It started on Friday with 36C yesterday was 38C, New Years Eve and Day are set to hit 40C followed by some relief down to 37/8C but back to 40C by next weekend. Early morning starts are called for in the garden and with light at 6am and 21C that's the time to be out there. By 9am it's getting hot and 10am it's way too hot at 36C to be outside.
This morning I emptied the chook pergola of another load of chook mulch and spread that around the garden to help the plants survive another sweltering day.
This meant refilling the pergola area with a bag of shredded paper and a bale of straw, the chooks happily scratch their way through this to get to the damp earth below where all the bugs and worms live.
I needed to top up the fish pond, again, with tank water and have put up shadecloth on the western side to cut down the sun's evaporative force. At least the fish are happy!
The newly planted carrots have been covered with an old curtain and it's helping to keep the soil moist while they germinate. I found another piece of curtain to cover the lemon tree that is coping well in the heat but I don't want it to stress too much.
The Silverbeet and Cucumbers love their 70% shadecloth cover on Bed 3 and are thriving on only two waterings per week...although they might need more with the heat this week! I've added yet more shadecloth to bed10 where newly planted Beetroot seedlings needed extra shade.
It's weeks like these, although early this year, that are a trend of our summers after the solstice. This is why we have so many shadecloth structures. From the first over the Tank Beds in the Dog Pen area to the new gourd wicking-worm bed this year!
Despite this additional pieces of shade cloth still get put up on these hot days. In the Dog Pen Garden beds where the Sweetcorn was battling the western afternoon heat and as an emergency cover for a tray or two of cuttings.
As we head into another heatwave this week we've had no rain. Christmas weather was pleasant and it has gradually warmed up during the week.
Main planting this week was on Bed 4 Tip Top Carrots. This is a late planting this year and probably ill timed with this heatwave coming but they are in non the less. They have been covered with an old curtain to keep the sun off. In the half of Bed 10, where the tomatoes were removed, I've planted some purchased Beetroot Globe seedlings and some 5 Coloured Silverbeet seedlings I had growing in the shade house.
I potted up some Thyme and Greek Basil seedlings I purchased and some Greek Oregano pieces I dug up while I tidied the side of the pergola garden bed.
On Wednesday I made up a mixture of compost, coir-peat and loam to top up the wicking-worm beds...they seem to need more depth of soil as the temperatures increase but are still producing well.
I also re-built the worm farm removing all the bedding, castings and some worms and added these to the wicking bed top-up too. The worm farm has been re-made with fresh bedding (coir-peat), molasses soaked shredded paper and saved worms.
So far I haven't need to spray the tomatoes with anything stronger than water-seaweed solution in a hand mister concentrating mainly on the backs of the leaves. The new growth so far looks OK.
On Friday I made up a batch of plum sauce from a bucketful of Santa Rosa plums. Go Here for the recipe. The wattlebirds have discovered these plums and although not quite ripe they are eating them!! They must be hungry this year! Since Wednesday I've mainly spent my time hand watering and topping up ponds in anticipation of the coming heat.
Amegilla cingulata An Australian Native Bee often used to 'buzz' pollinate plants in green houses. Although they do sting they are not aggressive so will only sting if provoked. Seen here on a lavender bush in the garden, blue flowers being their favourites! Fact sheet here
Tillandsia usneonides From the Bromeliaceae Family AKA Old Man's Beard, Spanish Moss, Grey Beard or Tree Beard Known as an air plant as they don't require soil to grow, getting their water from the air. Here I mist them during our hot, dry summers and they are safe in the shade house from our winter frosts.
This is the first time I've noticed the very tiny flowers that are described as insignificant.
On Friday the lightning started at 3am...by sunrise it was raining...not as heavy as some other areas in the state but a very welcome 14mm. Friday night a cool change came in and it continued to be drizzly and windy on Saturday, almost wintry. On Saturday (22 Dec 07) our Summer Solstice occurred so we have passed our longest day and the daylight hours will now become shorter. The next couple of months are our hottest.
Planting: Monday was green leafy crop planting so the following from Phoenix seeds were planted: Brussels Sprouts - Seven Hills Kale - Morton's Mix Senposai - a Japanese hybrid of cabbage and mustard spinach Cabbage - January King Cabbage - Red Drumhead Corn Salad - Valerianella locusta Shiso - Perilla frutescens - Red and Green the seeds of which were put into the fridge for a few days before planting.
On the fruit planting days I planted these seeds for trees to add to the chicken forage areas. American Elderberry - Sambucus canadenis Siberian Pea Tree - Caragana arborescens The seeds of both these plants needed to be pre-soaked overnight in lukewarm water to break their dormant tendencies.
Also planted, from Diggers, some: Mexican Sour Gherkin Cucumbers Yellow Tommy Toe Tomatoes
I've also sown some Alyssum seeds: White annual - Carpet of Snow Yellow perennial - Evergolden These went into cell trays as I need to plant more flowers to encourage insects as they seem reluctant to fly into the 'darkness' under the shade structures.
I've found a supplier of white 50% shade cloth and this will very soon be sewn up to replace the 70% cloth on most of the beds. The 70% cloth will be re-used in the new Shade House we are building these holidays.
I have discovered a major problem with my Tomatoes this year. I now realise that this is also the reason for the main crop failure last year. Although I did notice this problem earlier I didn't realise what it was and how bad it had affected the plants until this week.
If you wish consider sprays - soft options first by the time this pest is evident the plants will be fruiting and any pesticides will have withholding periods that will inhibit using the fruit. Carefully read the labels on commercial products and use according to the instructions.
Keep in mind that any sprays including misted water and seaweed extracts must cover the backs of the leaves where these creatures live.
milk spray equal milk and water
soap or oil sprays in cool weather only
If This Still Doesn't Help... Consider Pyrethrum but remember to use this very carefully as it will harm the beneficial insects, earthworms and soil microbes that you try so hard to encourage into your garden.
What I'm Doing I have already made a second planting in a different area of the garden. I'm doing the 'early things to try' including:
Misting with a hand pump-spray (as we can't use a hose anyway) with a very dilute seaweed extract daily unless it's raining.
I've planted a clump of Society Garlic near each plant - garlic doesn't grow in summer here, the onions have finished and I had 2 big pots full of society garlic that had been rescued from another bed earlier.
Keeping a careful watch on the new plants.
I have removed the worst affected plants from bed 10 (all the Pacesetters and some Black Russians) the remaining ones I have trimmed all affected leaves from and am starting these early intervention ideas. The Society Garlic is in pots here.
I have some Pyrethrum and 'Beat-a-Bug' (a commercial pre-mix of pyrethrum, garlic and chilli) on hand to try if needed.
Sources The Australian Organic Gardener's Handbook by Keith Smith The Organic Garden Problem Solver by Jackie French Carrots Love Tomatoes