy!

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The trees at the station are turning too. I think these are Black Locusts, and quite weedy, but they are very charming in the morning light.

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I’m not at all reconciled to the idea of winter, and I’m not looking forward to the bare trees. But I’m enjoying the turning season while it lasts.

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Autumn flush

The biggest problem I have in my garden is heat. Too much of it! That makes this time of year the best time for the garden. It’s finally cool enough and wet enough for things to thrive. Unfortunately it’s also the time of year when I start having less access to the garden – it’s dark when I get home and I have limited daylight on the weekends to do things in. Plus I’ve been on and off sick for a month because of winter germs. And so I accidentally grew a bunch of ‘microgreens’.

Please excuse the shitty iPhone snaps  I took these this morning as I was pottering around making myself late for work. If I hold out for proper photos it’ll never happen. These are all self sewn silverbeet from summer’s crop that went to seed. Interestingly it looks like only the red ones are growing – the seed packet is ‘five colour silverbeet’ and are meant to be red, orange, yellow, pink or white. The first generation I seem to get mostly red, some yellow, and a few stray white and orange. Second generation appears to be mostly red with the occasional yellow. Third generation almost all red. I wonder why? Any silverbeet experts out there have theories about what properties go with what colours?

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I put pea straw down about a month ago and accidentally grew a crop of peashoots. I’ve been meaning to harvest them to have in stir fries or anywhere you would use baby spinach, which is my favourite thing to do with them. But if you leave them too long the get tough – and you can see I’ve left them too long. So this morning I pulled them and laid them down as extra mulch

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The most annoying thing is that I tried growing tomatoes this summer and they didn’t do great  it was just too hot and they lingered on and never produced much. Enough though to self seed! These tiny toms have no future because it’s too cold but they are so perfect and healthy I can’t bring myself to pull them yet.

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There’s also a circurbit of some kind growing in the middle of the garden path from a stray seed that I forgot to take a snap of and I think those are eggplants in the corner?

I also have plenty of self seeded brassicas I’m not sure what these are. What I planted last year was sprouting broccoli – but from seeds a friend had given me some years ago. To be honest I think they might be a hybrid broccoli/kale effort. Certainly we found the leaves to be delicious (sweeter than the kale I grew next to it!) and ate both leaves and stalks. Here they are in October 2015:

I like this versatile vegetable and would be happy to have more of it but who knows what these seeds will grow into. The ones in my garden now are from summers sad crop which didn’t do too much because it was too hot, so we’ll see.

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I also have a seed tray of deliberately planted seedlings that will need to be transplanted soon, so I’d better clear some space! I think these will end up in salads and stir fries as ‘micro greens’ – I hate that term  it sounds like some trendy person thinks they invented eating surplus seedlings when it’s just how gardeners and peasants have done things since forever. Well, whatever you call them, they are delicious!

Washing the tamarillo

I’ve been a bit stymied since moving all my gardening posts over here. I’ve been feeling the need to do a big catchup post and not having the energy or the oomph for it. Besides, those big update posts are boring both to read and write, and don’t really convey what a garden IS, in the end. I’ve also been feeling the need to explain and justify this blog – but who cares? It’s a blog, it’s my blog, it can be whatever it is.  Maybe, like a garden, I have to just start, and see how it grows.

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So instead I’m going to tell you about how tonight it was such a lovely evening that I couldn’t bear to stay inside, so I went out and I washed the tamarillo.

The above photo, and the next few, shows the tamarillo in mid January.

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It’s planted between a mango and an avocado, and to be honest it’s a bit of a sacrificial tree. The idea is that it would grow fast and provide a bit of shelter to the other trees. The avo as you can see is still shrouded in its shadecloth and only starting to find its feet – but that’s a story for another time. This time is about the tamarillo.

You can see above it’s leaning and we’ve had to prop it up – with a very professional rig. We only do things professionally and neatly around here (ha!). This happened to the last tamarillo I had, in my last house – which tree we tried to brace with stakes and ties, but eventually collapsed totally.  This appears to be the only photo I have of it, before it started leaning:

My diagnosis of this is that they are a large-crowned plant with a comparatively small root ball. In both cases I didn’t water enough in the months after planting, so I suspect neither of them developed a large enough root system. This time I decided to give in and prop it up, despite it sprouting a bunch of leaves at the base, I suspect so that it could grow upright again after it collapsed.

