It's night time -- around 1 am -- and I've been outback dipping my hands in soil.
I pull back the lawn clipping mulch, move aside any crusty newspaper dregs or wood bits and grab the soil underneath, copping a feel.
Most handfuls were cool and slightly moist. Some were not: dry and pithy. Indeed they were warm to the touch. By torchlight I could see plenty of critter activity in the dirt.Very pleasing it was that I now have dirt instead of sand -- sand spit sand. Hellalujah! Some of my worms are so big I could pass them off as eels.
Why some spots should be so dry is confusing. I suspect that not all parts of my beds have received the same attention...and not all my beds have joined the orchestra.
The frustration of relying on lawn clippings as I do for my primary input is that desiccated grass can be either matty and gluggy or act almost like a layer of dust. (self seeded weeds don't bother me).
Today it is dusty.
Given that we have not had a good drenching rain for some time and the winds have been relentless, all my grass mulch is pithy and dust like. Like dandruff. Obviously it allows breath to the underneath, but any light showering merely wets the mulch surface and there is little penetration.
So hand hosing is important: gardening on sand you need to frequently quench.
Rule of thumb for sSand gardening: water often.
Unfortunately I can't see what else I can do to improve things. My garden suffered this Summer from lack of shade. This was partly due to the fact that I had to pull down my trellis with its choko overgrowths because of storm damage to its structure.
I was premature. I shoulda rebuilt.
I am now concentrating my shade wishes on the frangipanis I've planted...but the aren't all that tall...yet.
Frangipani's you ask? Why frangipanis? You can't eat frangipanis!
I grow em...
- because they grow very well here in sand.
- because they are easy to strike from cuttings
- because they're deciduous: summer shade/winter sunlight underneath
- because they are ridiculously easy to trim and shape, even espalier
- because their roots aren't 'invasive'
- because they produce gorgeous flowers
- because they can be engineered for different shading effects
- because...all things considered, they are so darn obedient
A garden trimmed in frangipani! Delightful. A whiff of Bali.
But since planting the frangipanis -- I have at least 20 in situ-- I've realized my scheduling mistake and have planted pawpaws in the beds, and yesterday, some Katuk/Sweet Leaf bushes.
These other trees grow faster than frangipanis and I want to harness their shade.
I'm also planting my seedlings closer together around my terracotta irrigation pots.
I can now get away with the crowding as the pots deliver regular moisture .
Love them pots. Saved my bacon.
They function better when shaded by the growth they service.
But I'm thinking that I'll plant out even more aggressively around the perimeter of my vegetable beds by deploying drought tolerant species like sunjewels-- Portulaca grandiflora --
which happen to also be edible ; and Warragal/ New Zealand Spinach
which grows on the shoreline here.
Both love these sandy soils. These sunjewels grow better than standard edible Portulaca so why not colour up my garden edges?
So I'm gonna aggressively plant out the beds. I had used sweet potato previously towards that end but harvesting the spuds disrupts the soil around the other plants I have growing, so my sweet potatoes now are exiled to their own sweet potato grow zones.
Note to self: gotta work out how to give my sweet spuds more water.
Because my paths --such as they are -- act, with their plastic underlay, like gutters, the edges to the beds attract growth. Wild Rocket esp loves that posey.
I'm thinking that there's an irony that had not registered fully with me: the more stuff I plant the more I get a microclimate going, more things happening, more relationships.Even if I plant 'anything' I'm engineering the ecology. I can always replace it later if I need the space.
To begin with -- 3 + years ago -- I had such a infertile environment that growing anything was almost impossible. Now that I've got myself bona fide 'soil' ....well, I'm upping the anti.
I am also thinking through the fact that if I collect logs and lay them on top of the soil I get more vigorous growth nearby because the logs supply both shade, are cooler and retain moisture -- esp in these sandy soils. I had been burying logs and branches in Hugelkultur mode, but I'm really getting more out of my wood inputs by simply laying big bits on top of the soil. No doubt rocks would be better, but here there are none except for the pumicestone that floats onto the beaches. I've also experimented with burying flat china soup bowls in the soil so that they hold moisture at depth. Weird concept I know, but I'm monitoring the impact on local growth.I happen to have the bowls -- and they're cheap enough, so I thought: why not? It's a crude variation on a wicking bed
I'm not into the Permaculture preference for fruits. My sand was so sterile that growing exotic fruits was difficult. Lemon and Mulberry does well but anything else struggles: banana, fig, pawpaw, tamarillo... In the same mode are tubers: as yet there isn't the loam depth for the plants to dig themselves deeper into the soil. Theres' nothing down there worth feeding on.
So it still is experimental horticulture. Fiddling with the variables.
I hope my next break through is with ground cover veges, like cucumbers. I'm not quite there but since I have been so successful with zucchini I reckon I'm on a roll. Slowly the capsicum family is settling in. Still a tad undernourished. But the quality of each crop is improving. All over I'm now growing non climbing snake beans...and I'm gonna try Winged Beans again some time as I love eating those.
I've also realized that my transition species may be ramblers and trailing plants because they travel across the beds looking for nutrients rather than dive deep. Comfrey here soon dies away because it gets put off by the lack of stuff deep below.
What the garden needs is a heavy rain period which would push the activity in the soil along. A catalyst. Things are surviving but aren't really thriving because of the low moisture quotient. I'm getting a feed from this soil but the veg quality isn't good across all species I grow and harvest.
My patch only really thrives when I see the toadstools shoot skyward...and I haven't seen such fungi for some time...except on shaded spots next to my pots, the toadstools raise their umbrella heads.