Saturday, February 8, 2014

New Garden Beds Are Finished ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 6 , 2014

Date:  February 8, 2014

Season:  end of Summer, 'wet' season (huh, I laugh with much disdain!), and 'cyclone' season

Yes it's been a while since my last Garden Journal.  I feel like I'm confessing an awful sin or something.  My last Garden Journal post was way back in October I think, but to be honest, there hasn't been all that much to report on since then.

Things do tend to grind to a halt around here during late Spring (November) and into the Summer (December, January, February).  The conditions get pretty darn hot and humid, and getting outside is not all that enjoyable for most of the day.  Of course, during December and into January, I'm on holiday as our longest school break occurs during our beginning and middle Summer months.  I spend a lot of that time visiting with my eldest son and grandchildren down south, and then I have to get back and spend a couple of weeks preparing for the new school year.  That also contributes to the restricted amount of time spent out in the garden.

Back in October, I was reporting on the arrival of some light showers of rain, which doesn't happen all that often in our mid-Spring month.  We did get a little rainfall during November, the heaviest showers occurred at the beginning of the month, but then December and January turned out to be a lot drier than usual.

Our 'wet' season is supposed to begin in December and we spend a lot of time looking for the signs of coming rain.  We usually get some really heavy falls towards the end of January into February.  Well that hasn't happened this year.  It's been quite a dry wet season so far, and we're still waiting for those heavy torrential downpours.

Okay, so weather aside, let's get onto what has happening around here since last October.

My darling husband decided it was definitely time to get rid of a couple of Coconut Palms that had been growing along a fence line next to the bush paddock.  Four had been planted there many years ago, before we arrived, and they just looked totally out of place with the native bushland behind them.  Over the years one of them simply died off of its own accord.  One was knocked flat during Cyclone Yasi, and the last two just started to get on our nerves with their constant messy look.

Well my darling tackled this job on his own, giving me cause to worry for the whole two days it took to complete the job.  He cut both of the massive Palms down, cut them into sections and then dragged them off to a section in the bushland over the fence where they could remain hidden behind a rock shelf while they disintegrate over time.  You can just see the top of the rock shelf behind the two fallen Palms in the photo above.  I tried my best not to watch this whole process.  Remember, our property sits on a steep sloping piece of land and I had visions huge Palms rolling down the hillside, or my husband getting crushed by massive big pieces of crashing Palm trunk.

Anyway, the job was completed fairly safely (I won't go into that!), and I have to admit that the view is a whole lot better now without the ugly tops of Coconut Palms getting in the way.

The construction of my new garden beds was finished back in November last year.   Thanks have to go to my darling hubby again.  He did a fantastic job building these beds on a quite challenging section of our property.  It wasn't an easy job constructing garden bed walls on a sloping site, and I think he's proven just what a fantastic problem solver he is!!!

In the new beds that were built around the newly-extended car shed, I spent some time creating a 'lasagne' garden.  Well, when I say 'I', I really mean my DH.  I did have the idea, but he did most of the heavy work.  It's how things seem to work around here!

Anyway, he spread gypsum all over the bottom of the beds first, to help break up the clay soil.  Then my hubby spread a huge load of horse manure that he had managed to get delivered from a neighbour ... for free.

 Horse manure?  I hear you ask.  Yes, I know horse manure has had a bad wrap over the years, with claims about seeds sprouting everywhere.  But if you are not intending on applying it directly to the soil around growing plants, and you want a great soil conditioner/soil improver, then horse manure is the answer.

The values of horse manure:
- easily available in my neck of the woods as there are quite a few neighbours around here who have horses   on their property

- holds a lot of water, which is important in a dry zone like mine

- while it does contain nutrients, it also contains plenty of fibre which makes it an excellent soil conditioner
This was a very important aspect for me when considering which manure to use in the spot where the new beds have been built

- it's a complete fertilizer supplying nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, although the concentrations are low compared to other manures

- it releases its nutrients slowly over time, which is a great feature

- you can use it fresh when building a 'lasagne' garden and you don't need to age it for months and months

- it doesn't burn plants, even if you do not let it compost for six months

- it's lighter to haul around

- it doesn't smell as much as other manures.

After laying gypsum and horse manure in all the new beds, my husband spread out hay mulch and garden mulch, before finally finishing the job by spending a back-breaking day spreading out over 20 cubic metres of garden loam, which again he managed to get delivered ... for free!  It pays to get to know your neighbours well.

We needed that much garden loam because the sections of the new beds at the end of the car shed extension are very, very deep.

I then added in some blood and bone to all the beds and started the process of planting.

There was a little bit of planting completed in late November / early December, but by then the beginning of our summertime had begun, and that is most certainly not the ideal time for planting here in the northern tropics.  The heat, the fierceness of the sunshine and the high humidity levels means young plants have an excruciating time settling in to new spots in my garden.

Thankfully the few that I had planted did very well through our first summer month of December, and by January had settled in beautifully, although there hadn't been all that much growth.  They just needed some rain to really take off.

So far we've had only 130 mm of rain for 2014 (5 inches), which is considerably less that the usual for this time of the year.  It seems as if the 'wet' season is going to be more of a 'slightly damp' season. 

Anyway, I've taken advantage of the showers of rain that we have had, and planted a few more things in the new beds.  I'm also top mulching the beds in sections, as I can afford to buy more of that lovely sugar cane mulch.  Slowly, slowly it will all take shape.