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Probably I should clip those off, but they just look so happy to be there that I can’t quite bring myself to do it.

I’m not expecting it to live long, so it doesn’t matter if it’s totally dependent on the prop. About five years is the average, I hear. By that time I hope that the avo and the mango will have mostly filled that space, but perhaps I’ll get another tamarillo to be understory, if we like the fruit enough.

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In January it was just starting to fruit. And it was also starting to get aphids.

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Just a few. Not many. I sprayed it with a detergent solution a couple of times and it seemed to do the trick. Cut to a month later when I’ve not been paying much attention to it, and it was pretty infested. I didn’t get any closeups of it (I didn’t know I was going to blog today) but you can see the difference even from a distance:

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Much barer, much yellower. I think that it gets heat and water stressed pretty easily. After all, it’s an understory rainforest plant, and here it’s hot and dry and gets baking afternoon sun and salt spray. Not very kind to the poor tree, and it’s doing a very good job considering. I do try to water it often but it’s on the same watering system as the other fruit trees so I sort of have to average out their needs. And the tamarillo is the lowest priority for care, poor thing.

Anyhow, I’ve given it a couple more goings over with soap and water in the spray bottle but it’s got aphids on basically every leaf so it’s hard to get them all. Besides, there are ladybugs starting to be attracted to it and I didn’t want to get them too.

So tonight, I came home from work and watered the garden. It was a hot day and it’s going to be even hotter tomorrow – high of 37C this whole week in fact. But it was lovely in the garden with the hose out, and I just couldn’t bear to go back inside. I put the sprinkler on the jasmine up the back behind the tamarillo, and I remembered that  I’d read somewhere, some time, that an effective treatment for aphids is just to blast them off with water. And so, I turned the hose up real high, and I washed the tamarillo.

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It was lovely. I got splashed, and cooled, and my feet in my thongs got wet, and my head got dripped on as I bent down to turn the leaves below. I touched almost every leaf as I blasted the aphids off, and spent some quality time with the tree, and I got the feeling it liked it. Almost like being at home in the rainforest!

I think this would be a fun activity to do with a kid. Very sensory and tactile. I know a water-loving 5 year old that would be ALL about this gardening job, although he might be sad that we’re ‘making the aphids dead’.

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I didn’t get every leaf. The long hose was plugged in to the sprinkler, and the short hose didn’t reach the very back. That’s ok, that’s where the ladybugs are. I counted three. I’d be ok with some aphids always if it also meant some ladybugs always.

Unfortunately I think some of the fruit is burnt – at least, I think that’s what it is. The position seems about right. Anyone more expert than me know what it is and if I should be doing something about it?

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That’s ok. There’s plenty that’s still fine, and fruit isn’t the primary job of this tree anyway, they’re a side benefit.

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As I turned over every leaf I was reminded of a conversation with my aunt where she complained about her tamarillo being similarly infested. ‘But why’ she lamented ‘do they have to all be on the backside? They’re so hard to get to!’ Nature is wily and mysterious that way…

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I think washing the tamarillo might go on my regular roster of garden tasks, even if there are no aphids. Even if it’s just for fun.

Wicking beds, stained

The other day I decided now was the time to stain the garden beds. There’s nothing edible growing in them (The zucchini has all but had it) and they were looking a bit grey and sad. I decided I’d stain them with linseed oil. I bought the pre-mixed ‘anti mould’ stuff that is 65% turps. You have to mix it with turps anyway, to get it to sink it. Boy did it stink! But the beds look great. It’s subtle but they are much richer in colour, and feel smoother.

Here is the bed before:

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And after:

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Stained bed in foreground, unstained behind.

I did two coats on all of them, and I think the ends of the logs and the sides that get the most weather could probably do with another. You could practically hear the wood soaking in the oil.

Before:

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After:

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I’d like to get in and do one more coat before winter sets in, because they’re still a bit dry. I really enjoyed spending some time out there, getting up close and personal with the beds. It’s a good opportunity to check in and find any issues with them. I think an annual stain will have to go on the calendar!

