Tuesday, 30 August 2016

July and August

I'm feeling a little bit shocked about how long it has taken me to get back to writing another post.  I have taken time to think however.
After last year's el Nino, and in fact, two years of minimal rainfall, growing anything other than the bare minimum was not feasable.  Even with the time to keep the water supply to mre than the minimum patch, the amount of water needed has been prohibitive.
There have been a few changes in the yard.
For those who are unaware of this 'kapunda garden', it is in fact a one acre block (more or less square) within the town boundaries and with a very old house right in the middle... quite out of the regular line-up of houses along the street that now serves as access.  I live on a minimal income,  having been 'employed' at home with children for most of my life.  This means that any work has to be done by myself, and any assets purchased very slowly.  This means that I have bought rainwater tanks gradually, over years, one at a time.  I thought that I was doing pretty well, but then I needed to accommodate my mother (in a separate 'granny flat') that has taken over three of my five tanks.  Those extra three tanks used to be available for supplementary watering of my food garden during dry seasons.
As an aside, it is worth considering the issues that need to be taken into account when calculating water storage.  The amount of water that one uses regularly and the annual rainfall is not the whole story.  In order to be self sufficient in water,  it is the amount of storage and the length of the 'dry' periods that need to be considered.  In Kapunda, and most of South Australia,  the rainfall is moderate (Kapunda gets less than 500mm of rain annually) and most of that rain falls during the winter, between May and September.  This means that any garden is likely to need supplementary watering over many months during which rainfall is unreliable to non-existant.  I do have access to 'town water' in an emergency, but this is expensive.
During the past couple of years,  with very low annual rainfall, and hot summers (climate change?) the soil has become dry, even to some depth.  For me this meant more and more additional watering over time.  I have also reduced the area devoted to food plants and watered extremely economically.
I have still been able to grow most of my vegetable requirements, maintain my chickens and I have experimented with a few new varieties of food plants,  most notably the prickly pears that produce nopales and sweet fruits with no supplementary watering at all.
This winter (2016) has been 'wet'.  The garden is green and lush, albeit with a lot of weeds and winter grass that needs mowing as I sit here.  I planted brassicas for the winter and those have done well.
Broccoli (Romanesco)

There have been a couple of very slight frosts, a relatively 'warm' winter, and so even the potato plants that sprang up at the first rain (from the tubers that I missed at the last harvest)  have survived and self sown leeks, onions and herbs are abundant.  
Broad beans are flowering.

The broad beans (including a few self sown in last years patch) are flowering, the artichokes are looking healthy and there are plenty of 'leafy greens'.  I am eating well.
Self sown leeks make wonderful soup.

The rain has replenished the soil moisture to a significant depth that I haven't seen for a couple of years and I am hopeful that this summer (2016-2017) will prove to be as rewarding as some of the previous ones.
Red onions have sprung up with the rain.

This week we have had a few millimetres of rain, the temperature is rising,  I am beginning to see the earliest food plants.
The only significant addition to the garden has been an 'espalier patch' where I have planted fruit trees and begun to trellis them onto wires in the hope that they will be more easily protected from birds and so that I will be more easily able to pick their fruit.  So far, this seems to be promising, but more of that later.
I have some more photographs to add to the blog sooner or later,  though I have been adding them to an 'instagram' account (#kapundagarden) recently as well.
Onion seedlings need transplanting... all self sown.

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