A Dry Patch

Here in Melton West we have had an unusually dry spell.  What am I taking about, this has happened for the last 8 years!  The last time we had any rain to speak of was 10th of December 2008 so you can imagine how dry it is around here.  Before that, it rained in July.  I have never seen the ground so dry and dusty.  Thank goodness for a rainwater tank, and the privilege of being able to water the garden two days a week from mains water whilst still on water restrictions.  I have to supplement with tank water about 3 days a week just to keep the fruit and vegetables alive.

The lack of natural rainfall tends to stunt the growth and yield of the harvest, but being a keen as ever, I simply plant more seedlings to compensate.  Here is an example.  My brother Scott sent me a photo of his sweetcorn.  He lives in South East Queensland, and they have had tonnes of rain lately.   Check out the height of those things! They remind me of Day of the Triffids.  

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Well done Scott, but I expect the rain has helped just a little!  In comparison,  here is my crop of sweetcorn.  Small, but 40 plants in total to make up the stunted growth.  The tallest is about 120cm tall.

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The taller plants have two ears of corn each, and are maturing quickly.  In this bed I have two plantings, one month apart so to enjoy a longer harvest. 

Just the other side of the tree to the right is the other bed I planted in the front yard.  It contains cucumbers at the front,  and to the rear are watermelon, rockmelon and African horned melon.  They are growing steadily as I am using gray water from the washing machine every other day on these.

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Here is a different angle.  You can see the melons better.

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The bed behind that one is the next plot that I intend to tackle, and the one behind that is where I am going to pull out a dead bush (can’t remember the name of it) and plant two blueberry bushes.

Leaving the front yard now and through the gate you can just see above.  Kim and I took out one of the veranda trellis to give the illusion of more room in the east side garden.  It certainly worked, because it now feels like a much bigger space.  We can even see the chook house in all its glory.

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Just behind those pots to the left of the shot above is my Dwarf ANZAC peach tree that is two years old.  It has cropped in the last week and we harvested about 40 peaches.  They were the best we have ever tasted.  Small, sweet and juicy.  Click to enlarge.

ANZAC Peach 1 The tree has grown so much in just two years.  It is grafted onto Dwarf root stock.  I bought the plant from the Diggers club.
Here is some of the fruit just before we picked it all off.  I did initially begin to just remove the fruit we needed day by day, however a funny thing happened.  The chooks had been ignoring the fruit, possibly because they didn’t know it was edible. ANZAC Peach 2
ANZAC Peach Kim decided to go up to the tree when Edwina was watching her and Kim bit into the piece of fruit.  The chickens went berserk! Edwina started pecking at the low hanging fruit, and then all the other girls ran over and got stuck in as well. 

Kim started screaming and tried to nudge them away with her foot!  Well that didn’t work and I came outside from making my cup of tea and saved the day.  I picked the three pieces of fruit they were attacking and threw them about two metres away, told Kim to guard the remaining fruit, and then proceeded to pick up each chicken whilst they were distracted and put them all back into their run.  Crisis over, and I laughed so hard!  I then went inside, got a bowl, and picked all the fruit, which we ate over the course of the last week. 

The next bed which is beside the chicken coop contains purple Russian tomatoes, Jalapeno chilies (2 years old and going strong), and rainbow chard.

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Around the other side of the house where the main veggie patch is located are beds.  In the first bed we have the pumpkin and zucchini patch, which is going well.  I am just starting to get small pumpkins and zucchini developing now.  Note the two blueberry bushes in pots at the head of the bed.  Those are the ones I am planting in the front yard.

Garden Update 010 I have noticed a lack of bees on this side of the garden, so I am having to pollinate all of the cucurbits by hand. 

Garden Update 009Before I started hand pollination, I notice that the Golden nugget pumpkins would develop flowers and then shrivel up when the flower died.  I now have a few big fruit since I took over the sexual relations for these plants!

The next bed are the lone eggplant (aubergine), and 3 varieties of tomato, Tommy Toe, Black Russian, and Tigerella.

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The citrus trees in the pots behind are receiving about 3 litres of water a day each from the water we save from the pre-hotwater in the shower.  It keeps the fruit from dropping off with a daily water.  I noticed last year that when I watered them twice a week, the pots dried out so quick that not only did the forming fruit drop off like lemmings over a cliff, but the leaves went yellow very quickly.  This year I have avoided both problems.

Bed number three contains the sole capsicum plant from last year, and is cropping well.  It has bigger fruit than last season.

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It also contains the wicking pots surrounded by the lettuce I planted about 6 weeks ago.  They are so healthy that we have such an abundance and I can’t even see the pot lids anymore.  I think I planted too many seedlings, because I usually have such a bad strike rate.  I fill the wicking pots only on the two days a week I use mains water.  The soil stays nice and moist.  You can even pick the lettuce in the heat of the noon sun and they are still crisp.  In this bed I also have red spring onions, mizuna and snow peas at the back.

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Bed number 4 contains more tomatoes.  I have a Tigerella, a Effie, a Mortgage lifter, Tommy Toe, and two unknown from a mixed packet of tomato seeds.  It will be a bit of a surprise when they fruit.

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Deep inside the mass of tomato vines, there are my first ripe tomatoes.  No prizes for guessing which type they are.

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The last bed has two small capsicum bushes, Yellow current cherry tomatoes, and rainbow chard.  Strawberry pots and Rosemary in front of the bed.  The strawberries are developing runners, so I will have to buy a few more pots and plant them up.

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All in all, not a bad garden for bugger all rain! Here it is in all it’s glory looking from the front.

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And from the rear.