Stand alone drip irrigation system

As I’ve mentioned before, the beds with the trees in them are a good way from any tap, and basically all the surrounding areas are walkways. I wanted to put in a watering system but I didn’t want to do too much digging, as all those areas are still in flux. Maybe one day I’ll put a more permanent one in. For now, I decided I’d pop in a stand alone system that I could connect up to that regular garden hose. The downside of this is it’s pretty susceptible to getting dirt in the system – I don’t expect this to last more than a couple of years, for that reason.

This post is mostly for my own reference on what bits I used, but it might be useful to someone else, who knows? Please don’t use this as a how to run irrigation if you’ve never done it before. There are HEAPS of good resources on the net for understanding the requirements of irrigation, and the hows and whys, and you should get across that stuff first. Here’s a good example, and here. But maybe it will give someone an idea of what’s possible for a simple system. You don’t have to have a complex, multi-tiered system to benefit from irrigation. This whole set up cost me just over $50 – well ok that’s cheating, I already had some of the bits. Let’s say $100 for two duplicate systems, watering six trees total. And it’s going to let me water my trees deeply and thoroughly while saving me effort and water. It’ll probably pay for itself within the year. I bought everything at Bunnings, and it’s all really standard stuff.

If you are creating a system like this, as well as the parts specified you will also need something to cut the pipe (I just used regular scissors but it’s probably worth buying a proper cutter because the scissors give dodgy edges), poly pipe clamps to keep the connections secure, a hole punch for connecting in the 4mm bits (you can do without but it’s a pain, just buy the three dollar thingo) and probably some cable ties. You should probably just stock up on cable ties anyway. They are handy as. It’s also not a bad idea to have these repairers for if you make a mistake or want to move where your watering bits are.

The photos aren’t really very descriptive, unfortunately, because it all just looks like a black tube with another black tube. So I drew this very precise and professional outline:

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Here is the start of the system. In order to limit dirt entering the system, I bought a hose to 19mm connector. I connected it to a bit of 19mm poly pipe and clamped it off with a cable tie. I could have used an end cap but I didn’t. Cable ties work fine, especially since no actual water will be going through this bit. I’ve used cable ties to end off a system and they’re fine but you do have to check them regularly to make sure they haven’t atrophied and slipped off and you’re pouring water onto the garden and the first time you know about it is when you get a water bill that’s 5 times what it usually is. Ask me how I know.

Anyway, this goes on the end of the system when the hose is elsewhere, closing it off. It’s on the right in the next photo, sorry it’s not very clear.

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The start of the system is an adapter piece which was about $2:

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This attaches to the water filter/pressure regulator. You can buy these all in one, just make sure you get the right size – 19mm or 13mm. My system is 19mm because I already had that size poly pipe but really it only needs 13mm, because it’s short and simple. If you’ve got a more complex system with different levels or lots of things coming off it, you’ll need 19mm to get enough pressure. Again, do your reading.

The filter/pressure regulators are sold with the bit at the top of a size to screw on to a regular tap fitting, but it’s actually got a sort of double head – you can screw the tap fitting bit off and then you’ve got a bit that fits around smaller pieces, like this clip on bit. Test this out when you’re buying stuff, before you walk away from the aisle check that everything you need to connect does actually connect. If it doesn’t I guarantee you you’ll be able to buy a $2 adapter to make them fit – its just much less annoying to figure this out the first trip.

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So, so far we have: hose clip bit (idk what that’s called?) is attached to the filter/pressure regulator. All systems should have the pressure regulator/filter on them. They’re about $12. The other end of the filter has a bit to fit into poly pipe, so it goes in that. Don’t forget to put the clamp around the poly before you shove it in there – without the clamp the first time you turn the system on it’s going to shoot apart. I just used the plastic clamps, they’re fine. I used them in my old system and they lasted five years, no worries. You’ll note that I forgot the clamp on this one and it did in fact go shooting off. Popped a clamp on and it was fine.

