A garden left unloved in the heat of summer…

Our citrus trees  haven’t thrived since we planted them. They’ve only ever had 3 or 4 flowers and the fruit has dropped before getting bigger than fingernail size – except for our tiny blood orange that had 2 fruit that stayed on the tree but never got any bigger than golf-ball size. The soil here is just sand. No nutirents and no water-holding capability. We did, of course feed it up before planting and have continued to give it  trace elements and food and lots of water. Nothing was working, they were still obviosly impoverished. A few months ago I saw a segment on Garden Gurus showing a 5 in 1 organic plant food that they used to give new life to citrus. The segment is called Citrus Delight if you want to do a search in the TV & Video factsheets of their website.  I couldn’t buy that same brand here, but I could buy something similar so I put it down around the citrus just like the garden gurus did. The trees are now looking strong and healthy and vigorous, though still no flowers or fruit yet. I also have to get the whole espalier pruning right. It’s my first attempt so as with most gardening it’s all an experiment!

Our roses were looking quite stressed so I thought I’d give them the same treatment. We decided I should do it a couple of weeks before we went on holidays in case the dogs took a liking to the plant food. I can’t put blood and bone/dynamic lifter down around the roses because the dogs eat it. So I tidied up the roses and lay down the fertiliser, covering with straw mulch as always. The dogs took no interest as there was no enticing fragrant aroma. That was a good sign.

When we went on holidays we had a babysitter come in and stay with Molly and Kaz. We have never kenelled them (other than when they were in quarantine) and have always had a babysitter/housesitter instead.  This babysitter has looked after them before and they love her. We also ask her to water the veggie garden and rose garden when she can. The automated reticulation takes care of the rest of the garden.

Backyard garden

Backyard garden

While we were away the weather was very hot here. The babysitter emailed us to say the roses were looking very droopy even though she had been watering them.  When we arrived home we found a very sad garden indeed. Our girls were well-looked after, as was our house. The garden hadn’t been neglected, but it hadn’t been loved the same way we would have loved it had we been here. We don’t blame the babysitter at all, she was here primarily for the girls – not the garden and with the continuous hot dry days it’s a constant struggle.

Distressed veggie garden

Distressed veggie garden

The veggie garden didn’t receive enough water or shelter in the constant high 30’s temps and winds. We’ve lost our corn, most of (if not all) the cabbages, the tomatoes and the bok choy. The beds just get too hot and even with a good layer of mulch they dry out too much in the heat of summer. We have a big market umbrella that we use to give partial shade and protection to the beds when we are home, but the wind here is too strong to leave the umbrella up and unattended so we didn’t ask the babysitter to take on that responsibility. Perth is supposedly the third windiest city in the world!

We’ve also had another problem in the veggie garden over the past few months – rats! They’ve been getting in and eating the veggies. Stephen has been putting out traps and has caught a few small ones and I found a large dead one in an empty water bucket; I think someone nearby must have laid baits. Several of the veggies that survived our holiday had fruit on the bushes, but the rats had eaten them. Mainly the eggplant and the capsicum. Luckily there are plenty of fruit still coming on those bushes so the traps are going out again.

The veggie garden now needs quite a bit of renovation but the first three days after we arrived home saw temperatures close to 43C (~110F) and in the high 30’s since so any replanting will have to wait a bit. Also, Stephen was up at the mine last week and will be again this coming week so the rodent trapping program will not be run as thoroughly as it should.

And the rose garden…oh my. Fertilising so thoroughly at this time of year and then going on holidays was not a good idea.  I’ve lost 3 (probably 4) roses and another one is struggling. Those 3 or 4 were the weakest and the other one was showing signs of distress before I fertilised, with new growing tips and shoots dying off. I’m going to have to get into the rose garden a.s.a.p.  and  give buckets of water and prune away any distressed growth.

Distressed rose garden

Distressed rose garden

Watering is, of course, the biggest issue in our dry environment. The native garden is growing beautifully. We planted it for that reason – they are the plants that would naturally be growing in the area.  The little honeyeaters have been visiting in good numbers and have been in very good vocal form. Our Grevillea leucopteris (aka smelly socks) has three flower spikes.

Grevillea leucopteris aka smelly socks

Grevillea leucopteris aka smelly socks

The flowers on these are quite spectacular so we’re really looking forward to having them flower for the first time, but they are apparently not given their common name for nothing, so it’s with some trepidation-mixed excitement that we await the flowers. They grow profusely along the highways here, but we’ve never seen the close enough to smell. Our biggest Corymbia (eucalyptus) Ficifolia has started to flower now as well.

Corymbia (syn eucalypts) ficifolia - summer beauty

Corymbia (syn eucalypts) ficifolia - summer beauty

It’s a pink one, so not quite as showy as the smaller red the we have in but, but still lovely and hopefully with it’s height above the fenceline it will start attracting even more birds. The red is also covered in buds – if only it had grown as vigorously as the pink.

Corrymbia ficifolia (summer beauty) and Grevillea leucopteris (smelly socks)

Corymbia ficifolia (summer beauty) and Grevillea leucopteris (smelly socks)

We’re trying a hose from the washing machine outlet onto the lawn to try to green up the grass. Lawns here in Perth mostly tend to die off in the summer, but in our backyard a brown dry lawn seems to be an invitation for our dogs to dig holds. A green lawn means stronger roots and more resistance to digging.

