Friday, January 10, 2014

Where else but...?

Welcome to a new year! I was going to write about the things I wanted to accomplish in 2014, but decided to post what I was doing instead. And where else would I be, but the garden of course? It has endured some scorching heat recently (up to 44 degrees celcius). While I was a little worried about the garden, it was also an opportunity to test how our gardening strategies were going.


Newly mulched box hedge


Before I get to that however, I resurrected our box-hedge from the infestation of weeds around the septic tank recently. I like weeds and I try to live with them, but not when they're stunting the growth of other plants. This particular garden bed gets very little attention, so it has to cope on its own for the most part. Surprisingly, it's quite abundant (even in extremes) due to a few strategies, which are completely natural. If you notice the miniature fence in the image above, its to stop kangaroos crushing the growing plants.


Fresh roo-poo


Kangaroos leave little bundles of nutrients in their droppings, wherever they go. When we plant a new garden bed, we try to leave a little space for a kangaroo track. This particular garden bed is near a large tree - quite a magnet for kangaroos. By placing small barriers on the plants we don't want them to crush, but leave a more open space for them to meander, we get regular fertility compliments of the kangaroos. And fertility means, better soils which do much better in climate extremes.

So our first strategy has been to invite native animals into our garden, to be part of the nutrient cycle. Nature already put them into the landscape - we just had to accept their value and work our plans into that existing process.


Acacia tree (left) Small Frangipani (right)


If there is anything lacking on acreage, it's generally TREES. This large tree is the one I was referring to earlier. The septic tank is on the right. We were fortunate this acacia (left) sprung up on its own, and quickly grew into a wonderful canopy tree. It's wonderful, because canopy trees are nature's air-conditioners and escape from the heat. This tree has sheltered quite a few plants underneath it too.


Evolving landscape


I'm not sure if my garden will ever be "lush", but its beautiful watching it develop through the seasonal cycles. This cycad (front and centre) has been covered in weeds when it was a wee nipper too! It even got covered in the leaves and flowers shed from the acacia tree. When the cycad was young, it could've been overrun by so many natural elements, but instead it created a network of resilience for it to grow through.

If you notice in the picture, there's some old felled tree logs too. We don't believe in burning to rid ourselves of dead wood, because it only deprives the soil microbes, insects and lizards a place to take up residence. We deliberately placed those logs there, to stop soil erosion and capture moisture. Any insects which die under the log, will fertilise the cycad lower down.

So our second gardening strategy, has been to really use the life and death of plants to capture natural elements, in order to grow healthy soil. There's quite a lot involved in how you can use a plant while it's alive, and once it is dead. But the main thing is not to devalue what you have. Use it in the landscape instead - that is why nature put it there to begin with. The minute you find yourself asking, "how can I get rid of this", change your thought process to...how can I "use" this instead?


Tree debris


Talk about using what you have, I truly get to appreciate the amount of debris that falls from our canopy tree, when I have to sweep off the top of the septic tank. And it all goes back onto the garden too.

What did I do with the weeds I pulled? I placed them in a heap, near where they were pulled. The reason the weeds are growing there, is nature's attempt to correct the minerals in the soils. By pulling the weeds and placing them nearby, I'm not breaking the natural cycle. Those minerals the weeds specialise in harvesting, are returning to the soil. If I cart those weeds away, I only have to bring something else in, to correct the imbalance. Who needs that extra burden, when you're gardening on acreage?

Close-up view of acacia


Everything must return to the soil eventually. Even our wonderful canopy tree that has served this area immensely, is decaying. We have found a seedling which has sprung up nearby (only a few metres away) and it will replace this monolith of fertility one day. We will use it's gnarly trunk in the very garden bed it has brought to fruition. No doubt, we will build another track for the kangaroos to meander around, and plant more plants in the residue of its decay.

When you're gardening on acreage, your best friend is a tree. Or should I say...trees! And don't forget the animals need a place to live too.

We are in the process of having to take a few trees out - we're pushing our human boundaries further into the landscape. But we have learned to balance the equation by inclusion. We use the elements which are already here, and cater for them to continue.

Have you stumbled across some natural gardening tips that work for your particular area?

10 comments:

  1. I love the way you work hand-in-hand with nature in your yard. Too many gardeners want to control nature.

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    1. You really nailed it, RJ. I've tried control, it's pointless. Nature doesn't like it. A relationship with nature is far more productive. It makes me a happier gardener too.

      Thanks for stopping by. It's nice to see you blogging again. :)

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  2. 44 degrees! Yikes. We have the opposite problem, LOL.