Then you lay the pipe the length of the system, and you pop an end cap in, with a clamp around it. That’s the basis of your super basic system. You’ve got a water delivery pipeline running the length of your bed that you can attach things into.

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You can’t really see the end cap cos it’s in shadow but it’s there. Promise.

Next bit is to actually put the watering bits in!

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My watering bits are these spectrum jets. I chose them because they distribute water over a large area (you can screw the cap on tighter or looser to adjust how much) and I want to establish a good root zone for my trees so I figure that’ll do it better than a dripper. I am not an expert so maybe this is the wrong choice. It’s the one I went with. These jets come with an attachment piece provided, so if you’re using them you don’t need to buy any connectors, you’ll just need the tube to connect the poly to where you want the watering action. Cut a generous length, connect it to the jet, connect the other end to the attachment provided, pop that in the poly pipe, you’re done. You can also, of course, buy drippers and sprinklers that come straight off the poly pipe, but I like being able to place them precisely where I want without wrestling with the poly pipe, which I find never sits in place. Give yourself more length than you think you need with the 4mm tube, better to have more give than not enough.

I ALSO have dripper tube on some of my trees. I had this on hand and I put it in and then it wasn’t dripping well. I figured it was maybe clogged up with dirt, being about 7 years old and having lain on the ground for most of that. So I replaced it with the spectrum jets but since it’s a short system and I don’t have to worry about pressure, I left it in.

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But then the spectrum jets also weren’t working very well! With a bit of mucking around and to-ing and fro-ing and exchanging of parts, I worked out that the issue was the pressure regulator. If I turned the tap up high enough to give enough pressure to the drippers, the pressure regulator was spitting out a fountain of water. I neglected to get a photo of this but it was pretty impressive. So I went back to Bunnos and got a stand-alone pressure regulator. They come in 100kPa and 300kPa – the one that comes with the filter is 200kPa. Not being totally across all of that, I went for 300kPa, and that seems to be doing the job just fine. Now everything works as it’s supposed to. I have had that experience with a pressure regulator in that past, and didn’t realise it was a problem with the regulator and not something I’d done wrong. It leads me to suspect it is not an uncommon problem. I wish I’d kept the receipt, I’d have taken it back.

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All in one filter and regulator, and the replacement in front

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All the bits come apart. Filter on the right, the pressure regulator that comes with it top left, new one bottom left.

And that’s it! A simple system, and my trees are not finally getting enough water. They look very pleased about it, too.

December garden -all caught up

And here we are, blogging in real time! Almost – this is being written on December 24th. I’m just scheduling these posts to spread them out a bit.

As I said in my last gardening post, I’ve given up on summer gardening until the trees get bigger. It’s a great deal too hot and the sun is so brutal. These photos were taken at about 8am and they do look nice and shady. But by 10 or 11 the sun is beating down pretty cruelly – which probably would have made for clearer photos, too, but I just couldn’t bear to be out there by then.

As you can see we still have the exposed black plastic, which probably doesn’t help the heat, but honestly I can’t imagine it makes a massive difference – I was out there painting trellises yesterday and I got quite sunburnt even in that dappled shade, in the morning. Since we’re planning to plant some bare rooted trees over winter, we’re leaving the mulch till then, to make it easier to cut a hole in the plastic and plant the trees. Also because we’ve been slowly chipping away at the big, physical jobs and we just haven’t gotten to this one yet.

The grass is dead from a combination of roundup and then finished off by the sun. I’m hoping this means I don’t have to re-poison it. The front lawn has mostly died all by itself but judging by last yer will come back in winter. I might have to sheet mulch the whole backyard to prevent that, if I can manage the time and expense.

I would also like to add that I didn’t move a single thing out of the way for these photos. The yard really does look like a construction yard like this. Partly because of all the random stuff on the back verandah – it needs to go in the shed. Clearing and organising the shed is our next biggest job this summer holidays, but keeps being delayed by hot weather and, you know, Christmas events and all that kind of thing. But I figured since I’m lazy and also because I enjoy seeing other people’s gardens as-is, I wouldn’t bother moving stuff like the random shovel I was using or the hose. My garden is just never going to be a display garden, and I’m fine with that. Not fine enough not to write this disclaimer, but you know. Fine enough. TL;DR yes I know it’s a mess, it’s a garden.

