Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The forest survived....just.

Well it's 6 months again since the last post. Lots of work was done during long service, areas paved, things pruned etc. But the garden ended up being left to fend for itself. We had such a hot, long and dry summer that it became apparent that I was wasting time and water watering everyday. Things would fry anyway.

So it was left, and now with a cool change in the air, I've finally felt encouraged enough to go out and assess the damage.
It's not as bad as I thought. Yes, some things have perished but those that have survived are now rearing to go with a bit of water and more tempered air. So I've divided all that survived - lemongrass, sugar cane, arrowroot, Jerusalem artichokes, a tiny banana and replanted them around the pond where it hurt most to see bare and brown patches. This time next year, it should at least look a little greener.

Now that I'm back to watering, the feijoa and loquat beside the pond have grown a little. The eggplant, worthless as it is for food because of the borers, will stay as shelter for the smaller things around it, and I've lanted potatoes in the newest beds hoping they'll help break up the soil there.

Everything got given a good mulching of sawdust and some bentonite (again). I just read that it takes 7 years before soil is stable enough to hold on to it's amendments. Some time to go.
Now, just 2 cool weeks later, the place is looking greener. The parsley and fennel seeds I threw everywhere have started to come up, as have the potatoes. The rhubarb crown I divided last year and thought I'd killed over summer have resprouted - Yay! And garlic chives and perennial leeks, along with the odd left behind garlic bulb have sprouted out of nowhere.

This past weekend saw the building of a small roof tile wall along the walk to the chookpen.
Its intention down the track (if I build it higher) is to keep animals out, but in the meantime animals are being locked out of the walled area as it's formed the perfect area for a long garden bed. This is where I've planted lettuces, more lemon grass, rhubarb, silverbeet, leeks, artichokes, some spuds and cabbages. A mix of things, but predominantly, things that by the end of the season will fill a space and be drought tolerant as the only water these will be getting in ths summer will be rain water stored from the garden shed roof. I have a theory that things grow better in rain water because there are no chemicals in it to kill the soil microbes. Will see if these things grow any differently. Have also planted climbing peas to go over the arch.

Another new experiment is a deep litter system in our chook pen. I've been mucking out every week or so and it's hard work and still seems to smell and get messy quick. This could be the perfect solution.

The idea is to create 'deep litter' in the pen which the chooks will scratch through and aerate. All I have to do is top up the litter each week and in 6 months the microbes within the bottom layers should have been working away and leave me with beautiful composty mulch and no smell. Seems too good to be true doesn't it. Less work, more rewards?

My deep litter consists of a sprinkle of garden lime, pine needles, gum leaves (or any others lying around) and straw. Chooks have an absolute ball scratching around in it. Very happy chooks indeed.

Will see what happens.

It feels good to be getting enthused again, but I'm desperately aware that what the garden needs is canopy. Plants, however well mulched, cannot thrive when their soil is scorched and the air around them is baking them. Shade is what we need, and it's frustrating how slow that progress is. Nothing else for it but time.

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