Rainy day gardening

This must be my favourite sort of summer weather. Warm, wet and faintly tropical. Brooding skies, intense colours and earthy aromas. Being out in the rain and not being all that bothered by it. Watching your child run through the rain and mud, half in the scrud. Sitting on the back porch watching the splash and drip, noticing how the garden seems to have relaxed and expanded. How  rain drops sparkle like the most precious of jewells. I feel relaxed too. My vegetable patch won't die and neither will my garden.

During some of the not so rainy patches I attended to the main vegetable patch. The couch grass invasion has been dug out. The peastraw mulch has been topped up (with much assistance from my little helper) and I've started planting out the next lot of seedlings. First off I planted a second lot of corn. The seeds I sowed direct into the bed didn't germinate but the ones in the seed box all came up. I also planted green and purple basil around the edges of the tomato bed. Purple basil is also going in amongst the cosmos which have suddenly come back to life. I'm thinking that a lower layer of purple foliage and white flowers under the tall laciness of the cosmos could look quite special. If we can keep the water up to them.

I haven't really been watering the garden properly since we went on stage three restrictions. I'm not the best waterer as it is and my preferred method is to give the garden a really long soak about once a week with the sprinkler. I find that works quite well with heavily mulched beds . But I am not allowed to any more. I could water with the hose between 8 and 10 twice a week but I keep missing the appointed times. Like everyone else, we've been bucketing some of the nicer grey water onto the garden. They even have buckets under the showers at the pool and our house guests just treated the bucketing regime as a normal and expected part of life. This bucketing of lite grey water seems to be keeping things going, just. My next garden is going to have a well thought out dripper system. And rainwater tanks.

I'm glad I did the hard work with the mulching earlier in the summer. I spread several bags of chicken manure and compost over the vegie patch and then covered it all with a layer of peastraw. The manure, as well as fertilising the plants, adds moisture holding capacity to the soil. Today as I tiptoed around the patch (trying not to compact the soil) the beds felt very springy. Under the mulch, the soil is mostly looking quite good. Not quite as wet as I'd like, given the amount of rain we've had, but the mulch on top is quite wet and I suppose the soil will absorb some of that over the next few days. It seems as if the plants may have instantly sucked in huge amounts of moisture. As you can see, the plants look plump and upright for the first time in weeks. It's also possible that the soil underneath the garden soil, the sub soil, may have started to dry out. I remember in 2002 the subsoil was so dry that I gave up most watering as it all seemed to suck away very quickly. Amazingly, most of my garden survived that.

The positives of mulching are widely known. It reduces the soil drying out from evaporation, protects worms, improves soil structure and drainage, adds nutrients and water holding capacity, reduces the impactof weeds and provides a soft, absorbent surface for rain to fall on. The down sides are not often talked about. Heavily mulched beds can prevent rain from penetrating into the soil, especially if light. This tends not to happen when watering or rain is regular, but during extended dry spells. And seems to affect beds where not much is growing. Perhaps plants themselves provide ways for the moisture to get into the soil. It's really noticable in the bed of beans (to the back of the photo). The soil under the mulch is quite dry and the mulch seems to have formed a crust with a powder inside it. Many of the dwarf bean seeds I planted have not germinated. Those that did are not doing well. The climbing beans are doing better but they're getting lots of grey water. So I'm going to scuff the mulch up and try to get some beans going. And perhaps think of some other ways to get water under the surface.

Tommorrow I'm going to try and plant the rest of the basil, some cherry tomatoes which I've heard can be grown in a pot over winter (?), coriander and a whole heap of lettuce seedlings. You can never have enough lettuce, I don't think. Then I'll top up the seed boxes and sow the next lot of seeds. I think I should be starting to plant seeds of winter vegetables. I always leave things like broccoli far to late but if I plant it now, then it seems way too early and they'll be attacked by cabbage moths. Maybe I should look it up. If it's rainy, I'll sit under the porch with my book and wait out the heaviest showers. And watch the rain fall. And I certainly won't be complaining about the weather.


HildeC said...

Your post made me dream of summer (we got 20 cm of snow today). Your plants look so healthy, they must really thrive in your garden :-)

Gill said...

Hi this is my first visit to your blog, your photos are amazing, I was delighted to find another gardening blog. I've recently started writing one about my small garden. I look foward to checking up with what you can grow compared to us here in Motueka N.Z. We just had some good rain too, peas and beans I planted came up in about four days. I'll try and do a link to your lovely article if you don't mind.