There have been some other changes, though. Here’s the view from just outside the laundry door.

I built up a no-dig/lasagned garden bed up near the shed, there. I was intending to plant corn in it but then gave up on the summer garden. It’s layers of newspaper, cardboard, sheep manure, compost and dirt, and straw. The shadecloth is on it to keep the birds from digging it all up and ideally to help it keep cool enough to moulder down but that’s laughable at this time of year – it’s 36 today and I am considering it a cool day, comparatively.

My current plan for this bed is to plant potatoes in it over winter, since they’re supposed to be good for preparing beds, and I can never have enough potatoes. Then it might become a herb garden. Herbs, especially woody herbs, should withstand the afternoon sun this bed gets. I hope. I also made it a bit big, I think – I can reach across to the centre but only just. So perhaps a rosemary shrub bang in the middle would be good. And I reckon I can cram some flowers in there too – I managed some love-in-a-mist behind the citrus but they did get a bit fried. Otherwise there’s not anywhere else really to put flowers, and I would like some in the yard. S and I both have allergies that make bringing flowers into the house something to be cautious about, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have them outside! It looks like the bed up the back where the avocado is would be a good spot, but that’s misleading. That area is mulched with barkchips over river stones and getting the the actual soil is hard work. But it would be good to have something to consistently attract beneficial insects and birds without always letting my carrots go to seed.

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I do wish I had left  a bit more space between it and the shed – I left about a metre which is enough walking/working room. But I wish I’d left enough that I could plant some shrubs or something against the shed. I think it would make it look a bit more integrated with the garden, and less like the new bed is just plonked down there. I might see how I go and perhaps when it’s cooler and the bed has settled more, I might move that side in. Then again, maybe I can’t be bothered. I should have taken some closeups of the bed, perhaps I’ll remember next time. It’s simply metal garden edging dug about 3cm into the ground. Then I used the clay-ish soil to pack it in around the outside, to keep it in place.

Obviously you can also see the trellis in the process of being put up – that’s new. Here is the view of that from the laundry door.

This began as an attempt to salvage some summer gardening. The thought being that a tall trellis would provide shade and also break up the wind which comes mostly from that direction. This was before the resignation of summer gardening plans. However, I am still very glad we did this. For one thing, while it won’t solve the problem of summer gardening, I think it will help extend the season, and also keep the wind off in the other seasons. For another, it will help give some shade to the fruit trees when we put them in. And for a third, it helps break the garden up a bit. It’s astonishing how much it changes how the garden feels – since the space is long, it felt very short. These help give it depth and balance it out. Perhaps eventually a low hedge to screen off the potting area would be good, too, so that when you look down the row it makes you have a nice view with a hint of something beyond – a mystery, what can it be? The bins, is what.

We placed them so that they’d be easy to navigate around, and I am very pleased with how this turned out. Ideally I’d have the back one a bit further from the bed but I didn’t want to compromise that walking route from the laundry to the compost/bins which are behind the shed. They still look pretty raggedy and the trellis is only just tied on with twine because I needed to stain them to give them a bit of a longer life. That’s what I got sunburnt doing yesterday. The good news is, they are now all DONE and we’re hoping to put them up tonight.

The poles are long, treated posts from Bunnings. We had the poles and trellises delivered along with some wood for shelves, since we don’t have a big car. I know there’s a trailer in these photos, but we’re just storing it for S’s dad, we don’t have a car with a tow bar. It means everything takes a bit of planning but that’s ok. We got a post hole digger at the same time and it’s already paid for itself in effort saved.

The posts are cemented in, and we planted some passionfruit. Two Nelly Kellys – one gold one black. We’ll see how they do. I figured they are tough enough for the spot, and a fruit we will eat. They also don’t last forever so that gives us some room for changing things up in seven years or so. Perhaps I could manage an espaliered fruit tree along one of these spots, when there’s more shade? A cherry perhaps? I went old school and got the butcher to order in two massive beef hearts to put under the passionfruit, and they seem to be doing really well so far.

