We’ve had a good week weather-wise. Pleasant days of cool mornings, hot around midday and the typical Highveld afternoon thunderstorms. The Vaal dam is still desperately under capacity and our water restrictions are still ongoing. Luckily our rainwater tank is getting replenished by the showers every other day and we are able to keep the garden going.
There are so many blossoms and young fruit forming for the summer ahead. Clockwise from top left below:
- Early Red One apple blossoms (I’m worried because its pollinator Granny Smith finished flowering weeks ago & the crabapple doesn’t have any blossoms right now)
- Brigitta Blueberries
- Shaddock Giant grapefruit
A couple of weeks ago I added Epsom salts and a general fertiliser to all the citrus trees (Shaddock giant grapefruit, Minneola, Bearss lime, Dwarf lemon & Eureka lemon). They are doing fantastically well now. The grapefruit (a tree of about 1.5 metres, planted in 2014) has always dropped its blossoms and any tiny fruitlets that formed. Now it seems to be holding on to them. Some fell off due to the rain, but there are still many clusters of gorgeous green little grapefruit. My husband loves grapefruit so I hope these will go the distance so he can enjoy some home-grown ones.
In late October we started converting the herb garden near the Chicken McMansion into a hugelkultur bed. I’ very happy with how it has turned out. If you’re not familiar with the permaculture practice of hugelkultur, it is simply a German word meaning “hill-culture” – gardeners make raised beds filled with decomposing wood on the bottom and covered with compost, mulch and topsoil in the top. The wood acts like a sponge, storing and slowly releasing water, as well as nutrients and habouring beneficial organisms. Done correctly, hugelkultur beds should not need additional fertilizers.
27 October : Day of the excavations and figuring out how to terrace the slope
I decided raised beds were needed here because although the slope is slight, any rainwater or irrigation runs straight down, washing away nutrients and topsoil. Because it flows down fast, the water also does not have an opportunity to sink down very deeply, meaning only the top few millimetres of soil get moisture unless it has been raining for days. To save water and make the area more productive, this new project had to go ahead.
We got the treated wood borders to demarcate the area and contain the new growing medium. The topsoil was scooped out and we added branches from trees and shrubs that we had pruned in winter. There were lots of those. Apart from using that garden refuse in the beds, I also use branches as rustic trelisses for my tomatoes and berries.
3 November: Initial planting. We have removed the one large ornamental plant on the left and planted it just outside the bed, next to its friend.
On top of the branches that form the base of the hugelkultur bed, we added a mix of the topsoil that was removed, home-made compost and the chicken manure and grass clipping mix from the chicken run. This is a very good quality, high nutrient growing medium. It is nice and airy compared to the rather heavy loam that occurs naturally here.
So what is growing there now?
The rosemary (on the right), bay leaf & grapefruit (on the left) and bishops crown chillies (back row, not very visible) were all left as is. The oregano (the two big patches of light green in the original beds) was removed and replanted along the front edge to establish quickly as a means of fixing the soil in place there.
New plants pictured are purple basil, heirloom white eggplants (you can see where they got their name from) & tumeric roots. There are also some habanero chillies, celery, strawberries, kale, lettuces and chamomile.
Finally, the “beauty” is my favourite picture of the week…this picture of our dogs in this area of the garden that has been keeping us so busy. The morning glories are on some of those rustic trelisses I mentioned, made from branches we pruned from trees in the winter.
The flowers in the area above with my German Shepher & gardening companion Xena, include poppies, pink & white morning glories, jolly jump-ups & alpine strawberries. I didn’t plant any of these. They came up with the mondo grass border donated by my in-laws.