I am still picking kale, zucchini, broccoli side shoots, herbs and the chickens are still laying… I am eating well. As I have mentioned previously, it's necessary to plant something every week at least if you want to eat from the garden and so I have continued to eat well and extremely locally.
The summer that has just finished was very difficult here because of the almost complete lack of rain. The six months from July 2014 has been exceptionally dry. Since then, despite plenty of rain in the eastern states, we have had very little… though enough to make a significant difference to my rainwater tanks, to reduce the amount of watering needed and to finally allow planting of new seeds and seedlings.
The new season is beginning. So far, I have transplanted kale, snow peas, cabbage and cauliflowers, I have moved a few self-sown lettuces and silver beet plants and I have sown (as seed) carrots, swedes, beetroot, broad beans, peas and a few herbs and I have planted about 70 garlic bulbs. There are also a number of healthy looking potato plants that have emerged since the rain. I had planned to do something else with that bed this winter, but this is the patch that I harvested when the soil was wet after rain. The soil is very heavy and clay, so when it was wet, the going was hard and a lot of potatoes were left behind as I discovered when I transplanted some onions and leeks to that area in the summer. As soon as I had watered the transplants, the potatoes also sprang into action and it was chaos. Never mind. I will have plenty of potatoes in the not too distant future.
The rain means that I can afford to cultivate a much larger area. The straw covered patches are now cleared and well dug. There are plenty of earth worms in every piece of earth that I turn over.
I agree with Darwin that the worms are an incredible force but I wonder how much is due to earth worms and how much is due to fungi and micro-organisms that live in the same environment. I have been told for all of my life that earthworms are a sign of healthy soil, and I am sure that that is correct. They are certainly indicators, but there are a lot of other organisms that live in the same conditions and contribute equally to soil health and these, along with the earthworms need to be protected from hot, dry summers. Cultivation of the soil makes the organisms more vulnerable and so providing protection during the most difficult weather conditions has become an absolute necessity… unless the soil is to be used as a support for "hydroponic" production where seed, fertiliser and chemicals are added to the substrate to enable survival, if not optimal growth, of the vegetation. This is why I cover the soil with a thick layer of straw during the hot dry months (I can't keep the whole area watered and shaded during the summer) to maintain the environment for, not only worms, but all of those other creatures and fungi as well.
As I sit here at the computer, I can see the 'almost full moon' rising out of the window…. a new month is about to begin (full moon here will be on the 4th May) and with it a new cycle of planting and garden planning.