Rainy Days

It is raining right now. Sheets of chilly, clean water, falling from the sky, and it’s hard to watch it and also hold in my brain that this has been a very dry winter, statistically speaking.

Obviously, that’s only in WA. The east coast has been inundated, again, and apparently we’re (the Bureau of Meteorology is) predicting another La Niña summer coming up. Our third in a row, which is, I am told, unprecedented in recorded history. La Niña years are wetter than average, for context; the east coast probably has more flooding to look forward to, and WA will likely get more summer rainfall as the cyclonic weather systems dip ever further south.

In the meantime, though, it’s raining, which means it’s time to put things in the gorund and hope they get established in the wet. Last week I planted 10 Tuart (Eucalyptus gomnocephala) seedlings and 10 Mulga (Acacia aneura) seedlings that I sourced from the Muchea Tree Farm (who were helpful, friendly, and have a very good range of plants), in the bush half of the property. Some of the older trees are starting to die, and we have a lot more canopy gaps than we used to, so it’s time to help speed the reforestation process along a bit. The Jarrah are (slowly) self-seeding, but I’d like to diversify the woodland a bit as well, put in some other useful trees (permaculture Zone 4 / 5 utility plants for timber, honeybee forage, and foraged foods) while maintaining the wildlife habitat that the woodland provides – we have Carnaby’s Cocktaoos and red-tailed black cockatoose nesting here every year, monitor lizards and blue-tongues, and I saw an echidna while I was out planting trees. The kangaroos I care less about, given (a) how common they are, and (b) how much of a nuisance they are, but still; there are kangaroos, too.

Anyway. Diversification, thus, tree planting.

Wattles (both the Mulga I planted and the seeds I will be planting seeds from our existing wattles as well) are fast growing coloniser species, nitrogen fixers, and generally good for kick-starting an ecosystem. Mulga, specifically, are also very tough and survive on very little water, so hopefully they will get established without much support over summer. Tuart are also a very hardy, low-water species, and although we don’t have any old trees around at the moment, they used to be endemic to this area, so they should do well in the soil and climate. They’re tougher than Jarrah, but also valuable timber trees, and, like Jarrah, produce delicious nectar for the bees to concentrate into honey.

Of course those aren’t the only trees I’m planning to plant, but they’re the only ones that I can buy as seedlings instead of having to buy seeds and raise them myself. I also want to put in cork oaks (Quercus suber) and holm oaks (Quercus ilex), both of which are actively fire retardant and produce edible acorns, as well as stone pine (Pinus pinea, also known as the pine nut pine), and Judas Tree (Cercis siliquaestrum) and Silk Tree (Albizia julibrissin, another fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing coloniser tree).

We’re debating ordering a bunch more olive trees to put in, since olives are a good forest-zone tree – they don’t attract fruit fly, the fallen fruit are harmless to pretty much anything that might eat them, and the trees are tough, resilient, and also fire resistant, if not actively fire retardant. And olives are always useful. It is probably worthwhile; I can’t imagine regretting planting olives. The grower I previously ordered trees form is no longer around, but Australis Plants are willing (and registered) to send olives into WA, and as of winter 2022 charge $8.25 (inc. GST) per ground-ready plant (90 mm pot size), with a minimum order of 30 trees.

Other than that, I am going to take some cuttings of Coral Trees, and collect Jacaranda seeds in autumn, once the seed pods form and ripen, with the aim of planting both species all over the property. Both are really just because I love the spring flowers, but Jacarandas are an important nectar source for honeybees (and produce delightful honey), and coral trees offer a similar resource to nectivorous birds and insects. The shrub layer seems fairly healthy, although I do plan to plant some Bottlebrush and Geraldton Wax, mostly as honeybee forage.