The soil in the lawn is clay, but a very mild clay for Adelaide. If you can keep it moist it’s a lovely loamy soil. I did get it tested through the free Vege-safe testing. We are well within safe levels of everything, although there is quite a lot of iron and zinc along the dripline. Since the only exposed dripline is along the fence where they put all the dead fill soil, I’m not surprised. It was interesting to see how the different contaminants vary by area, it makes me wonder even more what the history of this house and garden is.

Not so long ago this area was all farmland, now I think about it – it wasn’t a residential area until the 50s, when people started building mostly beach shacks here. Here’s the general area in 1935 – a bit north of us where the ‘main’ town is. And a bit south of us, in 1931. Mind you, here is Port Road in ’58, and I’ve seen photos of aerial views from the Showgrounds from that time and half of Mile end is just farmland. So I guess that’s where all the Adelaide jokes come from – 50 years ago it was still a big country town, and the attitude is still kind of there. ANYWAY asides aside. Farmland. I suppose that’s why the soil is pretty good – this was pre-industrial-pesticides so I guess they had to build their soil. The short version is, it’s a relief to know that the soil is safe.

Anyhow here’s the view of the beds from the laundry door – bonus view of all our junk out on the verandah

The beds are all basically abandoned. I’ve left stuff growing for general soil structure reasons and to avoid the beds getting stagnant. Plus, the seeds are feeding birds and that’s quite nice. The sparrows love the silverbeet seeds, and to hide in the tangle, and the pigeons love the seeding brocolli. The mosquitos were quite bad when we moved in but we’ve had almost none this year and I suspect it is due to more bird and bat activity.

The only one with any real action in it is the side bed, with one lonely zucchini.

I planted zucchini, cucumber, watermelon and squash seeds in here and the only ones that came up were the zucchini and watermelon. The watermelon seedling has since carked it in the heat but the zucchini shows promise.

We’ll see. We did fix the outlet on this bed so it drains properly now. I’ll try to remember to take a photo next time.

I didn’t take good closeups of the citrus trees but here is the lemon and it’s resident potatoes

Just about died off, I should harvest them. The potatoes that is, not the lemons. You can see the lemon is looking much happier now.

The bay tree continues to love life. I mulched it with gravel because the pigeons were dust bathing in its pot and had almost dug up the roots.

You may also have noticed extra shadecloth shrouds up the back. They are hiding some new trees – a Bowen mango

And a red Tamarillo

Which I’m hoping will act as a bit of a nursery tree to the avo, and also be delicious. This tree has been the source of three arguments with S, they all went like this ‘what’s a tamarillo?’ ‘It’s a tree. Remember I had one at the last house and eventually it leant over and died?’ ‘Yes but what do they taste like?’ ‘They taste like… a fruit. Like themselves.’ ‘Do they taste like tomatoes?’ ‘No, they’re related, but they taste pretty different. They taste like… they’re tart? And sweet?’

They taste like themselves. Which is to say, delicious. Hopefully S agrees with me when we get fruit on them.

The avo itself is still going but I’m finding it hard to keep enough water up to it, it’s doing ok but is slightly limp.

It’s hard because the bark chips over river stones provide great mulch but also mean it needs a really REALLY long soaking for the water to get to the soil. And in the process a lot of the water is wasted to evaporation. My current plan is to set up a little line of drippers along the trees at the back and side fence, perhaps I can even bury them into the barkchips a bit. It’s a bit hard to run a permanent irrigation pipe anywhere along the yard, because the only tap is isolated in the middle of the stone paving, which is cemented in. So my plan is to do a set up that can be plugged right in to the garden hose. Since all the tropical trees up the back, and all the citrus down the side, have the same watering needs, I hope that will do the job nicely.

And that’s the December garden! Not a lot growing but still plenty of planning. Although it’s looking messier and less organised than ever, I can see my plans for the space slowly coming into reality. In late January I’m going to pull out the seeding plants and maybe use them directly as mulch, maybe compost them. Then once the sun cools off a bit I’ll be ready to start planting in the wicking beds again!

Here’s an updated schematic of what’s in the garden now (plus the planned-for fruit trees in between the garden beds).

