Saturday, October 20, 2007

In the Garden



I have spent a lot of time in the garden this last week. The drought is starting to bite again. The grass is dying off, and keeping the vegetables alive and well is a daily toil. Those vegetables that are already established and have plenty of mulch around are doing ok, but the new seeds and very young seedlings need a lot of looking after. The sun burnt relentlessly the last few days, although it is only October and supposed to be spring. But despite the earlier onset of heat during the day, we also had a couple of nights with frost. Yet most damaging have been the gusty, hot and dry winds which have swept across the land, sucking all remaining moisture out of the soil.

Some climate scientists warn of coming food shortages, even in spoilt Western countries. The media already report on seed shortages in Australia and New Zealand. The drought, coupled with increased demand from China and India, is also biting into milk supply in Australia, where butter and cream are becoming increasingly difficult to get for bakeries and patisseries, and some rural commentators warn that a lot of foods may no longer be available by Christmas. Fruit and vegetables prices are on the rise and are said to go up even higher. Given what happened with bananas last year, after cyclone Larry struck Northern Queensland, wiping out most of the banana crop and raising banana prices to over $12 a kilo, I will not be surprised by anything.

So I keep on going. I walk the garden with my watering can every day. So far my effort is paying off. I am already harvesting some wonderful vegetables - spinach has done well, as have silverbeet and mibuna. We have had quite a few broad beans, maybe not yet enough for a full meal, but certainly enough to add to something else. My potato patch is showing signs of life, although the first tops that peaked out through the straw were burnt off by frost. My broccoli is now in flower and I am going to let it go to seed, ditto for my kale, both of which have been wonderful staples throughout the winter months. I find self-seeded snow peas growing like weeds in all sorts of odd spots, and some bok choy has turned up unexpectedly next to the first sprouting jerusalem artichokes. Onions have gone in and are looking hopeful, and I may possibly get a good batch of garlic next winter. There are leeks growing which will be ready to harvest soon, and a first batch of carrots is not too far away from being ready.

However, looking after my vegetables does take time - I am not sure how other people manage to do this in half an hour during the weekend, as it takes me at least an hour each day, mostly because it just will not rain!

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