And here we are, blogging in real time! Almost – this is being written on December 24th. I’m just scheduling these posts to spread them out a bit.

As I said in my last gardening post, I’ve given up on summer gardening until the trees get bigger. It’s a great deal too hot and the sun is so brutal. These photos were taken at about 8am and they do look nice and shady. But by 10 or 11 the sun is beating down pretty cruelly – which probably would have made for clearer photos, too, but I just couldn’t bear to be out there by then.

As you can see we still have the exposed black plastic, which probably doesn’t help the heat, but honestly I can’t imagine it makes a massive difference – I was out there painting trellises yesterday and I got quite sunburnt even in that dappled shade, in the morning. Since we’re planning to plant some bare rooted trees over winter, we’re leaving the mulch till then, to make it easier to cut a hole in the plastic and plant the trees. Also because we’ve been slowly chipping away at the big, physical jobs and we just haven’t gotten to this one yet.

The grass is dead from a combination of roundup and then finished off by the sun. I’m hoping this means I don’t have to re-poison it. The front lawn has mostly died all by itself but judging by last yer will come back in winter. I might have to sheet mulch the whole backyard to prevent that, if I can manage the time and expense.

I would also like to add that I didn’t move a single thing out of the way for these photos. The yard really does look like a construction yard like this. Partly because of all the random stuff on the back verandah – it needs to go in the shed. Clearing and organising the shed is our next biggest job this summer holidays, but keeps being delayed by hot weather and, you know, Christmas events and all that kind of thing. But I figured since I’m lazy and also because I enjoy seeing other people’s gardens as-is, I wouldn’t bother moving stuff like the random shovel I was using or the hose. My garden is just never going to be a display garden, and I’m fine with that. Not fine enough not to write this disclaimer, but you know. Fine enough. TL;DR yes I know it’s a mess, it’s a garden.

There have been some other changes, though. Here’s the view from just outside the laundry door.

I built up a no-dig/lasagned garden bed up near the shed, there. I was intending to plant corn in it but then gave up on the summer garden. It’s layers of newspaper, cardboard, sheep manure, compost and dirt, and straw. The shadecloth is on it to keep the birds from digging it all up and ideally to help it keep cool enough to moulder down but that’s laughable at this time of year – it’s 36 today and I am considering it a cool day, comparatively.

My current plan for this bed is to plant potatoes in it over winter, since they’re supposed to be good for preparing beds, and I can never have enough potatoes. Then it might become a herb garden. Herbs, especially woody herbs, should withstand the afternoon sun this bed gets. I hope. I also made it a bit big, I think – I can reach across to the centre but only just. So perhaps a rosemary shrub bang in the middle would be good. And I reckon I can cram some flowers in there too – I managed some love-in-a-mist behind the citrus but they did get a bit fried. Otherwise there’s not anywhere else really to put flowers, and I would like some in the yard. S and I both have allergies that make bringing flowers into the house something to be cautious about, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have them outside! It looks like the bed up the back where the avocado is would be a good spot, but that’s misleading. That area is mulched with barkchips over river stones and getting the the actual soil is hard work. But it would be good to have something to consistently attract beneficial insects and birds without always letting my carrots go to seed.

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I do wish I had left  a bit more space between it and the shed – I left about a metre which is enough walking/working room. But I wish I’d left enough that I could plant some shrubs or something against the shed. I think it would make it look a bit more integrated with the garden, and less like the new bed is just plonked down there. I might see how I go and perhaps when it’s cooler and the bed has settled more, I might move that side in. Then again, maybe I can’t be bothered. I should have taken some closeups of the bed, perhaps I’ll remember next time. It’s simply metal garden edging dug about 3cm into the ground. Then I used the clay-ish soil to pack it in around the outside, to keep it in place.

Obviously you can also see the trellis in the process of being put up – that’s new. Here is the view of that from the laundry door.

