This is taking all my self-control but the garden is a no-go area right now. The grass is long, there are weeds, there are things that could be harvested, poorly looking plants and old crops that need to be cleared away. And it is killing me!
The sun is shining and under normal circumstances it would be perfect autumnal weather. But thanks to Ex-Cyclone Cook my already sodden soil got another 76mm of rain over the Easter break. I wasn’t here to see it, fortunately as it would have just broken my heart. Where we were, the rain avoided us so I was able to just relax and try not to think about it. Although I have to say I think I need some kind of hobby outside the garden as I was completely lost!
Since the 12th March we have had approx 467mm of rain. We’ve never seen this kind of weather before here and is making my gentle descent into winter problematic. I have beds to clear and cover crops to sow while there is some warmth still remaining in the soil. Fortunately, things I would have ordinarily sown directly outside have been started in the greenhouse so they wouldn’t be washed away, so all is not lost. But things need to dry out as the garlic needs the chill of winter in order to make the best leaf growth before it begins to bulb out.
The beds are raised, thank goodness, and are beginning to lose the sodden situation. I have nipped out to have a wee look from time to time, but to work the beds before they completely dry out to an acceptable state can harm my soil structure. I have built my beds so I don’t need to walk all over them. They are wide enough that I can reach into the centre, and only occasionally do they see my gumboots stomping over them. If I find I need to walk on the soil, I usually get my cultivator out and fluff the soil straight back up. After years of tending my garden, the beds are generally in pretty good shape. This means for the long term health of my garden I have to wait for nature to take its course.
But the grassy paths around the beds is still very squelchy and extremely muddy. Some of the lower lying areas still have surface water that is beginning to look a tad fetid. It would be easy to think, this is just aesthetic so walking on it would be fine. The soil structure there isn’t as special. Well I’ve wrestled with that thought several times over the past few weeks. But walking on wet ground can have long term effects that can be extremely difficult to undo.
This became very obvious recently. You see back in the spring, we put our tiny wee lambs in a temporary fence on our lawn. Spring is a soggy time anyway and I’ve made my peace with that. The kids fed the lambs in the same place each morning and the lambs charged up and down the fence line excitedly, tails wagging. And in the few short weeks they were there the soft, muddy soil was trampled by tiny hooves and almost imperceivably became compacted. The lambs moved on to a larger field and the grass regrew across the surface and as the lawn mower buzzed across it all summer there was no indication that this was ever a lamb hotel. Until the flooding.
On the whole, the grass coped well enough. It was underwater for a few days, then it was covered in a dirty scum like the ring on a bath, until the next rain washed it clean. Some of the weeds in the lawn went a bit yellow and look decidedly peaky, but I see this as a good thing – improving my lawn without having to do anything. And even as the last deluge ebbs away, the lawn doesn’t actually look too bad. It could do with a mow, but it is fair to say the grass has bounced back.
Except in one place. Where the lambs were. There is a crescent shaped patch where excited lambs danced merrily along a fence line well over six months ago. The grass growing there hasn’t had the same resilience. The soil is too dense and compacted, there are no air pockets where drowned roots can catch a breath. The water wasn’t able to soak away as easily and so the water languished longer, suffocating the poor wee plants. Damage from flooding is not always immediately evident in plants, and while I have my fair share of droopy plants, it won’t be until much later that the true cost of all this flooding will be known.
And so I wait, until the entire garden is drained enough to walk about on, because I like my grassy paths to look pretty too. But if I look on the bright side, most of a vegie garden is made of annual plants that can be grown again from seed. While it may be hard now, next season you’ll hardly know last season was so HORRIBLE!
In the meantime, I need a new hobby as I don’t think waiting and staring longingly counts as one. Maybe I’ll take up knitting.
Come again soon – the boffins have said it’ll be sunny all week, so the garden has a good chance of drying out so I can get in there and do what needs to be done.
Sarah the Gardener : o)