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Mulch me! We grow and kill stuff only to learn.

Keen as I was to aggressively advance my gardening options I had to go interstate for a week and while away...
while away... [boo hoo]...my garden was devastated!
October 2014: 7th highest temperature and 9th lowest rainfall on record in conditions of already declared drought.

My labour intense garden suffered big time.

While we are STILL in drought  -- the dry conditions had destroyed my usual supply of mulch.No grass clippings have been dumped on my nature strip for months.If it wasn't for my large Silky Oak dropping its leaves on the garden beds during September, my soil would have been  naked and even more exposed.

In a twice it happened. I went from great garden to daggy garden in just one  week as all the nasty factors kicked in to sabotage my green thumb arrogance.

Fortunately, I had  asked that my seed trays be watered while I was away...so I had another generation to plant after the beds dried out and crisped up.

So with hindsight -- and 2 weeks on is hindsight enough -- let's explore the problem of my dead plants.

My major mistake was not to have mulched up.I knew I was running dangerously low on mulch  but I failed to seek other resources to carpet the beds. I do rely on a lot of cut grass -- if only to build up soil from sand -- but from June to November  the supply dries up -- coinciding with the driest period of each year. Reason: the grass does not grow.

My solution: I'll need to grow and harvest my own mulch supply  while sourcing other materials to supplement. In the two weeks since my return I've been  trimming bushes and trees, and mixing the cuttings with torn up soak newspapers/junk mail/cardboard to make my mulch go further. I had used lemongrass as mulch in the past but these have also suffered during the dought.

My shade failure: The early onset of hot weather also exposed my plants to a lot of unrelenting  sunshine. I do have a shade program based on the growing of Frangipanis...and tall sunflowers. But the Frangipanis aren't tall enough yet and have not as yet fully sprouted leaves. So they're useless this early in the heat. While I'm loving the 2.5 metre high sunflowers -- I didn't  grow enough of thse to really shade the area I needed to shade.

My solution: I need an ongoing  Sunflower program with plants ready to plant out as seedlings through most of the year. That  cut Sunflowers are so easy to grow and make great mulch is another plus. That they also serve as bean poles -- makes them even more useful...Then there are the flowers of course. (And yes I have planted Jerusalem artichokes as well --so I guess I need to think : sunflower and artichoke family.)

My seed and seedling mistakes: this year I had experimented more with direct sowing of seeds and my results have not been so good.My soil is still too sandy.I've also tended to plant my seedlings regardless of conditions pending.

My solution: I now prefer to sow seeds in flats and transplant. But even  there  I find I have a better chance of success if I pot up most of my seedlings and plant them out when they are more vigorous and the weather conditions are more opportune. This puts me in greater control. I just wait until  the situation is preferable, then I plant the  seedling in the garden bed. I can do this because I'm now using paper pots I roll myself and planting out is a simple business of burying the pot -- plant and all. Potting up like this also gives me greater control over my polycultural options. I can plant a thriving plant next to  another thriving plant I target with companionship in mind.Potting up also means I have an extended planting window. Given that I'm now resource chunkier mulches , my little buried paper pots seem to survive quite well in all the detritus.

My foolish watering habits:I survived the dry Winter by hand watering the garden. This works fine when its cool but when the temperatures rise it's an indulgence. 

My solution:  I think I wasted a lot water.Yes, despite my low use of it. Instead of far too frequently  hand watering the garden I should have filled up my terracotta irrigation pots more  often so that their water level staid high. As it was I was filling them up only when they emptied -- and in doing that I was undermining the gravity dynamic that irrigated  the garden beds. These pots really do work  but in our conditions they need a good mulch covering of surrounding soil and a better top-up regime.

So there: Mea culpa. We grow and kill stuff only to learn.

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