This began as an attempt to salvage some summer gardening. The thought being that a tall trellis would provide shade and also break up the wind which comes mostly from that direction. This was before the resignation of summer gardening plans. However, I am still very glad we did this. For one thing, while it won’t solve the problem of summer gardening, I think it will help extend the season, and also keep the wind off in the other seasons. For another, it will help give some shade to the fruit trees when we put them in. And for a third, it helps break the garden up a bit. It’s astonishing how much it changes how the garden feels – since the space is long, it felt very short. These help give it depth and balance it out. Perhaps eventually a low hedge to screen off the potting area would be good, too, so that when you look down the row it makes you have a nice view with a hint of something beyond – a mystery, what can it be? The bins, is what.

We placed them so that they’d be easy to navigate around, and I am very pleased with how this turned out. Ideally I’d have the back one a bit further from the bed but I didn’t want to compromise that walking route from the laundry to the compost/bins which are behind the shed. They still look pretty raggedy and the trellis is only just tied on with twine because I needed to stain them to give them a bit of a longer life. That’s what I got sunburnt doing yesterday. The good news is, they are now all DONE and we’re hoping to put them up tonight.

The poles are long, treated posts from Bunnings. We had the poles and trellises delivered along with some wood for shelves, since we don’t have a big car. I know there’s a trailer in these photos, but we’re just storing it for S’s dad, we don’t have a car with a tow bar. It means everything takes a bit of planning but that’s ok. We got a post hole digger at the same time and it’s already paid for itself in effort saved.

The posts are cemented in, and we planted some passionfruit. Two Nelly Kellys – one gold one black. We’ll see how they do. I figured they are tough enough for the spot, and a fruit we will eat. They also don’t last forever so that gives us some room for changing things up in seven years or so. Perhaps I could manage an espaliered fruit tree along one of these spots, when there’s more shade? A cherry perhaps? I went old school and got the butcher to order in two massive beef hearts to put under the passionfruit, and they seem to be doing really well so far.

The soil in the lawn is clay, but a very mild clay for Adelaide. If you can keep it moist it’s a lovely loamy soil. I did get it tested through the free Vege-safe testing. We are well within safe levels of everything, although there is quite a lot of iron and zinc along the dripline. Since the only exposed dripline is along the fence where they put all the dead fill soil, I’m not surprised. It was interesting to see how the different contaminants vary by area, it makes me wonder even more what the history of this house and garden is.

Not so long ago this area was all farmland, now I think about it – it wasn’t a residential area until the 50s, when people started building mostly beach shacks here. Here’s the general area in 1935 – a bit north of us where the ‘main’ town is. And a bit south of us, in 1931. Mind you, here is Port Road in ’58, and I’ve seen photos of aerial views from the Showgrounds from that time and half of Mile end is just farmland. So I guess that’s where all the Adelaide jokes come from – 50 years ago it was still a big country town, and the attitude is still kind of there. ANYWAY asides aside. Farmland. I suppose that’s why the soil is pretty good – this was pre-industrial-pesticides so I guess they had to build their soil. The short version is, it’s a relief to know that the soil is safe.

Anyhow here’s the view of the beds from the laundry door – bonus view of all our junk out on the verandah

The beds are all basically abandoned. I’ve left stuff growing for general soil structure reasons and to avoid the beds getting stagnant. Plus, the seeds are feeding birds and that’s quite nice. The sparrows love the silverbeet seeds, and to hide in the tangle, and the pigeons love the seeding brocolli. The mosquitos were quite bad when we moved in but we’ve had almost none this year and I suspect it is due to more bird and bat activity.

The only one with any real action in it is the side bed, with one lonely zucchini.

I planted zucchini, cucumber, watermelon and squash seeds in here and the only ones that came up were the zucchini and watermelon. The watermelon seedling has since carked it in the heat but the zucchini shows promise.

We’ll see. We did fix the outlet on this bed so it drains properly now. I’ll try to remember to take a photo next time.

