Summer finishes here on the 28th of February although you wouldn’t know it if you ventured outside. The last few days have been hot and the forecast going forward is for a week of 30C/86F plus days. As I look out the window there isn’t even a cloud in sight let alone any rain. Which gives you something of a taste of what one of my summer frustrations might be.
Now don’t get me wrong I’ve really enjoyed our summer this year. I like the heat, not so much to garden in, but to ensure you really know it’s summer. I like being able to go to the outdoor pool and I like having a few of those nights where sleeping is made almost impossible by the close heavy warm air. I like being able to go camping and not have to take 23 jumpers to keep warm. Most of all I like the feeling of discreet seasons - where summer is hot and winter is cold (ok so my version of cold isn’t really that cold but still…..) and Spring and Autumn are a little bit of both. I will write a Top 5 next week about what I enjoyed most this summer from a kitchen gardening perspective but this week I’m going to have a whinge. (I find us Australian’s are particularly good whingers - in fact I know more than one person who has turned the practice into an art form, why we call the Poms whingers I don’t know…..) Anyway enough of the preamble these are my Top 5 frustrations from this summer.
- Rodents - Now I have written on this ad infinitum so rather than repeat myself I suggest that people unfamiliar with my battles against rats check out the posts here and here. One new noteworthy thing in the anti rat campaign is that my parents bought me a rat zapper at the Seymour Farming Expo. So far it hasn’t caught a rat but there is one mouse less in the world.
- No rain – We have had our driest summer in decades this year. This despite having had around 40mm in the past week. Before that 40mm it was dry, really dry. In December we had 19.60mm, in January it was just 3.6mm and last month we got a much more respectable 76mm. (These figures are for Coburg as detailed on the Melbourne Water website). The lack of rain has presented gardening challenges, not least having to water almost everyday, mostly from the city’s water storages as my tank ran out in late December and didn’t refill until recently.
- Kinked hoses – All this watering has meant I’m becoming intimately acquainted with my hoses and I can’t say I particularly pleased with them. This is mainly due to their tendency to kink. I had one kink so badly it became completely unusable and so I went to one of the DIY superstores today to replace it. Could anyone tell me how on earth I was supposed to choose a hose? There was a ridiculously large range at the shop I went to. All of them cited exciting points of difference on their packaging – things like kink ratings etc etc. Now normally I would buy the second cheapest (well that’s what I do with wine at licensed restaurants) but the second cheapest was clearly going to kink somewhere between shelf and checkout so I quickly discounted it. In the end I bought a Nylex Kinkaway which scores 8 (out of 10) on their Kink Resistance scale. It wasn’t particularly cheap but it wasn’t the most expensive either. I got it home and unpacked it and then tried to wind it round my hose tidy thingy. I eventually (apologies to the neighbours for all the swearing) managed to untangle it and wind it up. I then turned it on. No water. The damn thing had kinked about 5 times during the process of winding it onto the tidy. It is now spread out around the garden awaiting little (or big) feet to trip over it but at least it is kink free. For now….
- Beefsteak Tomatoes – I’m sure I planted one. I’m sure the plant grew, at least for awhile. I have been anxiously awaiting tomatoes but so far nothing, nada. Actually that is an exaggeration there is one very green one on the vine now. One. One tomato from a perfectly good plant. Now I could put this down to the rodents but actually I think it’s the plant. Beefsteak are generally pretty late which should have meant they would have been spared the worst of the rampaging rodents. What they should be doing is giving me tomatoes now while the other earlier varieties wind down and finish. But are they? No, the plant is just sitting there looking as brown and dead as the rest.
- Whitefly – This last one isn’t really an issue anymore but it was in early Summer. In late Spring Melbourne was hit by something of a whitefly plague and they covered everything. From my experiences with them (and from reading about veggiegobblers vacuuming attempts) I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t really much you can do to get rid of whitefly. The key is to ensure the plants are healthy and vigorous enough to both; resist and recover from their attacks. Our summer got hot and dry enough to kill most of them off in the end. It is nice that they’ve pretty much gone as inhaling them while you water isn’t really ideal…..
Those were the things that irritated me this summer. What about you? Anything drive you to distraction? Next week I promise to be much more upbeat with the Kitchen Garden Things I enjoyed most about Summer this year.