Some folk get Christmas off to lay around the pool or head for the beach; nothing could be more stressful to a gardener at the height of an Australian summer. Cook and gardener did take a one day holiday in late December 2012 down by the seaside at Glenelg, but with temperatures over 40⁰C (104 F) and heading higher, all we wanted to do was to get home to protect garden and chicken flock. Under these high heat-stress conditions, months of patient work can be killed off in a single day.
Even perfect watering regimes are of little value; solar irradiation burns off the growing tips of potatoes, sunburns tomatoes (white blotches on the westerly face) and wilts just about everything else. Only extensive covers of shade-cloth and all-over mulching can bring the garden through under these conditions, and the covers have to be deployed early in the morning before the heat rises.
With the vegetables protected, it was time to protect the orchard and the peach crop. Not from sunburn this time, but parrots, possums and other predators. So out with the rolls of netting, some improvisation with poles and pipes, and the orchard was sealed, as was the seed table in the foreground below.
Inside the orchard, the peach trees are overloaded with fruit, and branches need supporting with posts and strings. Even then, some of the branches are splitting under the weight; I can now understand why commercial growers thin the fruit beforehand to protect the trees. That didn’t happen here.
And those ‘Isabella’ grapes planted 16 months ago as cuttings? Climbing the orchard walls (on the inside), and producing a grape that tastes more like Passionfruit than anything else, though in small bunches. These are just starting to ripen, but make a pleasant addition to the morning muesli, soon to be over-run by fresh peaches.