Dear Adelaideans and nearby gardeners,
I hope that, like ours, a little rain has reached your patch this week after our dry, dry, dry, bone-dry January! That little bit will have to stretch a long way as it sounds like March-April may remain a little more summery than they used to. The upside – more warmth to give the heat-loving plants a growing season – but at the same time it could be the last straw for anything that’s missing out on irrigation – I’m thinking road verge trees and shrubs, bush areas etc. So if you can spare a drink for a thirsty tree nearby, go for it.
Consultation and design work is back into full swing, everywhere from the Barossa to Carrickalinga, with a tiny city balcony in between (what fun that is!).
In this episode, my focus is largely outside our Mediterranean-climate garden and into the arid zone to our north, that is slowly but surely stretching in our direction. I’m getting geared up to keep gardening here when ‘here’ feels more like Port Pirie than Adelaide does now – and to let go of any expectation that our climate will ever return to anything that we might consider normal. Along with a bunch of other volunteers, I’m working on the Climate Ready Forum for the end of March, where we’ll share our ideas and strategies to prepare ourselves, our homes, gardens, families and communities for this new normal. This is a community-driven event, with a really positive focus on what we can all do for ourselves, how we can connect locally and cope with the pace of change in the process. I’d urge you to book your tickets immediately as there is very limited capacity in the venue. It will be small enough to hear from everybody, but big enough to make a difference.
I’m sure I’ve said it before but it’s worth reiterating the difference between subtropical plants and heat-tolerant plants. Here in the southern states we sometimes assume that anything from a tropical or subtropical cli
mate is fine with extreme heat – but that’s often not the case. Many subtropical fruit trees, for instance, would typically grow up as understorey plants and would be protected by a forest canopy with shade and and high humidity during their early years, until their root system is really well established and their branches start to toughen up. And rarely would they be exposed to temperatures in the high 30s let alone 40s, or extended direct scorching sunshine. So if you are planting avocados, mangoes, cherimoyas, macadamias and so on around Adelaide, please try to give them an environment that somehow approaches that of a little rainforest. Pigeon peas (pic on right) are one of my favourite plants to help establish this microclimate, but 50% white shadecloth is becoming a very close friend of mine too, and will cover more of my garden as our summers head in a northerly direction!
With that disclaimer out of the way, here are some of Mum’s subtropical trees that are available for sale from Warradale, and sometimes at Rare Fruit Society meetings too. Please direct any queries to Sally on 0438 512 389 or email@example.com.
Now that we have some milder weather it’s a good time (after the rain has cleared) to prune stone fruit trees and any apples and pears where the harvest is finished, so that these trees can put on some compact new growth with fruit buds for next summer. Try not to drastically expose branches to summer sun, in case we get another heat spike or two to damage the bark. (Winter pruning is fine too, but promotes stronger regrowth that needs a further year before it bears fruit.)
What veg/herbs to plant in Feb-March?
*Asterisk indicates to plant from seed – start them in punnets or trays where indicated in brackets. The remainder are best planted out as seedlings. ALL need more regular watering than has been typical for this time of year. If you can’t provide daily or even twice-daily gentle overhead watering for seeds, wait until the season changes, as those itty bitty seeds and baby seedlings will dry out and die way too easily. If planting into wicking beds, water overhead for the first couple of weeks until the developing roots and the wicking action get themselves connected.
Basil, bush beans*, beetroot, broccoli* (in punnets or trays), Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot*, cauliflower, celery* (punnet/tray), chives, chicory, coriander*, daikon*, dill*, endive* (punnet/tray), fennel*, garlic cloves*, kale, kohlrabi, leeks* (punnet/tray), lettuce, mizuna, mustard, onions*(punnet/tray), pak choi, parsnip*, radish*, rocket*, shallots* (punnet/tray), silverbeet, spring onions, swede, turnips.
If the irrigation is reliable and the soil still has plenty of organic matter and mulch, then throw in some perennial herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and mint in shadier/damper places or pots) so that they can take advantage of the warmth to put on some growth over the next few months before slowing down for winter.
Give the compost a good jiggle or turn, depending what method goes in your garden – but watch out for snakes if your heap has been neglected for a while. And remember to add water, not just scraps, to keep the composting action going.
Another bit of outdoor joy this month has been getting together with old and new friends to do some fermenting and wood oven baking on a weekend. We made and shared sourdough seed loaves, fruit loaf, foccacia with fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha! It was a very relaxed affair in spite of being so productive, and the children entertained themselves while the adults shared reflections on seasons in the garden, the family and community, and new ideas hatched and fermented. It was largely inspired by the Culture Club in Daylesford, Victoria. It gave us a chance to expand and refine our fermented food repertoire while sharing the wood oven and having a jolly good catch-up just before the school year got going again. Looking forward to doing this again sometime soon – and to planting seeds of this sharing concept in other places too 🙂
Until next time, find a green patch or make one!