    Very interesting about the roos. That's a part of your natural landscape that is so curious to me. We are very much trying to learn natural gardening in our area. It is so true about working with nature rather than trying to conquer it.

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  3. Kangaroos are very interesting creatures and we love seeing their joey's raised in our backyard every season. I'm guessing deer may be the native wildlife in your region that could use your backyard for their various needs. I've always wondered if there was a natural way to live with deer. I've read they can feed on people's crops and become a nuisance.

    Yet I bet their dung would be very good for the garden too. It's really quite a balancing act. We're fortunate the roos don't really eat our plants, although they've developed a taste for the sweet potato shoots and forage trees we've planted. Because they grow like weeds, we don't mind them grazing - it's barely noticed.

    Anyway, I hope this growing season sees your goat pastures develop further. Have you considered growing forage trees for them?

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  4. I wrote a long response here and then it didn't go through. I wanted to tell you that we do get deer around here but they are not desirable critters because they carry the tics that carry Lyme disease so discouraging them is the best thing a person can do. We sometimes find that they (or something as big as they are-hopefully not bears!) do take shelter in an outlying field among our slopes where they shelter against the wind. We see the tall grass crushed down so we know they have visited but rarely do they bother our garden. The other animals we could get visits from are coyotes, wolves and the usual possums and raccoons (just had to dispose of one actually). We have our camelids for manure so don't need any of these around but generally we leave them alone unless they bother our chickens (the possum above killed one and it doesn't do so quickly.)
    In the fall, we mulched heavily with straw and didn't till anything under. Men (Garry and his friends) till too much because they like the machinery I think. I have been trying to break him of the habit. So the straw will just be pushed aside in the spring to plant things in holes this year. Nothing new there but that is my resolve. I am also looking at buying more unusual plants for food. Sick of the usuals.

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  5. We're not meant to have Lyme disease in Australia, but I can understand its an issue where it's present. It goes to show, every location will have a different niche to nurture. We get paralysis ticks in Australia, which some people have allergic reactions to - and they can kill livestock if they get enough on them.

    I've had to pull a few off David when he's gone brush-cutting, and they're tough little suckers to pull out. I'm told guinea fowl can control the population of ticks, but they're not something for us. Our chickens are enough responsibility and they're not as noisy.

    It's great to hear you're going to try some new food plants. I've desperately wanted to grow the usual varieties, but I've learned our environment is too harsh. I can't grow regular spuds, but sweet-potato and yams grow like weeds. Sometimes you have to change your preferences for what will grow better in your climate. Still can't wait to see what you've gotten - but I'll have to wait (like you) for winter to pass first.

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    1. Hey Chris. Working my way through your posts and comments - some interesting stuff, thanks.

      We _do_ have Lyme disease in Australia, and some other nasties associated with tick bits. And the possibility of getting Lyme disease is not something to be taken lightly. The Australian Association of Bush Regenerators has published a good and detailed review of the issues around ticks and tick-borne diseases in Australia. It's at:

      http://www.aabr.org.au/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/AABR-Ticks-and-tick-borne-diseases-protecting-yourself1.pdf

      Gordon

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    2. I thought we had Lyme disease, but wasn't sure if it was recognised officially. Times might have changed, but when I went looking for official recognition of Lyme disease in Australia a few years ago, I couldn't find anything. A lot of doctors were recording the symptoms of Lyme disease in a small minority of the population, but no official govt organisation was acknowledging it.

      You've solved that little mystery for me though, I will check out the link. Thanks.

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  6. I know what you mean about not being able to grow regular foods but the more I learn about food the more I think that eating regular food, while delicious, isn't the best way to balanced nutrition. I think we need the unusual or wild (cultivated wild?) foods for our health and for the planet too. Thats my current thinking on the matter:)
    I'm thinking about guineas but a neighbor already told me about how loud they are which I took to mean, "Please don't!". Chickens do their best too. Maybe we need more chickens?
    Traditionally, sweet potatoes and yams are southern U.S. crops and this area is notorious for clay soil so perhaps you have a gift there. We can grow sweet potato here in our soil up north too.
    I haven't made my order yet (have yet to source some things) but I will of course write about what I am getting this year as soon as I get my head on straight. The issue with my sister-even as she recovers slowly-has got me in a tailspin.

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    1. You're spot on with the wild foods. I think plant nurseries have gone a tad overboard with making food plants completely dependent on ideal conditions. We cannot eat most of the hardy plants they sell - like from the succulent family. You can eat some varieties, but not most.

      Wild foods not only survive better in harsh climates, but they often have superior nutrient density. I predict wild food plants are the future if our climate keeps having more temperature extremes. They will be the only thing that will grow in the climate.

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