I didn’t take good closeups of the citrus trees but here is the lemon and it’s resident potatoes

Just about died off, I should harvest them. The potatoes that is, not the lemons. You can see the lemon is looking much happier now.

The bay tree continues to love life. I mulched it with gravel because the pigeons were dust bathing in its pot and had almost dug up the roots.

You may also have noticed extra shadecloth shrouds up the back. They are hiding some new trees – a Bowen mango

And a red Tamarillo

Which I’m hoping will act as a bit of a nursery tree to the avo, and also be delicious. This tree has been the source of three arguments with S, they all went like this ‘what’s a tamarillo?’ ‘It’s a tree. Remember I had one at the last house and eventually it leant over and died?’ ‘Yes but what do they taste like?’ ‘They taste like… a fruit. Like themselves.’ ‘Do they taste like tomatoes?’ ‘No, they’re related, but they taste pretty different. They taste like… they’re tart? And sweet?’

They taste like themselves. Which is to say, delicious. Hopefully S agrees with me when we get fruit on them.

The avo itself is still going but I’m finding it hard to keep enough water up to it, it’s doing ok but is slightly limp.

It’s hard because the bark chips over river stones provide great mulch but also mean it needs a really REALLY long soaking for the water to get to the soil. And in the process a lot of the water is wasted to evaporation. My current plan is to set up a little line of drippers along the trees at the back and side fence, perhaps I can even bury them into the barkchips a bit. It’s a bit hard to run a permanent irrigation pipe anywhere along the yard, because the only tap is isolated in the middle of the stone paving, which is cemented in. So my plan is to do a set up that can be plugged right in to the garden hose. Since all the tropical trees up the back, and all the citrus down the side, have the same watering needs, I hope that will do the job nicely.

And that’s the December garden! Not a lot growing but still plenty of planning. Although it’s looking messier and less organised than ever, I can see my plans for the space slowly coming into reality. In late January I’m going to pull out the seeding plants and maybe use them directly as mulch, maybe compost them. Then once the sun cools off a bit I’ll be ready to start planting in the wicking beds again!

Here’s an updated schematic of what’s in the garden now (plus the planned-for fruit trees in between the garden beds).

2015 garden

Plans for this winter include more brassicas, more greens, and to get two stone fruit trees into the space between beds. Current candidates are a nectarine and an apricot, although we’re still debating white or yellow fleshed nectarine. I maintain we have room for more trees in the future, so we have more chances for other things. But I want to take that slowly and not get ahead of myself in terms of needing to do everything at once – I want those two stone fruit but then that’s it until everything is more established. As it is I’m going to have to be vigilant with the pruning to keep the avocado and mango to size, as well as the trees in the garden bed area – the plan is to train them to vase shape so they provide some shade in summer but aren’t too in the way of things. Which I haven’t done before so it’s a learning curve. Well, if I’m ‘lucky’ the gum tree roots will stunt everything and they won’t get too big!

I’d also dearly like to start on planting things in the front yard, where I want to get rid of the grass and mulch, and then plant essentially a native cottage garden (with some lavender too). But I also very much do NOT want to set myself up for failure by biting off more than I can chew, so I guess we’ll just wait and see!

ETA I nipped out there in the 38 degree heat to take some updated photos. We put the trellises up and, miracle of miracles, managed to clear out and organise the shed and put all the rubbish back into it so the verandah is clear.

I’m so pleased with how the trellises look – obviously they look fancier without the shadecloth but it’s still so burny I’m afraid to take it off. Even though Passionfruit can probably handle it. We planted both vines on the east side of the trellis, for shade. But the one closest to the bed is already twining over to the other side so we probably could have planted them so they were both on the ‘inside’ of the path the trellis makes.

I’m so proud of the cleared out verandah that I took a photo of that, too. The plant stand was found in hard rubbish – I think it’ll be sheltered enough to actually grow some summer herbs. I have some basil I can plant out and might get a small harvest from, and then I can start my seeds again with brassicas, to get an early start on the autumn planting.

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