Today marks eight months since we arrived in Broken Hill and since that time I’ve been trying to get to know the garden we have and start a veggie patch. Back in May I posted about our garlic we planted. I started to harvest some on the weekend and completed harvesting it today. For the 28 garlic cloves we planted I had a ROI of 18 garlics (three extra small, nine small, four medium and two large). The extra small garlics were buried in the ground – the scapes had come away completely. Since I planted in May, I have been monitoring them and trying to give seasol every so often. About three weeks ago I learned my garlic had the dreaded witches broom after I posted a picture of my sprouting garlic in the Garlic Growers Australia Facebook Group asking for advice.
The Australian Garlic Industry Association has a post on its Facebook page about the cause of witches broom saying it’s from fluctuating temperatures and the garlic doesn’t know if it’s ‘coming or going’. There has been fluctuating temperatures here in Broken Hill in the last couple of months so that might explain it. The bulbs seems ok though. I can’t tell too much difference between the two types of garlic I sowed (the friend’s garlic was actually a bulb and not garlic). However, the Ingelara Garlic had the larger bulbs. Next time I would space out the garlic a bit more than 10cm apart as they seemed crowded. I’m definitely keen to plant some garlic again next year.
My goal this year has been to try and understand our garden a bit more. Overall I’m more interested in growing vegetables and fruit but I haven’t wanted to pull too much out as we have a large yard. Here’s what I’ve been learning:
I’ve had our soil tested as part of Macquarie University’s VegeSafe program to show if there’s any elevated levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, manganese, lead, nickle and zinc. The main concern in Broken Hill is lead but the results were all under manageable levels. I’ve also regularly done pH tests on soil in our garden and regularly come back with alkaline soil. So I’ve been trying to apply sulphur to lower the pH.
What is it?
My plant identification skills are slowly improving with the help of a Facebook group called ‘What Plant is that?? Australia’ I’ve posted photos slowly and usually have a response from someone about what the plant is! I’ve drawn a map of our yard and filling in the names of plants when I know them. So far I’ve discovered we have plumbago, pigface, natives, lavender cotton (santolina chamaecyparissus), olive trees, seaside daisy, gazanias, peach tree, jacaranda tree, lavender, spotted emu bush (eremophilic maculta), common murtle, nerine bowdenii, claret ash and ponytail palms. When I’ve had the energy, I’ve been trying to research how to look after these plants and prioritising the fruit trees. In August I applied some Boron to the Olive tree after finding it recommended by the Homeleigh Grove outside Canberra.
Rain, Watering Systems and Irrigation
So far we’ve had more than 143 mm of rain this year (a lot more than last year’s record low of 68mm) which has been great for the garden. This has given me a bit of breathing space to fix some irrigation problems. In early September I replaced nine pop-up sprinklers in our garden after they were leaking badly. It took some research and help from the guys at Pots n Plants but I managed to replace all of them by myself! I’ve gained confidence in fixing irrigation hoses now after blow outs and added some sprinklers and drippers to my roses and veggie patch. I can go to the irrigation section in garden centres and know what I’m looking at now. A necessary but unexciting job.
One of the most rewarding tasks this year was pruning my roses and see them come in flower in Spring (I also helped them along with some fertilisers). I was waiting in anticipation to see the colour of the roses as they weren’t in flower when we arrived in March. Beautiful colours of lilac, apricot, pinks and whites. I also gave our lavender bush a hard prune and it did so well with the rain. I gave our olive and peach tree a hard prune as well as one of the spotted emu bushes that was looking straggly. I pruned our hedge of Duranta repends Sheenas gold in early August but the rain has really brought it to life and I need to prune it again.
It was one of the most exciting things to plant four new trees: a black genoa fig, lime, double banger citrus tree and a mandarin. I’ve noticed that the leaves on the fig tree are patching in colour and told that it might be lacking in iron deficiency. My mandarin tree is also lacking some nutrient deficiency which I am yet to investigate. I changed my irrigation system to add drippers to these new trees.
One of our biggest problems has been the dreaded lawn beetle which we are trying to get on top of without too much luck. We also have a Acacia salicina (willow wattle) nearby which has roots all through our garden. Weeds seem to be a continual problem – popping up all over the place.
It’s been such a nice 8 months at our place with all the rain. We could not having timed a move to Broken Hill at a better time to enjoy all the rain. My work in the garden seems to come in bursts of energy and I’ve tried to make the most of the rain. The weather has started to heat up this week so garden work will have to wait until first thing in the morning or the end of the day. Anyhow, I’ve learned so much already and thankful for the help of locals and strangers on Facebook.