Backyard

Backyard

Our water restrictions here allow us to use sprinklers (or retic) on 2 rostered days a week, only once a day, either before 9am or after 6pm. We are allowed to water by hand at any time.

Corymbia (syn eucalypts) ficifolia - summer beauty

Corymbia (syn eucalypts) ficifolia - summer beauty

Oz sci-fi, fantasy or horror…

Best wishes to Trudi Canavan, Glenda Larke and KE Mills, all finalists for ‘best fantasy novel’ in the Aurealis Awards. Good luck, too, to all the other finalists, but the above three Aussie ladies (expat in Glenda’s case) are amongst my favourites.

The Aurealis Awards “recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers“. The ceremony is being held in Brisbane and winners will be announced tonight (Jan 23, 2010)

[update]

Congratulations to Trudi Canavan on her win for best fantasy novel. Well done, Trudi! Well done all other winners as well.
Aurealis winners list

[/update]

Fly me to the blue moon and decades come and go, but not yet…

Catching up…

On New Years Eve there was a blue moon.  Nice…but not in Australia or New Zealand. We don’t get to have a blue moon until the end of January. It’s all explained in this post on the Aussie Organic Gardening blog.

On New Years Eve we were booked on a redeye Qantas flight from Perth to Sydney, leaving Perth at approx 11pm, connecting with a flight to Coffs Harbour the next morning.  That turned out to be not so nice.

Early that morning we did the online check-in thing. No worries.  That night, a few minutes after we left home for the airport, I received a text message saying that our flight had been cancelled and to call customer service. We were still close to home so we turned around and came home. While I waited on the phone for customer service, I logged onto the Qantas website and discovered that we’d been placed on a Jetstar flight that was due to leave Perth at approximately the same time at the original Qantas flight. We headed back to the airport. I never did get through to customer service.

Surely Qantas could have given us more than a couple of hours notice that they were cancelling the flight. If there weren’t enough passengers to justify the flight they would have known at least the day before. Yet we had been able to check in that morning. We chose Qantas because we wanted leg room, pillows, blankets, adjustable headrests, seats that lay back a reasonable amount, movies, food and drinks. Jetstar are a cut-price airline and provide none of that – not even a drink of water –  unless you pay for it. We had already paid in our ticket price. We got none of it. When we got to the Jetstar counter to check in we were told we might not even be able to sit together. It turns out there were plenty of seats and of course we could sit together, the check-in lady was just being nasty.  We had to call up to get our frequent flyer points allocated – that wasn’t done automatically. I asked about compensation – nothing scheduled, but I could write a letter to Customer Service and put our case if we thought it was strong enough. Sounds like a lot of hassle for us, but I probably should do something.

It appears that if we hadn’t had to connect with the Coffs flight we’d have had a choice of either flying Perth-Melbourne-Sydney or Perth-Brisbane-Sydney on Qantas.  We had a most uncomfortable, sleepless, flight but at least we made our connection and had a very enjoyable 2 weeks with mum in Nambucca Heads. More to come on that later…

On the topic of the end of the decade…

There has been much celebration in the media of the end of the first decade of the current millenium.  The only problem is that this year is the final year of the decade, not the beginning of a new one. You may disagree.  You may say to me that ten years have passed, since the turn of the century, but I’d say no! You see, I think we celebrated the new millenium a year early.

The years on the Gregorian calendar are not counted like birthdays. A baby is not one year old until he has lived for a year. He has a zero year where his age is counted in months. There was no year AD zero. The first year of the first millenium wasn’t counted in months – it was year 1. This means that a year hadn’t passed until the end of year AD1. Therefore the millenium wasn’t over until the end of year AD2000, and by the same reasoning the decade won’t finish until the end of this year.

You still may disagree. That’s ok. Here’s some info. Until you’re convinced, I’ll sit on my side of the fence and you can sit on yours. Time will continue to march on no matter how we count the years.

Who would have thought…

So often I get looked at strangely, or get strange comments when people know I don’t/won’t use Internet Explorer on my machine. If a website doesn’t work in Firefox, it’s not the fault of poor design, it’s my fault for not using IE.

Well, the news tells us otherwise:

The Federal Government has ramped up warnings about Microsoft’s web browser Internet Explorer, which has come under attack from hackers.

Wizard to the power of two…

Karen Miller (aka KE Mills) ran a competition to win an advance copy of her new Rogue Agent book, Wizard Squared, and I won a copy!  As if winning itself isn’t exciting enough, the book arrived today! WooHoo! I usually never win anything so that makes it even better.

Wizard Squared By K. E. Mills

Wizard Squared By K. E. Mills

If you haven’t read any of Karen’s books, and you’re a fantasy fan, you are really missing out. She’s a very prolific, and quality,  writer – writing at a punishing pace and celebrating sending her books to the publisher in the strangest ways!

From her website: “Karen Miller is the author of the bestselling fantasy duology Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, the fantasy trilogy Godspeaker, the bestselling tie-in novels Stargate SG-1: Alliances and Stargate SG-1: Do No Harm and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Wild Space. Writing as K.E. Mills she is the author of the Rogue Agent series.”

I haven’t read any of her Stargate or Star Wars books, but I have read all the rest and I highly recommend them.

I think I’ll have to take a break from my current book and read Wizard Squared instead but don’t expect any spoilers when I’m done. The book is due for release in Oz on 31 January, 2010 but if you haven’t read the first two Rogue Agent books you really should go out and get them first.

Thanks again Karen!