This Summer has been one of the driest and hottest on record. The Talkback Gardening advice show on ABC local radio this weekend recommended that gardeners give their trees a good soaking, with a follow up feed and soak next weekend to compensate for the below average rainfall. Much of our day was spent moving hoses and sprinklers around both yards, watering our fruit trees. Next weekend we will give them a feed and another soaking.
We have a good range of young fruit trees:
- Apricot (variety: Trevatt);
- Black Mulberry;
- Passionfruit (a fruiting vine, variety: Grafted Nellie Kelly);
- Lemons (varieties: Eureka and Lisbon);
- Lime (variety: Tahitian);
- Apple (varieties: Early Macintosh and Cox’s Orange Pippin);
- Pomegranate (variety: Azerbaijan);
- Pineapple guava, also known as Feijoas;
All of these are new plantings after we removed the trees that were originally here. We have had our first crop of apricots and passionfruit this year, but have not yet had any crops from the other plantings as they are too small. We are looking forward to healthy crops, but only if we can keep them alive through long, hot Aussie Summers.
Unfortunately, some of our plants have suffered the effects of the heat (we think). A couple of our previously healthy rhubarb plants have died suddenly.
Compare this to the healthy, happy rhubarb plants at the top of this post! I am very much hoping that this is a heat and watering issue for just these two plants, and not a disease or a pest. If it is, I do not want it to spread to my other rhubarb plants. We have about seven rhubarb plants. It is one of my favourite things to grow. I love its beautiful red stems, green foliage, and the interesting decorative structure it brings to a garden. I also love the flavour.
The other task on our list today was to remove the heads of the Giant Russian Sunflowers we grew for the first time this year. My neighbour gave me some seed from his crop last year, and I wanted to give them a try for fun. Little did I know how truly these plants would live up to their name.
The smallest of the flowers grew to over a metre tall, but the tallest were well over two metres tall. They towered over our garden, and when in bloom were truly spectacular. They also attracted many happy bees to our backyard, which doesn’t have the same range of flowering plants as our frontyard. Once in the backyard, the bees were also happy to pollinate our pumpkins and zucchini.
After they finish flowering, the heads form seeds, and the weight of the hundreds of seeds in each flower cause the heads to droop. A plant that formerly looked so cheery begins to look downright mopey. By the time we reached this weekend, the heads were so heavy, the stalks were beginning to slant to the ground. My husband used our fishing knife to remove the heavy seed heads, much to the sadness of our eldest daughter, who loved the “Sunflower Paradise” as she called it.
We are now drying the heads on top of our work shed.
Each seed head weighs over a kilogram. My neighbour said that the heaviest seed head he harvested last year produced 1.8 kilograms of sunflower seeds. As he has chickens and pigeons, he was very happy with that harvest.
We plan to save some seeds to plant next year, and some to eat. My husband loves eating sunflower seeds, and although these are kind of a pain to dehusk, he doesn’t mind doing it. I will also give some to my mum for her chickens; a trade for the chicken manure she gives me for my compost bin.