I love this time of year. Lots of sunshine and lots of rain. The day I think the garden is getting too dry, and the plants are suffering, getting yellow bits, and dried leaves, the weather turns and it rains, and the plants become lush again within hours, and continue to spring forth; the incoming tide.
I gave up waiting for a trailer, a tow bar, all the things that would have made it easy to jump in the car and go to town and get the organic compost Iíd set my heart on, along with all the bales of peastraw we needed - just to get the basics right in this new garden. I really thought I couldnít even start a garden if I didnít have these. The soil looked too thick, and in need of friability - thus the compost. The sunshine was pelting down, making mulch a matter of dire consequence. At least for the odd slow worm.
I planted all my seeds in trays, to create a deadline. I felt I would have to have the compost and the mulch before I could plant the seedlings.
We hatched up plans to get a trailer, none of which were simple. I wondered whether, and to what extent, I could use the non-organic compost from just down the road, without poisoning the soil, or spoiling the ambience.
In the end, the answer was much simpler.
Sign of Life
When the day came that I had to plant out my seedlings, and the ground was getting parched and there was no peastraw to be found, I had to look around me and find something, and suddenly the old grass clippings didnít seem so impossible. And even though this place seemed barren at first, with nothing here to recycle, nothing to go back into the soil, nothing with which to feed the land - in short; not much of an ecosystem that I could see - of course there was, even here.
The grass clippings, mostly dry, with any mouldy bits turned up to the sun - and hopefully without seeds to shed - went on the flower garden first, and within days there was relief. The soil stayed moist, and lifting a patch of mulch reveals a teeming soil life. The mulch seems to be decomposing rapidly. Sign of Life.
The Quality Cabbage
The vegetable garden has gone in - the start of it - with all the things I like to eat. A tendency to plant too much of the one plant I was craving at the time of planting has been curbed this year, with a more sensible range. Iíve found that the cost of buying organic vegetables makes even carrots and cabbages (for me, that is) taste good. I was rather blasť about them until then.
I admit there hasnít been a lot of planning. Just a need to dig the ground, mulch it, and get the seedlings in before itís too late. Iíve planted a carrot here, a lettuce there, some coriander there, approximating companion planting. If I had to learn exactly what went with what first, I fear I would have been put off with the size of the task. So in they went, and I shall learn as I go. After a big day in the garden is when I love to sit down with a gardening book, and then all those things I have planted that day come to life in the text. I found today that I hadnít done too badly, as companion planting goes, with the coriander ending up next to the cabbage, and so forth.
What I like about companion planting, or something like it, is that it is closer to the way nature would do it, than if you plant in rows.
The Wild Garden
As for the flower garden, that is growing in much the same way. I go out for walks around the neighbourhood, and wanting a garden I know will survive in this climate, and being in a place where an abundance of beautiful, nearly wild, plants seem to thrive on their own by the roadside, and by the footpaths at the front of gardens, I take a little cutting here, a piece of plant there, careful not to disturb the surroundings, and by this means have collected a dozen varieties.
In addition, I made a trip home, and gathered up another dozen plants from the rockery my mother planted 15 years ago, a few years before she died. The soil looked fairly barren, so I am guessing they are hardy plants, and despite the different climates, will transplant okay. Some of them, like the irises, I have read are suited to dry gardens. The grasses I thought were a sure thing until Francis pointed out they were sub-alpine. Well, we shall see.
Two Days Later
Iím not so sure about the soil anymore. Within a day of going in, some of the seedlings have gone yellow, or are tinged with burgundy. This brings me almost full circle to my attempt at a garden on Norfolk Island, which was a clear lesson in the futility of planting just anything in a tricky soil. Over there, it was a case of red gritty dirt, and the flowers I planted were about a tenth of their optimum size, as illustrated by the same flowers planted in potting soil in pots only feet away, which were large and robust.
Francis built a double compost heap the other day, and I am impressed by how quickly the first one is decomposing, with discarded pumpkin seeds sprouting all over it (some of which have been transplanted to the garden). However, I donít think the compost will be fast enough to save these plants.
Hmmmmmm. Now for Plan B. Iíll let you know when one develops.
Monica's discoveries are a work in progress and should not be taken as formal gardening advice, especially if precise results are necessary.