Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Old Man Is Snoring and Snoring ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 13, 2012

Date:  March 18, 2012

Season:  beginning of Autumn and towards the end of 'wet' season

Well, a few days after my last post, the skies turned a dismal shade of grey, the heavens opened and the rain has not stopped since then.

We had around 240 mm, or 9 inches in just a few days last week, and it keeps on pouring.

The endless drumming on the tin roof as the raindrops belts down is starting to drive us a little nuts.  It's difficult to hear the television or radio, even with the volume yanked up to high!

We haven't seen the harsh summery sunshine, or any sunshine really, for what seems like ages and ages.  Even when we sit out out on the verandah, it's dark and gloomy.  We have lights on inside the house for most of the day, as we both have old old eyes these days, and can't see a damn thing without glasses and bright light!!!

The washing never seems to dry  (I've never had a dryer!).  There's mould appearing on the walls again, and there's that faint musky damp smell creeping through every corner of the house.  This is the real 'wet'.

There are little waterfalls ...

and little lakes appearing around the place.

There are even little rivers making their way down the hillside ...

and the driveway.  You risk life and limb trying to get up and down that slippery slimy surface.  Can you see the green slime covering the cement?  I think we could sell tickets for the extreme experience of trying to get into our house during a 'wet' season.  It would be a fabulous ride.

Unfortunately the relentless rain causes a fair bit of destruction to the gravel driveway every 'wet' season.  The little rivers that make their way downhill carry a lot of the gravel down the cement driveway and dumps it underneath the enormous Ficus benjamina tree outside my husbands' workshop underneath the house.  We lose so much gravel every 'wet', that the driveway ends up looking like a rally track.

Of course all this means that the 'wet' is not the best time to be out gardening.  It's a time when monsoonal rains can sweep in and pummel any foolhardy gardener who attempts to get outside.  Flooding waters can suddenly fill up every dip and ditch and spread out from there making your yard feel like a mucky mire that threatens to swallow you whole.  It's hot and humid, and there's a bountiful supply of biting insect life.

There's also a bountiful supply of wonderful weeds that pop up and seem to multiply like rabbits overnight. These are the most common pesky plants we see here during a wet season.  They're running rife in my garden right now.

Clitoria ternatea or Bush Butterfly Pea

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis or Snake Weed

Tridax procumbans or Tridax Daisy

Passiflora foetida or Stinking Passionfruit

Lantana camara 

and Catharanthus roseus or commonly called the Madagascar Periwinkle or Vinca.

Keeping a handle on these weeds is a year-round job, but takes priority during a wet season.

Of course, there are some positives about a wet season.  When we get the fantastic tropical summer thunderstorms, the lightening crackles and splits the sky, but it also makes the rain rich with nitrogen.  That's a real bonus for plants and we get to see plants literally doubling in size overnight.

It also means the outlook is lush, green and verdant for a change.  The bushland looks its best at this time of year.

Another of the positives is that in the evenings we get to listen to nature's twilight symphony ... the frog chorus.  Although that can be drowned out if the rain is quite heavy.

One of the other bonuses about a 'wet' season though, is that it's the perfect time for propagating your beloved plants by taking cuttings.   As the surrounding air literally drips with moisture, and humidity levels reach up to 99%, it's almost impossible for any cutting to dehydrate, shrivel up and die off in an untimely fashion.   I'm not a gardener who propagates a lot of plants by taking cuttings, but I have started to try this out far more often these days.  I find that I get almost 100% success in strike rate during a 'wet'.  Of course, I've learnt a few tricks, thanks to great advice from more seasoned and successful gardeners.

Take cuttings early in the morning when the plant is full of moisture.  Be sure to take cuttings off actively growing branches, preferably the growing tips of the plants or from branches that are 'green', meaning fresh and new.

I take all my Coleus and Portulaca cuttings at this time of year, and have always had great success with them.

I've also had a lot of success with ramming pieces of Cordyline and Dracaena straight into the moist soil out in the garden beds during the 'wet'.

I've been amazed at the way they take off when the rain has penetrated deep into the ground after weeks of decent liquid sunshine.

I've now started trying to strike Salvia

and Costus during the wet season, and so far so good!

Some of the waterwise or drought tolerant plants take much more of a liking to being transplanted during the wet season too.  They settle into their new spots much faster and start to thrive before the 'dry' rolls around again.

Now I don't transplant all that often either, but this year I've moved some of the new suckers of my huge Ixora coccinea to a spot at the back of the newly constructed pergola.  They doing brilliantly, so I think they will be very happy in their new home.


  1. It is so lovely and green and lush up there at the moment. Looks like everything has hada giant boost of magic fertilizer. It is startig to cool here after a very mild summer. Leaves barely beginning to change color.

  2. Linda May, I would love the see the changing colours of your Autumn down there. That's one thing we miss out on up here. Right now the wet rolls on, and we're waiting to see what the new low that's formed in the Gulf is going to do. It's certainly creating an extensive weather system that's loaded with rain.

  3. It all looks lush and green! We recently went to Maui, HI and there were a few storms where the rain hurt it was coming down so hard a streets were closed due to a rushing river. I think the main island got 17 in in one day! I thought of you, because of your posts. I don't think I'd want to trade, but if I'm around your neck of the woods I'll buy a ticket. Sounds like lots of muddy fun!

    1. Hi Ignorant Gardener, there's been some localised flooding over the weekend and I had a hard time getting to work today. We've had around another 8 inches since Saturday morning and there's no sign of it stopping just yet. There's mud galore everywhere!

  4. Your weather is so extreme. The plants looks so lush and bountiful though it is interesting what you say about the down sides. I suppose here in the Uk we see your lush tropical surroundings and assume it is all wonderful - the whole grass is greener on the other side!!

    1. Yes extreme is the right word Patientgardener. Right now we're under a severe weather warning with rainfall totals that reach between 2 and 4 inches daily. The lush green comes at a bit of a price sometimes.

  5. I love green and you've got it! Funny to see that some things you consider weeds (the periwinkle/vinca) we pay money for in the garden centers here! lol.

    1. Jayne, I wish I could send some of the Periwinkle your way. It just comes up all over the place despite our best attempts at eradication! People could just drop by and pick loads of it up for free!!!

  6. Bernie,
    You are right about how easy it is to propagate plants at this time of year. I love to lop the top of a cordeline and suddenly you have a new plant! In fact I probably over-use them just because of that feature! I am convincing myself that the rain is slowing down. Mind over matter I think.

    1. Africanaussie, there's no sign of it slowing down around here. We haven't seen the sun for at least a week now, and it literally has not stopped raining in that time. At least everything gets a deep, deep soaking, I suppose! As for over-using Cordylines ... not possible. I love them in the garden.

  7. I visited Washington state for about two weeks, and it rained every day. I knew then that I would not like living in Washington. However, as you say there are advantages to all that rain. Your garden appears so lush and healthy. Tropical regions seem to segment their seasons more than our neck of the woods...


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