Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ghastly Moments in Gardening

Gardeners are a bit closer to nature than most, and are generally less squeamish as a consequence. While digging you inevitably cut worms in half, meet spiders and centipedes, and try to avoid toxoplasmosis, tetanus and Legionnaires' Disease. You deal with poo, with live animals, dead animals. My ghastly moment yesterday involved a half-dead animal in the vegie patch.

Earlier in the day I had laid down newspaper and spoilt hay to renew a garden path there. In the evening, I was nearby planting out lettuces, chillies and basil before it rained, and talking to The Geek. I turned around to pick up some of the hay to use for mulch, and there in the middle of the path was a small rat. Writhing. At first I thought it had been poisoned elsewhere and staggered out to die, but then I realised that I had probably stepped on the poor thing on my way, and broken its back.

"Should we call The Twig over to have a look?" The Geek suggested. I eyed the poor twisting thing and firmly told him No. (What on earth was he thinking?)

It kept writhing. It dawned on me that I'd have to put it out of its misery, or it might be there for a while.

A swift blow with my trowel and the job was done. Now what?

Well, I am a gardener, and I'm not squeamish. I've buried it in the middle of the vegie patch for its nutrients.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

La Nina!

It comes as no surprise when the Bureau of Meteorology tells us a La Nina event is in progress, but what surprises me is how fast things can change. The rainfall totals here for September and October were about 20mm below average.

Then in November our total rainfall was 170mm -- the highest ever recorded. The November average is 80mm. The mean for December is 42mm, but so far we've had 120mm. We've also cracked the highest monthly rainfall again; the previous December maximum was only 84mm. I should point out that these numbers are not for Sydney as a whole, but for the weather station a couple of kilometres from my house.

Surely there are no problems in having so much rain? Well, there are. My clay soil is now completely saturated. It is much too wet to plant anything. It has been too wet to plant anything for a couple of weeks, and my vegetable seedlings are getting bigger and bigger in their punnets. At this rate, I might have to pot them up! And I can't plant seeds (beans, watermelon, cucumbers etc); they'll just rot. Even weeding is pretty difficult in such waterlogged soil. Very frustrating! But at least it isn't too hot to work -- that will probably be my next complaint!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kikuyu Attack!

Three weeks of my being sick. Several weeks of showers and warm weather. Perfect growing weather for kikuyu grass. And it's grown like Jack's beanstalk! It's past my knees in the vegie patch and trying to swamp everything!

I have tried to stop it in the past with a lemon grass hedge around the perimeter of the vegie patch, and a path just inside that, but the lemon grass keeps dying, presumably because it's been strangled by the kikuyu.

Secondly, the only thing that kills the stuff is glyphosate, but that doesn't work in a well-watered area -- so I can either spray the kikuyu or I can keep my vegies watered, but not both. The spray drift is another issue, of course.

In one spot, I laid a piece of old corrugated iron on the ground to kill what was underneath. It does seem to have worked, but that's only two square meters or so, and I've killed everything else underneath as well. Nonetheless, I will plant the edge of this area up with lemon grass and see if it survives.

Any other ideas?