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A lot of work has gone into the patch so far this year, especially with keeping the moisture levels up.  All worth it though in the long run, and I get a great feeling of joy knowing that very soon I will be harvesting lots of home grown produce.

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Comments

  1. says

    I just love your garden Gavin. It keeps me going through these winter months. At the moment I have my head deep in seed catalogues, saved a lot of seed last year but want to plant at least double this year. What do you think of the Russian tomatoes. We found them very tasty but they grew so big that parts of them ripened on the vine before the rest of it was ready. Hope you get some rain soon, we have plenty to spare here. Margaret

  2. Anonymous says

    Hi Gavin,

    I wanted you advice as a food grower.
    We live in the UK, my husband is Aussie and he wants to go back to Australia. We want to have a nice veg. garden to plan most of our veggies and fruit.
    He’s from Queensland, we haven’t decided where to live yet, but I love simple European fruit like apples and pears, and plums, and grapes. Queensland seems to be the perfect place for tropical fruit, but will apples and pears and grapes grow over there?
    Thank you.
    Best wishes,
    Teresa

  3. says

    Gavin, thanks so much for sharing your photos of the garden. What you have achieved in your area, considering how dry the West is, is a incredible feat. I must look out for the dwarf peach in the winter diggers catalogue. I was pleased to hear how sweet you said the fruit was.
    Planted my passionfruit vine this morning, fingers crossed we may have some tasty fruit next summer, that’s if the possums don’t get to them first!!
    Congrats
    Cheers
    Anita

  4. john (dad) says

    theres nothing wrong with your garden gav .even though you havent had much rain. scott puts plenty of mulch on his garden and uses liquid manure for the nitrogen (cow pats soaked in water).for anom thats thinking of moving to aussie .they grow plenty of apples etc around the stanthorpe area

  5. says

    Thanks for the tour Gav, your garden is turning into a real food forest and oasis :-) So satisfying to put in all that work and reap the rewards!

    Cheers, Julie

  6. says

    Hey Gav, gosh am so envious, yet so proud. To anon considering fruit growing in queensland, Scott lives in a moist area of south east queensland lower corner and in rural thus readily available fertilizer but very hot conditions in summer, I (the sister) live in the humid, sometimes moist but extremely hot area in south east queensland and stone fruits and apples just wont grow except mango’s, paw paw, banana’s etc. I have a potted garden, with mainly citrus, paw paw,kumquots, avocado, berry bushes for fruit, and have no vegies that cant be shaded in the summer as the heat is too extreme, autumn and spring crops were abundant and so was the winter, warm days and cool nights, little frost. Our Dad lives in north Coast area by the ocean, very moist and can grow most there except apples, peaches, plums etc, Mum lives far north qld coast area and has a great crop of vegies. The far lower east queensland is the best place for apples, sultana grapes, peaches etc, like Stanthorpe, Inverell, Tenterfeild even Toowoomba areas have some success. I have tried to grow the frost loving fruit trees and vines but havent had any success, the extreme of summer just burns new growth and they cant stand the humidity. Sorry Gav, didnt mean to take over, just voicing my experience in our climate up here.Good luck Anon, hope to welcome you soon.
    xoxoxox

  7. says

    What a great garden! You must be very proud gavin. I agree totally with your comment “thank goodness for rainwater tanks”. Ours rarely runs out so i water the vege garden guilt free. HOwever we also use our tank water to flush the loo and wash clothes and over Christmas with 12 people in the house for a week it ran out! I now feel guilty every time I water the garden. Cannot wait for more rain! Tricia

  8. says

    Going well, Gav! Give your sweet corn a bit more nitrogen and more water if you can manage it — they call it a gross feeder, and they mean it! If you are watering your cucurbits every day, keep an eye out for fungal growth. Give them a day off from watering every now and again and give the sweet corn the water.

  9. says

    @ Kel. Thanks and welcome home. I am going to have to pick your brain about your outdoor oven. Kim has decided she wants one since I showed her your blog!

    @ Margaret. I am glad that my simple blog keeps your chin up during the colder months up north. We find the Russian tomatoes make great pasta sauce and are very sweet. Great in sandwiches as well.

    @ Teresa. I hope my sister (cabbage heart) has answered your question. I am not familiar with what grows where in Qld. I live in Victoria which has a temperate to Mediterranean climate.

    @ Anita. No problems, my pleasure. Yes, the ANZAC peach is a must when you have limited space. The taste is fantastic. I hope your passionfruit survive the summer.

    @ Dad. Thanks. A bit of rain would help though! I have been using Powerfeed once a fortnight. It seems to help a fair bit.

    @ Sharon. You are more than welcome to visit any time. I will gladly show you around!

    @ Julie. Thanks, more like a wadi, I think. I have so much more I want to grow, but time is always the deciding factor. I am just keeping up with what I have now!

    @ Sis. Thanks for that. You didn’t steal my thunder. I was going to ask either you or Dad for help anyway. You just beat me to the punch.

    @ Tricia. The garden gives me such a great feeling of joy, especially when I harvest something. Sorry to hear about your rainwater tank. Hope it rains real soon for both our sakes.

    @ Danni. Your garden will be like this one day. When it gets a bit cooler, I will show Dale how to build a raised garden bed.

    @ Chookie. Thanks for the tip. I use Powerfeed fortnightly, however I shall spread a bit of blood and bone around them tomorrow and water in well. It should give them a boost.

  10. Anonymous says

    Gavin,

    You have a wonderful garden! I was wondering how many acre’s you own? How much of it do you garden? I would also love to see your chicken coop:)

    Renee

    gardendesk.com

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