Winter pulse

Much as I would like to be sitting in a warm room there are still tasks to be carried out in our winter garden. Soft winter grasses and fleshy weeds are taking advantage of the beds my partner prepared and planted out to garlic and onions. My task has been to weed the beds, which I have done over the past week.

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There is still a bit to complete, but the worst is over and the chooks have enjoyed scratching among the weeds for fresh green pick. While the garlic has grown vigorously the onions have been overwhelmed by the weeds. Today I spent an ‘envigorating’ half hour filling in the gaps where some of the onions failed. It seems that the brown onions have fared better than the red cipollini. The gaps have been filled with more brown onions on the basis that their seedlings were the strongest available at the nursery.
One of our local magpie pairs has started collecting sticks and vegetation for nest building. While we see this as the start of the coldest part of winter these birds are looking forward to their first hatchlings of the year. Oh, and I’d better warn the postman, the magpies love to swoop him when they have young in the nest!

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Weather

Another day of icy Antarctic blasts after that tempting warm spell late last week. Today we had 37 mms of rain in the gauge so that at least is a positive. The long term forecast is for an El Nino this year so we can expect above average temperatures and a lot less rain. So any soil moisture we can get now, along with run-off into the dams is welcome. On the negative side – the strong winds have torn several holes in the polyhouse roof which will need fixing quite quickly.

Fixing a hole where the rain gets in ...
Fixing a hole where the rain gets in …

Luckily the only seedlings I have in there are tough old brassicas, Kailan (sometimes spelled kailaan), or Chinese Broccoli, which will be able to stand the cold for a while.

Small but tough Kailan seedlings
Small but tough Kailan seedlings

Walking around the garden after the rain I spot some self sown seedlings. Two brassicas, one Red Russian Kale and this Red Mustard – a favourite in salads.

Self sown Red Mustard
Self sown Red Mustard

Saving the best until last, another one of the hen’s started laying today. Which just puts the pressure on the last one to get a move on. Hooray fresh eggs again!

Here comes the sun

The hot weather has set in and we are still technically not even into summer yet. Although we are well into sprummer – the new word coined by Tim Entwisle, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, for southern Australia’s late spring / early summer season.

I got up early yesterday so I could get some planting done before the day really started hotting up.

It's Sprummer! getting ready for the gardening day.
It’s Sprummer! getting ready for the gardening day.

In fact I’d started preparation for this morning’s work, the evening before. I was planning on planting out my corn seedlings, Sweetcorn Honey Bicolour (oh the shame, we’ve had to buy seedlings in this year) and I knew the soil in the front bed is very water repellant. I spent quite a bit of time with my garden hose and a 3 pronged hoe watering and turning the top soil to get the water actually soaking in. In the end I put a fine layer of mulch over the top to help retain the soil moisture, banking on this to help the moisture spread evenly through the soil overnight.

Corn seedlings under a fine mulch with protective milk carton collars.
Corn seedlings under a fine mulch with protective milk carton collars.

It worked to a good degree, although I did see that the water still hadn’t penetrated below the top 20 cms below the surface. You can see that after planting I also put a milk carton collar around each seedling. This creates a micro climate for the plant and in this case helps channel water right down to the plant’s roots. Once the plant has grown these can be easily torn off from the base of the plant.

In the back garden I was planting the tomato seedlings that our friend M got started on before we went on holidays and which were kept alive by our house sitter. I still had to add some compost into the bed and get it watered in, but I was able to use our tank water to gravity feed the sprinkler just enough so it worked. (We have sprinkler use restrictions in the ACT as part of our permanent water restrictions).

Soaking the bed prior to planting.
Soaking the bed prior to planting.

Again the plants were lightly mulched and collared prior to watering in.

Tomato seedlings off to a good start.
Tomato seedlings off to a good start.

By the time I’d finished TB had come out and planted some eggplants and zucchini. It was very obvious that the temperature was going to be quite high so I used a piece of shade cloth to cast some protective shade for the day.

Shading the tomatoes.
Shading the tomatoes.

The chickens are also feeling the heat. Indeed it’s too hot to lay in their boxes so one of the girls has taken to laying her eggs in the grass in their wider free-ranging area.

Free-range laying in the garden.
Free-range laying in the garden.

 

In the end the temperature rose to 39 C. Thankfully today the temperature is much lower and we are having some very welcome showers of rain.