This September the 2 folk, the dog and the tractor got busy.
Spring energy is a powerful force and often I don’t quite feel ready for what it entails. Blossom by the bucket load, baby animals gamboling, bees all around, seeds surging from beneath the earth, and weeds flourishing overnight.
I’m ordered into action according to season dictates. So this is what it means to “live more in tune with the seasons” – getting your butt kicked into gear by a tsunami of nature. This as my ‘To Do’ list is whipped out of my hand by a gust of wind…uh huh.
Seasonally here, spring decrees vegetable planting. Over the last little while, we’ve had a wonderful sense of satisfaction from eating food we grow. Successes with tomatoes, broad beans, corn, broccoli, kale, silverbeet/chard, potatoes, spring onions and rhubarb because they are tough. Sadly brussel sprouts continue to elude me and the cucumbers were mauled by something. I have no idea what happened to the asparagus. Broad beans grow really well but we lost the latest planting when discovered by the sheep (along with the kale and silverbeet). I’m audaciously trying for another late planting as we really like them. All of this is done on a 4 year rotational plan with most of the bed currently planted with a fumigant crop (of course garlic!) to treat the soil. So space is at a premium and I’m effectively squeezing in plants, and testing the packet instructions.
I’ve started the tomatoes, basil, and beans under cover and others in situ (peas, spinach, lettuce, and other salad greens). It’s the in situ seedlings I am battling to protect from sheep, birds and hares (not bunnies, but small dog sized eating machines). The books are full of how to manage snails, slugs, bunnies, possums etc so it never occurred to me I would not have these too. It must be a gradual process as word gets out about a new restaurant in town and generational knowledge is laid down. Oddly I found a lone asparagus spear, standing tall and untouched just yesterday. I promptly snapped it off and ate it on the spot – grand!
Next, plant more trees. This spring we have planted 8 Nyssa sylvatica (Black tupelo) along the inside edge of what was a dam, an advanced Parrotia persica (Persian witchhazel) and 2 fig trees into the orchard, so far. (no pics ’cause they look like sticks!) We have a way to go before we plant enough trees to change our landscape here. We plant a mix of native and exotic. Why? Native trees to support the co-evolved flora, fauna and soil biota. Exotic trees for their decomposing ability to build and replace soil lost to earlier farming practices. Regenerating our land requires multiple approaches and stages of progress. Currently, it’s improving biodiversity above ground and in the soil. We do this by using sheep to graze and tramp down the monoculture of our paddock grass to encourage other grass species, forbs and shrubs to grow. The sheep also fertilise the soil encouraging organisms and increasing carbon content. All this and the tree planting help our land retain the little water we receive over a year (approx 620m – but not this year) making us (land, livestock AND humans) more drought and flood resilient.
Big lesson this year. Let the plant do the work for you. They are remarkable engines of growth so let them grow. For years we purchased small tube stock, grew the plants in the nursery to see if we liked them and then re-potted each year. So come planting time…well it takes a tractor and 2 folk rather than just a shovel. Call me slow off the mark but I’m finally down to my last 5 big trees to get out of pots and into the ground, then we are converting to a ‘buy tube stock – plant tube stock’ regime.
Book List September
September 1 may mark the beginning of spring but it also marks the launch of a book I co-wrote with a friend from my local beekeeper’s club: Growing Beautiful Bee Gardens in the Southern Tablelands of NSW: a guide to plants that attract bees and thrive in our region. Collaboration is such a positive creator of energy and support. I’ve realised (see May’s entry) that even though I like to work alone, I thrive in collaborative environments. Not something I ever thought I would say. When you are surrounded by people who want you to succeed I suspect it’s easier to perform and give generously back. Does it then follow that because collaboration is such a positive way to work it’s only to be expected it will produce something wonderful? My proof? A useful little book of 50 diverse plants for folk to grow, to promote healthy bees and hives, suitable for townsfolk and country folk alike. I’m still grinning in disbelief a whole month on.
In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.