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