Looking after your garden during this unprecedented hot and dry Autumn
It appears that the current warm whether and low rainfall is set to continue through to June with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) stating that in South East Australia both day time and night time temperatures are expected to be higher than normal. While this can have some positive impacts in the garden it can also create a range of challenges that we don’t usually have to deal with at this time of year.
First and foremost the hot dry weather means that maintaining well mulched garden beds to retain soil moisture continues to be necessary and a priority. Water conservation has been an ongoing issue for some time in the Braidwood area, with rainfall remaining well below average resulting in ongoing water shortages and very dry soils. According to Roger Hosking our local weather data annalist we have been in drought since June 2017. Furthermore the Soil Dryness Index (SDI) which is used to determine soil saturation is currently at 115mm. (17 April) ‘...It is calculated daily and measured in millimetres with a scale from zero to 200mm’ Zero is when the soil is saturated. ‘As a general guide… pasture plant growth is suppressed when SDI is above 50mm; most shallow rooted plants have died when the SDI is above 100mm and young trees begin to die when the SDI is above 150mm.' As we drive around the area we can see that pasture growth is definitely being affected.
Keeping the produce garden watered will continue to be a challenge. Along with mulching garden beds, adding organic matter to your soil improves its structure, which helps it to retain moisture. Using watering practices that conserve water are also essential. These start with watering only if you need to. To check if you need to water, feel your soil. If it’s damp, it’s fine; if it’s dry, it’s time to water. Seep hoses or irrigation systems that allow water to drip or trickle into growing areas are very efficient watering methods. At Wynlen House we use in line drip irrigation readily available from most rural stores. Hand held hosing or watering cans are also very efficient but can be labour intensive. Reusing water is an option also well worth consideration. Household soaps and detergents are generally harmless to plants, and can also be useful in managing some pests. But don’t use water containing bleach, disinfectant, dishwasher powder or stronger cleaners, which can harm plants, damage soil structure and could also be a health risk.
The warm dry weather does have some benefits, however, including an extended growing season usually associated with more temperate climates. For the first time since I have lived here (2002) we have been able to field cure our pumpkins, and we are currently harvesting beans!
So with rain not predicted until the end of May prioritizing the use of water for food production will continue to be a must.
Unless yo are able to recycle your bathing water, less showering and more vegie watering will have to be the go.
Don't forget to keep an eye on those overnight minimum temperatures
Happy gardening until next time.
PS Roger Hoskings book All About Braidwood's Climate- apractical handbook and descriptive guide, is available from a number of shops in Braidwood.
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm