Summer is hard. This is not news, really, but knowing that doesn’t make it less depressing when the latest round of seedlings and saplings die in the heat in spite of being babied and watered daily, and mulched to within an inch of their lives. We live in a desert, and getting over that initial hurdle of getting things growing is hard.
It makes the things that do work that much more important.
Like the hedgerows. Not that they’re growing as fast as I’d like – our “hedgerows” are actually still imaginary lines in the dirt with a series of little baby trees planted along them, but the osage orange seedlings are doing really well. There are more of them to plant out, but I’m waiting for cooler weather and maybe a bit of rain before I do that; for now they’re in pots.
The seedling natives I planted are also doing well, for the most part. The Tuarts and Mulga are, at least; the Manuka trees less so. They don’t like the hot, dry ground, I think, and may need to be grown on in pots before planting out if I want them to survive. The carobs I grew and planted out also are not doing well, although who knows with them; they like being planted out so their taproots can grow deep, but they also die if they’re planted out too young/small. It’s a weird sort of guessing game to work out if they’re ready to go into the ground.
The apple trees have all survived the summer so far, as have all the stone fruit except for my Morello Cherry (most of them went into the ground at the end of last summer, or in winter as bare root trees, so this is their first full summer). We might even get some peaches and nectarines – not ripe yet, but looking plausible. The three trees in question have spent 2 years in (large) pots, and this is their first real fruiting season.
We managed to get 2 small bunches of grapes from the grapevines before the rats ate the rest. This is an ongoing issue, with no clear solution as yet. The rat population living under the house is fat, sleek, and unafraid of humans. We’ve trapped (and humanely killed) some of the less smart young ones, but the majority seem to be too smart to go into the traps, no matter what we use as bait.
The almond tree produced another decent harvest, slightly more than last year, which is nice. The birds seem utterly uninterested in them, which probably means there’s lots of other stuff for parrots and cockatoos to eat in the area, which is also nice. I like having the native birds around, and I also like not having to fight them for a harvest. I’ll be doing some almond grafting this autumn to put actual fruiting almond budwood onto the rootstocks that are in the ground, so give it another couple’ve years and we might be producing reasonable quantities of almonds.
The only vegetable seedlings that are doing well are the butternut squash, and the chilli plants from last year (which are still producing). We have some tomato plants as well, but they haven’t produced anything yet (well, the one produced a single tomato, which the rats got before it was quite ripe).
That’s the plants, and we don’t yet have any livestock beyond the chickens and guinea fowl (which are all doing well), so that’s us, really. Thus far, my conclusion is that if I had to actually live on what we could grow up here, we’d eat eggs, blueberries, almonds, chillies, and butternut squash. Which I guess is not so bad, when you think about it.