So far, to the new 'Under the Triangular Palm' garden bed, I've added various Costus plants, a few Crossandras, my one and only Plumeria pudica, a Tabernaemontana corymbosa and a dwarf white Ixora, a few Dracaenas and Diffenbachias, a couple of Crotons, Cordylines and Acalyphas, some Hippeastrum and Hymenocallis, some Coleus and a few Zyphyranthes and Habranthus.  I've still got some Iris domestica and more Crossandras and Zyphyranthes to add yet.

I've planted a couple of Croton Zanzibars, a clump of Hymenocallis and some Zephyranthes in the first narrow 'Beside the Car Shed' garden bed.

There's a Gardenia and a couple of Salvia splendens plants that have gone in the second narrow 'Beside The Car Shed' bed.

The 'End of the Car Shed' bed has only a Wrightia with some Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', a dwarf pink Azalea indica, some Coleus and an Acalypha 'Inferno'.  I'm now waiting for all these to settle in before adding anything else. 

We're all on the lookout for rain now, and hopefully we will get some truly decent torrential monsoonal rain soon.


  1. It's going to look beautiful Bernie. It seems the weather is peculiar all over the world this year. A lot of southern England is flooded. We would willingly share some rain!
    Wonderful to see the kookaburra.

    1. Thanks Rusty. I am so looking forward to seeing the beds fill in and the plants mature. It's just fabulous having some more garden space. If only you could share some of that wonderful rain! There are quite a few spots around here that could do with a lot of rain. As for the Kookaburra, we see quite a few of those every single day here. We're very lucky.

  2. I think we're having all the rain that you crave, it's been non stop for two months now, not the nice gentle rain we usually have, but torrential most of the time. Your new beds are going to look really good when your shrubs get going, will look forward to seeing them then.

    1. Two months of torrential rain! That's what should be happening here. You obviously have our wet season. It must have got lost!

      I've still got quite a bit of work to do with the new garden beds yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing everything that's already in there make themselves at home and flourish. I can't wait for the blooms!

  3. A beautiful post , lots of great shots , it will be fantastic .I sent you 3 different lots of seeds di you get them before christmas .maybe they went astray.

    1. Gosh Pitta, I'm so sorry. I thought I had sent a thank you email. Obviously I forgot in amongst the frantic preparations for a new school year. I know I'm getting more and more forgetful as I get older!

      Yes I did indeed receive your seeds. Thank you so very much. Unfortunately I didn't get to sow them until last weekend, but I can already see some of the Adeniums popping up.

      I've had such great luck with all your Adenium and Rain Lily seeds. As you can see from the post I've already planted quite a few of the Rain Lilies that have sprouted from all the seeds you've already sent me. The Adeniums will be going into a few corners of the new garden beds soon too. I've been putting out all the plants in pots first to see whether or not the wallabies would treat them as lunch. So far so good, and they haven't touched any of the test plants so far, including the Adeniums.

  4. It looks promising already, but after the real rain!

    1. Yes the whole garden really needs the proper wet season rain. The showers have been lovely, but it's just not enough to get everything through the coming dry season.

  5. My guess is that Pauline lives near us, in Darwin. We've had so much rain. The almost constant and often very heavy rain with some strong wind gusts has knocked things about, and I've had to cut down no less than 8 large palm trees, mostly fishtails (Caryota mitis), three because they simply fell onto nearby garden beds, and one over the fence into our neighbour's yard. We are all looking for things to dry out a bit, so we can again plant annuals, and replenish nutrients leached out by the rain. The big benefit of the rain has been lower than usual temperatures for the last couple of months, but garden maintenance has not been all fun, as the humidity levels have been very high even when there has been a gap in the rain.

    1. It certainly sounds like you've had a monsoonal wet season over there, Peter. That sounds like what we're used to having at this time of the year, but it doesn't seem to be happening this time around. What a shame about the Fishtails. I don't mind them. When they're just falling over though, I suppose they can't really stay.

      Well I hope things dry out soon for you. Maybe that heavy monsoonal rain will migrate south-east a bit. I know exactly what you mean about the humidity levels. They can be excruciating during a proper wet season.

  6. Great new gardens...planted and looking wonderful. Your summer is like our gardening. Can't wait for our spring.

    1. Thanks Donna. I'm looking forward to the coming Autumn when I can get out into the garden a lot more. Hopefully in the meantime we get a taste of a real wet season.

  7. The new garden beds are great, a lot of work to establish. It is also a lot of fun to plant new garden beds.They already look good despite the challenge of the dry summer.

    1. It's been a slow haul, Titania. Little steps, but it's now complete and I can't wait to see the beds fill in and mature. So far the plants that have gone in have done really well.

  8. The plants have settled in really well in your new garden beds.
    With the coming rains, they'll get even bigger and soon you'll be talking about trimming back the jungle area beside the car

    1. Lol, I would gladly chat about trimming back the jungle in the new beds. I can't wait for that day! Maybe next year's wet season will help produce the jungle.

  9. Wow, you have done alot of work. Planting a new garden bed is so rewarding a few months later. I always think I haven't put enough plants in, until they start to grow, and then I have probably put in too many! We had around 300mm over the week, and now nothing for a day or so. I am kind of glad it has stopped now to let everything dry out, but I am hoping that isn't it! Your kookaburra is a cutie, we have had some babies doing flight training around the place, along with many other birds, but I can't get pics of them. Time for a decent camera I think.

  10. You and your husband have achieved a great deal this gardening year, Bernie! I hope you get rain soon. My garden is under a foot of snow, so I loved your summery pictures. P. x

  11. Bernie, this post is very educational and thanks for sharing all of these gardening projects and secrets. Thanks also for visiting my new blog!

  12. Bernie looks fab well done to your hubby.

    I to have a guy like this its great.


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