Thursday, January 29, 2009

Local warming

Gardeners know that one should never complain too earnestly about the weather, as there's bound to be someone worse off than you. And that lesson came home to me this week. A few days ago, we had a really hot day, 41°C, as pictured below. Appalling, inescapable, energy-sapping heat. And then this week, my friends in Adelaide and Melbourne experienced much worse than that. The temperature in Melbourne got up to 42 and 43 these last few days. But in Adelaide it has been even worse. Somehow, just barely, I can imagine Adelaide's recent daily max of 45°C, but what I cannot get my mind around is an overnight minimum of 34°C, which is what the unlucky folk of Adelaide had to endure last night. Sleepless in Adelaide. So, while I'm posting about the heat here in Sydney, I really do owe it to my southern friends to say that they truly are doing it tough this summer. May a cool southerly wind blow your way soon, friends.

Here's my little digital thermometer the other day. 41 outside, 30.6 inside. You can escape this heat inside, but walk outside a few feet and you hit a clammy, energy-sapping wall of heat that makes you want to retreat inside at once.

One of my main concerns on days like this is my birdbaths. The water heats up in the sun, and so I replace the water in the afternoons with fresh, cooler water.

Moments after the change of water, the bulbuls moved in. These chirpy fruit-eaters have red bums and red chests, and a pointy head crest, and they love cool water.

Good old house sparrows are disappearing from our suburbs, but every time I stock up the bird-feeder with seed they're my best customers. I just cannot discriminate against living creatures on the basis of their being native or indigenous, and so I'm just as happy to see non-native sparrows enjoying a feed as I am seeing bulbuls and willy wagtails playing in the water.

Out in the garden some plants are loving the heat, thriving as if they're back home in their tropical homeland. My potted curry tree just loves summer here in Sydney, producing berries and spicy-scented leaves galore.

Down in the cooler reaches of the garden, away from the harshest overhead sun, the variegated society garlic caught my camera's attention the other day. This South African doesn't mind the heat.

My crops of rocket come and go so fast they almost seem like green trams on a busy street, and I am merely their conductor. I harvest them young, and harvest them often, but even the summer heat gets to this tough, fast crop. However, they do keep on producing, as long as I keep them away from the midday sun. And if you want to read a great post about rocket (or arugula), check out Michelle's blog (From Seed to Table) here:

Elsewhere in the heat I have broken a sworn "no more succulents" oath and brought home this person, unnamed of course with the useless label of "succulent". I suspect it's a Crassula of some sort, as I already have something vaguely like it that turned out to be a crassula, so that's my amateur suspicion at the moment.

Also enjoying the heat is my native Grevillea, which was near death one month ago and is now belting along, thanks to a spray or two of magic elixir.

While northern hemisphere gardeners seem to experience the peak of growth and productivity in their northern summer, here in gardens Down Under, summer is a quiet time. There's little new growth here now, as it's just too hot. You'd be mad to plant much now, as it would die in the heat in a couple of days. Spring is a time of outrageously good growth, so too is autumn, but in the middle of summer we don't do a lot of gardening and not much grows here. I just concentrate on keeping plants alive with tapwater and prayers for rain, while giving the birds a drink and an occasional feed, and staying away from the heat.

My backyard is a lovely place to enjoy a cool beer as the sun goes down and the sea breeze blows in, but as a gardener there's not a lot to do right now.


Michelle said...

Hi Jamie, I'm envious of your curry tree. I've got a potted one also. My summers don't give it enough heat so it just pokes along. Fortunately, my winters aren't cold enough to kill it either. Your's must be a different variety - I see it has red berries whereas mine has black.

I've got a crassula just like yours. It's quite pretty when it blooms, at least in my opinion. Nothing flashy, just a nice spray of tiny white flowers.

Thanks so much for the reference to my arugula post! Stay cool.

Chookie said...

I am very envious of that lovely simple bird-bath! Can't agree with you about birds, though: sparrows and bulbuls are much less interesting than wagtails, wrens and magpies!

Bear said...

I'm a novice amateur gardener if you will and find your blog great for advice and ideas as I am in Sydney also.
Have you experienced sudden wilt and die back of plants in this weather? I have seemingly healthy plants, healthy roots, well watered that have as of today just wilted and died. I have a mushroom infestation also. Any ideas as to what it could be? Fungus/root rot? Your advice would be most welcome!