The shock of the heat. The bitterness of the dry.

Two months ago I thought I had a great garden.Productive.Verdant. Fecund with flowers and produce. I thought I'd solved so many gardening challenges.

So it seemed....

More fool me.

In the mix, underneath, my polycultural veneer was gasping for moisture and when the rains failed to come as they usually do this time of year,as they had not the months before,  death stalked the beds.

As Frederick Engels pointed out:
“Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each victory nature takes its revenge on us…"
So I've been busying trying to rejig my horticulture -- trying to generate a new template that can work within my all too obvious limitations.

Trying to recover my pride.

This is why in some circles there is a push to shift agricultural practices to more sustainable habits in response to quickening Climate Change. Permaculture deals with this challenge through design protocols and by  relying on perennials rather than shallow rooted annuals.

 For my part, I suspect any  solution is all about context...and maybe time-of-year.

It's the real estate adage: Location. Location. Location. Where you're at. Where the sun is at. Where each plant lives.

What is to be done?

I considered my options...What I want is a harvest through Summer -- a Summer that  is promising to be very hot and very dry.

So I've decided to focus on some primary plantings:
  • Katuk (Sauropus androgynus): Now that I've worked out how to strike Katuk from cuttings, I'd gladly live off this tree vegetable every day.So long as I keep these bushes in as much shade as I can throw, they are sure to reward me. So outback I'm planting a Katuk forest.
  • Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum): A seaside plant that 'should' survive in my coastal conditions despite the weather.If it takes to my patch,I'm planning to make it my No #2 garden preference after Katuk. Samphire is a novel vegetable enjoying a major culinary comeback such that it currently sells for $70/kgm! I can corner the local market! "Only Samphire stall in cooee!" Become a player in Samphire futures. I have two small plants from which I'll take cuttings  and one seedling I grew from seed.Potted up for now...I'm really looking forward to the time they go local...and I make my first million by cornering the market.
  • Pigface  (Carpobrotus): This I can grow! Sold -- and even exported -- as Beach Banana or Karkalla Beach Succulant  -- my major interest was deploying this benign plant as a garden tool. I grow Carpobrotus glaucescens  -- the native Angular Pigface -- whereas the marketed variety is Carpobrotus rossii -- native to WA and southern Australia. I'm not a fan of  the astringent taste of what I grow. In the meantime, I've decided to use its keen spread as a living mulch. Coat the beds with Pigface and I'm protecting the underneath.It's easy to control and lightly rooted so planting other veg among the succulent leaves is easy.
  • Warrigal Greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides): Bingo! Another easy grow. Does really well in my  sandy soils. My plants have died down this weather and maybe are seasonal in  habit but I'm hoping to  utilise it more aggressively through the cooler months as a ground covering mulch. As a veg, I love it. The point being that as I run out of mulch each year I can fall back on Pigface and Warrigal Greens as an in-house living carpet for whatever else I plant.
  • Kankong (Ipomoea aquatica): AKA Water spinach... which suggests it needs water -- so that's seemingly a contradiction given my theme. But Kangkong is easy to  grow in containers  so long as you keep the soil moist. I grow it in part shade over Summer as much as I can. As cut-and-come-again greens go, I don't think I've found it's equal. As long as the weather is hot, and you keep it hydrated, Kankong delivers. Easy to divide and transplant too. One Kankong goes a looooong way
  • The Climbing Army: Now that I have a ready supply of bamboo canes, I can move my garden skyward in double quick time. Snake Beans, Choko vines, New Guinea Bean, Jicama, Climbing Yams and Winged Bean have all been booked on the the bamboo pole express. Accompanying the skyward push are Giant Sunflowers. My scheduling is a bit off as I should have engineered this elevation earlier but I've obviously been suffering from naiveté.
  • Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) : Not that there's anything wrong with Sun Jewels (Portulaca grandiflora), the oleracea option is tastier.It also grows well in a dry gardenscape. Purslane is culinarily  versatile and  an active participant in the garden bed. Maybe it can match the pigface family as a cover?
That's the main game. Then there are my experimental indulgences:
  • Cucumbers: I love cucumbers! Is there anything as tasty as a sun ripened warm cucumber? Is there!? I get the English obsession with these delights...and cucumber sandwiches...and pickles..and the yogurt thing: Tzatziki or Cacik.  My Zucchinis were OK this last year so I'm hoping that the cukes will come on. Water demanding of course, but I plant them close to my terracotta pot watering stations and indulge them with mulch so they get the irrigated on a hot day and hang onto it.I'm growing 5 species. So it's me vs the possums.
  • Queensland Arrowroot (Canna edulis) and Indian Canna (Canna Indica): Sure you can eat the Qld arrowroot root but these tall plants -- and their shorter 'Indian' cousin -- are booked for supplying me with harvestable mulch.I harvest my lemon grass  for mulch but this year my lemon grasses have fagged out because of the relentless dry. So you canna do better than canna...(such is my proposition).
This year I have delighted in a great potato crop.The productiveness of what I planted only a few short months ago has been thrilling. Despite low levels of irrigation I am amazed at what I've been able to harvest. 

Spuds rule!

On the other hand, my sweet potato crop has been very absolutely disappointing. Sweet potatoes  require water you see, and that ain't been there. I guess I'll need to work more on making better soil -- and irrigation -- before I can rely on sweet potatoes again...

In the meantime: other tubers get planted.

We live and learn as nature takes its revenge.


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