2015 garden

Plans for this winter include more brassicas, more greens, and to get two stone fruit trees into the space between beds. Current candidates are a nectarine and an apricot, although we’re still debating white or yellow fleshed nectarine. I maintain we have room for more trees in the future, so we have more chances for other things. But I want to take that slowly and not get ahead of myself in terms of needing to do everything at once – I want those two stone fruit but then that’s it until everything is more established. As it is I’m going to have to be vigilant with the pruning to keep the avocado and mango to size, as well as the trees in the garden bed area – the plan is to train them to vase shape so they provide some shade in summer but aren’t too in the way of things. Which I haven’t done before so it’s a learning curve. Well, if I’m ‘lucky’ the gum tree roots will stunt everything and they won’t get too big!

I’d also dearly like to start on planting things in the front yard, where I want to get rid of the grass and mulch, and then plant essentially a native cottage garden (with some lavender too). But I also very much do NOT want to set myself up for failure by biting off more than I can chew, so I guess we’ll just wait and see!

ETA I nipped out there in the 38 degree heat to take some updated photos. We put the trellises up and, miracle of miracles, managed to clear out and organise the shed and put all the rubbish back into it so the verandah is clear.

I’m so pleased with how the trellises look – obviously they look fancier without the shadecloth but it’s still so burny I’m afraid to take it off. Even though Passionfruit can probably handle it. We planted both vines on the east side of the trellis, for shade. But the one closest to the bed is already twining over to the other side so we probably could have planted them so they were both on the ‘inside’ of the path the trellis makes.

I’m so proud of the cleared out verandah that I took a photo of that, too. The plant stand was found in hard rubbish – I think it’ll be sheltered enough to actually grow some summer herbs. I have some basil I can plant out and might get a small harvest from, and then I can start my seeds again with brassicas, to get an early start on the autumn planting.

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Garden in August and October

My last garden post got us up to the end of June. So here we go racing through the months. Here’s what it looked like at the start of August.

Most of my garden photos are taken while I’m waiting for the beds to fill. I think this was the first time in about a month I had to top them up. I spent the first five minutes of that checking for weeds and pulling them, and then I had nothing else to do but take photos. That’s how low maintenance this system is! It helps, of course, that I bought soil in that managed to be mostly weed seed free so I have had very little in the way of weeds in the garden beds. A true luxury.

Here is a not very good photo of the citrus trees down the fence.

Lemon in the middle, mandarin on the right, closest to the house (hidden by the other plants) and orange on the left. I am planning to eventually remove all of the other plants but I hadn’t the heart to this year – the little honey eaters just love those canna lillies and there’s so little else growing in the garden, I couldn’t give them up yet. I did get rid of the agapanthas, I hope successfully.

Here’s a close look at the lemon. You can see she struggled a bit with the cold

As soon as the soil warmed up her leaves turned green again and she’s shooting like bill-o so I am reasonably sure it was just too cold there, since she wasn’t established yet.

Behind are potatoes. I didn’t have anywhere much to put them so I thought I’d try above ground. I can report that they grew very well, although I haven’t harvested yet. The bags are probably good to harvest, they died off pretty quick because they got hot and dry. The mesh ones are only just starting to die back now, at the end of December. I will definitely be doing the mesh circle method again.

And here is the poor avocado

Struggling. Not sure if you can see it from here but it was already putting out new leaf shoots, so I wasn’t too worried. I did give it a much better shade structure, including a hat:

Under which is appears to have weathered summer very well. I did buy some stronger shadecloth to put over the top but it doesn’t appear to need it so I’ve left it.

I don’t appear to have photos of the legume bed but here is the front bed, still churning out the greens. Cos lettuce threatening to go to seed if we don’t eat it quick enough, with more seedlings ready underneath. I put the potted baby spinach in the ground after a while, where it flourished and grew up.

Silverbeet and beetroot.

