Sunday, February 9, 2020

Back in the swing

Yucca, in flower

In the past three days, we've received 36 mm of rain. Which is the most we've experienced on consecutive days, in around two years. Not counting the rain we received late 2019 and early 2020. Which can only mean one thing. Phenomenal growth in the garden! As my husband wrangles equipment to tackle the lawn, I'm suddenly faced with my old routine with pruning shears. Ready to chop and drop all that material, I've literally been waiting years to grow.

I have to confess to a few casualties in the garden, which are directly my fault. I should've gotten pruners out sooner. I'm SO use to rain being a non-event, which doesn't reciprocate growth, I'm completely out of practice with the changed situational awareness. So my saltbush paid the price.


Prior to the long drought, whenever rain was predicted, I'd give my saltbush a trim. Because they get top-heavy, in our subtropical monsoon season. As a desert plant, they're adapted to minimal rainfall, after all. But we hadn't had a normal monsoon season, for over two years. My drought goggles were fixed tightly, on optimising shade coverage with the saltbush.

I realised my mistake too late. The moisture in the ground and heavy on it's leafs, forced the roots to finally unearth. Splitting the trunk in half, in the process. It might survive. Saltbush is tough like that. Wait and see. But the first job I had to tackle, when the rain finally cleared, was freeing the plants it was covering underneath. As they surely wouldn't survive.

Saltbush (top), Eremophila (middle), Saltbush prunings (bottom)

The Eromophila "Kalbarri Carpet", is another desert plant which needs air circulation to stay healthy. The drought didn't phase it at all, but the wet certainly would, if I didn't prune the saltbush laying directly on top. The humidity and moisture, had already started to decompose the saltbush leaves, as I freed the Eremophila. Thankfully, I had gotten to it early enough, so no real damage was done.

What was my initial mistake though, was also a resource in the garden to utilise. As I removed most the of saltbush branches, there were plants which could benefit from such fast decaying leafs.

Clapps Favourite Pear

My pear received some saltbush prunings, along with off-shoots from it's own root-stock. My pruners got a workout, and so did I. Delightful garden chores, which I had missed for so long. This kind of seasonal work, rejuvenates my soil, as the moisture and humidity break down the organic matter. Fast!

As I set about my job of delegating plant material, I felt renewed in my own purpose in the landscape. I tried my hand at different things, during the drought - like container gardening, and keeping indoors plants. While I love these endeavours and will continue with them, there's nothing like taking part in a full blown natural cycle, outdoors. When everything is popping out of the ground! It's gardening on a larger scale, and nothing makes these green fingers happier!

Hello there, pear!

As you saw in the beginning, the yucca was flowering. Another desert plant. Easy! What surprised me though, while maintaining my pear tree recently, was this lone fruit. At some point during the dry, it flowered, was pollinated and is now growing. I didn't expect this after such a long period without rain.

This is where all that seasonal chop and drop material, pays off. It kick-starts everything, when the wet returns. Everything is breaking down, so quickly at the moment. I need to be out there, taking advantage of this cycle while it lasts. My lone pear fruit, inspires me with what it's all about. Food production.

What's on the horizon?

As more storm clouds move in, my hands keep pruning. I grab armfuls of wet branches, and move them to where they'll benefit my plants. The ones which don't grow as fast as the saltbush, or leucaena. The plants that will have to make it through another drought or flood, and produce food at the same time. They need this fast moving, decay cycle, to forge new growth. Get bigger roots. Build resilience, over time I hope.

Nature will continue this cycle, regardless of my contribution. But the land improves much quicker when I get involved. It's not fun when the drought switches everything in the garden, off. But it's feedback I'm learning a lot from, all the same. Like which plants I can actually utilise, that live through drought and flood. A tall order to fill, between extremes.

More about those specific details, in a future post though. Right now, I've got more work to do! I hope you're able to take part in the natural cycle, in your part of the world. Even if it's just to sit back and observe. There's still a lot to learn from the sidelines.


  1. I'm delighted to hear about your goodly rainfall, and hope there's more in your future! Having to live with rain extremes is a huge challenge, I know! I plan and prepare for a long summer drought, only to have it rain every day. The Farmer's Almanac tells us to expect a mostly wetter and "cooler" summer this year, but I'm not holding my breath. I know you've got a plan, though, and I'll be interested in how you tackle the challenge.

    1. I noticed your phenomenal rain event recently. Until it happens, you don't know what to expect or what to plan for. It's pretty scary to think it can impact your animals like that! We were fortunate, when one of our coops flooded in 2011, the chickens could get high up on the roost! Sure glad they kept their footing though. It was fast moving water.

      Now the rain has arrived for us though, I purchased some more fruit trees. I've wanted to do that for a very long time, but no point if the drought wasn't going to break. Hoping to revamp a new area, soon! :)

  2. Chris, another storm just passed through now. In the recent rainfall we received about 120mm in our gauge in 2days! All you could hear yesterday was the sound of lawnmowers 😄 I hope you get some more rain.

    1. Hi Chel, that's great news about the storms. It's raining more here today. Arrived late, this afternoon. I'll check what my rain gauge says tomorrow morning. Toowoomba usually gets more rain than us, but there seems to be plenty to go round at the moment! In some places on the property, the grass is waste high. Poor Dave, hasn't had a chance to get out there to brush-cut. Too wet. Maybe on the weekend? ;)

  3. Lovely to see everything green again isn't it? We ended up with 92mm for January, which compares with the Melbourne average of 47mm. Last January we had only 15mm and the next 3 months were about the same. I've even had new asparagus shoots coming up. Normally the plants don't get watered over summer when they're dormant, so the rain has been a bit of a pleasant surprise for them.

    Chop & drop is a great way to go. I'm putting a lot of stuff under the citrus including twigs and leaves raked from the bush tracks. It doesn't rot as quickly here because we don't have the humidity but it keeps the rabbits and blackbirds from digging. I'm hoping summer is almost gone from here, but would like a few warmer days to ripen the tomatoes. They're so far behind this year; normally I'd be eating them now. Apparently it hasn't been a good tomato year anywhere in Melbourne, because of the cool spring. Every year is different with gardening and food-growing.

    1. Don't you just love it, when a plant has surprise production - like your asparagus? Hopefully you'll get to enjoy those spears before Winter sets-in. Also love the sound of your citrus mulching. It just makes so much sense, when you've got that woody material in the backyard. We've turned to the bush for ours citrus mulch as well. Only because of the brush turkeys, they have to be logs! Or they will gradually scratch the mulch off. Citrus hate that! Fingers crossed for your tomatoes though. I know you've dehydrated them in the past for snacks!


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