Gailan (what a champion of  a vegetable) and more lettuces underneath

And about as much bok choy as we could handle

We ate so so many stir fries in August, with the greens barely cooked. My favourite way to do it is to blanch them and then just lightly toss them in garlic and ginger. Serve with shittake mushrooms – we have a big packet of dried ones I am working my way through. If you want you can mix a spoonfull of potato flour with water and then cover them with it in a wok, to give it a glossy, creamy coating. YUM. Also we added them, blanched, to just about everything. In Chinese cooking this is called ‘breaking the rawness’ and it is a very good way to get rid of the sulfuric taste of brassicas without losing the tenderness, as well as to make sure you don’t have limp bok choy in things.

Speaking of brassicas, the back bed started to come into its own in August

As soon as it got properly cold they shot up, and by August there was no stopping them.

I did get a little bit of cabbage moth on the cabbages, but so few that I was just able to rub them off and it was fine.

However, even though the soil was cold (and they were loving it), the aspect of this bed means it gets full sun from about 11am till whenever it is the sun sets. And that afternoon sun is HOT. So even as the sprouting broccoli was setting heads, it was already flowering.

No dramas. The flowers are still totally edible, and they weren’t grainy and seeding. It just meant I had to check on them often and we did eat a lot of broccoli. Not a hardship. It was so tender and lovely and we had it in everything, blanched as I said and then stirred through with butter as a side, in various fritters and bakes, everything. So good.

We also ate the leaves! I planted Tuscan kale but the seeds I had were from a friend. I suspect they got cross pollinated because what I thought was kale – with the ripply leaves, and the little sign I put next to it saying ‘kale’ sprouted as broccoli! So we ate that too. However, I think the leaves of the broccoli plants were more tender, myself. I think next year I might just plant a whole bed of broccoli and we’ll eat the lot of it. Of course, that probably accelerated the flowering, so next time I will stagger plantings.

Here’s what the beds looked like a month later, in October

Brocpocalypse. They’re taking over! I also took about a million pictures of them because I find the flowers so beautiful, despite being so utilitarian.

And the bees LOVED them which I was happy to encourage. We were still eating them at this stage although the ones in that last photo above would have been too woody. The ones on the morning-sun side of the bed were more edible, still

You can see that the wood is starting to grey after a winter’s weathering.

Here’s the Avo. Its leaves fell off all in one week and then the sprouts took over

It also put up a bunch of flower buds, which I rubbed off

And the pea bed

The other side was looking sadder

You can see I planted lettuce seedlings around the edges but they essentially went straight to seed.

The front bed is bolting, too

Let’s not forget, I took these photos on the 2nd of October. It’s still early spring here. But just too too hot. And windy! I put that bamboo screen up to protect the silverbeet, which was getting blown over. A week later I put up[ shade over all of the beds but it’s still a losing battle, given the combo of the sun and the wind. Even with the wicking beds, I couldn’t plant new seedlings. They would shrivel up within a day. The established plants can still get enough water, but they get the beating sun too.

Here’s the front bed all shaded over, two weeks after the previous photos, in late October.

If I do shade cloth next year, though, I’m going to have to make it more structured. There’s so much wind that these hoops get pushed back and forth and the plants exposed.

I didn’t harvest a single carrot, beetroot or parsnip. They were getting close to big enough and then in about a week they bolted. In fact I know it was in a week, because I went to Bali in mid october and when I came back… poof! That’s ok. The bees and other insects loved the flowers, too. While I was in Bali, the peas did this:

Yikes! Like I said before, I got one risotto’s worth of harvest out of this. And they were delicious. I think if i’d harvested them a week before I would have gotten a bit more.

And the back bed did this:

And without the shadecloth it looked like this:

I pulled out most of them a

I left some brassicas to be shade and also because the bees were still loving them – and now the birds are loving the seeds. I may as well tell you right now that the tomatoes etc were NOT a success. It is just too hot. As of November, I have given up gardening in the beds until it gets a bit less burny. I think that until the trees grow, it’s going to be a losing battle getting anything out of the beds between, say, late October and Early Feb. I might be able to extend the season with shadecloth and other structures, but I’m going to consider it like a snowy winter, just too extreme for growing. That’s ok, it gives me more time to sew and go to the beach, and to plan and execute other household tasks. Including getting more trees in, but that’s a story for next time.

Speaking of trees, though, here’s two weeks of new growth on the avo

And one plant is loving the  harsh sun: the bay tree in a pot