Winter started with a bang

Recently we have had two really nice bouts of rain (25mm and 32mm) about two weeks apart, which set us up for a glorious autumn. These were followed by mostly 20C sunny days with not much wind. Everything turned green, the dust settled down and the plants started that amazing autumn flourish. In fact the new brassicas were bursting out! Excellent gardening (and surfing) weather, which we greatly enjoyed, In fact, we were still having swimming challenges to see who could make 10 lengths in the 17C water in the pool. But all that came to an abrupt end…

The rain started Sunday evening as the temperature plummeted. Markus and I had just put the chooks and ducks away when it came bucketing down. Well, it didn’t come down, it was driving across horizontally! That kind of rain when the chairs get blown off the patio and the rain falls on the patio in places that hasn’t seen a drop since last winter. So, the time for beanies, thick jackets, gloves and boots has arrived. Outside work just gets that bit more challenging, but the show must go on. As they say in Tasmania, which gets about 5C colder and many times wetter than we do, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad (inappropriate) clothing!

Winter - this week

This week’s forecast

So what’s up for this winter?

Well a few big things need to happen at Dreamland – like getting water tanks in before the rain ends, getting all the signs up, and planning an ambitious calendar of events… Oh and moving a wormwood hedge and creating a parking area which is going to be a fun exercise in the muddy clay. At homeland it is a totally different story. Initially we wanted to redo the front lawn as a French pottage garden, but the solarisation of the kikuyu grass was a gross flop (more about that later), and besides, madamme has now come up with a new design. We live in interesting times, indeed. But there is a bigger, longer, over-arching project already underway. It is called…

Winter - tree grass

Kikuyu in the driveway orchard

The war on kikuyu

So the old front lawn and all the beds around it aren’t the only places where we have to fight the kikuyu. We have tons of it down the driveway orchard, at places on both sides of the track. It has started to creep into the mulberry tree and the berry corner next to the shed. But worst – it has crept into the vegetable garden beds from the lawn – through or under a strip of about 6 meters wide of thick mulch and then underneath a paved path with weed mat underneath. So although I’ve already had a few skirmishes down the driveway, the vegetable garden is the scene for the first big battle.

Winter - skirmishes

Initial skirmishes – some trees have been cleared but it’s hard to see…

On the battlefield

But the plot is thicker than you may think. Right where the kikuyu is now coming up in droves, I have the two “main” irrigation pipes running that feed the whole vegetable garden. So I can’t spit or fork there, and neither can I use the gas burner. Those things and irrigation pipes don’t mix well. So in order to get battle ready, I’ve had to flip the whole irrigation system head over heels first so that the pipes run down the other side of the beds. In the process I’m reducing it to one pipe which is the thickness of the feeder pipe from the pump. I can’t remember the rationale for running two pipes at the time, but the water can only flow out as fast as it arrives… In some of the beds we also have perennials, such as Lucerne, asparagus and rhubarb, and two beds with herbs. On all these beds, except the rhubarb and asparagus, I’m also reducing the number of drip pipes. I’m also reducing the taps to one per bed, as we never irrigate single rows. So a bit of a revamp, reconciliation and improvement too.

Preparing for battle

Oops, slowly cowboy! Halfway through the flipping project, working from the back to the front, I run into the new no-dig beds that have all the young brassicas, salads and other winter vegetables. These little plants are neatly planted next to the dripper holes. I know it is winter season now, and we have started getting some good rain, but you never know when we strike a dry week or two and may need irrigation. So the problem is if I flip the pipes around, there is no guarantee that the holes would be at the same places. And disconnecting and reconnecting the pipes at both sides will also weaken the joints or shorten the pipes, besides being a lot of work… So for those two beds I have to lay an extra pipe all along the top edge length-wise to feed it from the other side. It is a waste of pipe for now, but I can recover it when we replant in spring. For now I’ll rather use a bit more pipe and keep the vegetables growing. They’re doing really well!

Winter - brassicas

Brasiccas – don’t dare touch those pipes

So NOW the first battle against the kikuyu can begin. In addition to spitting it out, pulling it out, burning it off where I can, I’m also going to lay more weed mat –both inside the beds and also under the path pavers. Fortunately we’ve got lots that came free from Dreamland. Might as well use it in the battle. We’re going all out in this war this time round. So that big bang wasn’t the temperature dropping and the rain… no mateys, it was the sound of first shots being fired across the bow. We’re on to ya, kikuyu. No easy warm cosy relaxing winter on this side.

Oops, man down

Just as the fight got underway, this cowboy had one too many mugs of coffee on Monday at my day job. The result was a kidney inflammation which saw me limping around in excruciating pain. Four days later it still hasn’t eased up – and as a result some projects are lying in wait, the irrigation pipes are lying all over the vegetable patch, some big stormy waves went unridden and the war was put on hold from my side. Except you know how that works – the enemy doesn’t stop fighting – the kikuyu goes on growing relentlessly. In fact, I don’t think it slows down any bit during winter; it just gets greener and stronger. Oh well, they say patience is a virtue. For now I’ll enjoy looking at the rain (also relentlessly coming down!), listening to “How fragile we are” and catching up on some way-behind admin.

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

12 Comments on Winter started with a bang

  1. And apparently the rain is to continue for another week. Hope you get a few sunny patches to get those jobs done.

  2. hmmm… cheeky grass. I can imagine it taunting you with something along the lines of: You can’t beat me, I kick-a-you.

  3. How does the kikuyu spread?

  4. And I hope the kidney inflammation goes away quickly. I didn’t realise coffee could do this!

    • Thanks Helen – I know I must be careful of anything that causes acidity – even (too much refined) starch, wine, sugar (which we don’t use anyway), and coffee is right up there among them. But I got carried away when everyone in the office called for a second cup of coffee late in the day – a really stupid mistake. We’ll get through it. Thanks for caring 🙂

  5. The kikuyu sounds a bit like slightly tougher couch grass or a miniature creeping bamboo. How does ‘the problem become the solution’ in this case? What can you do with kikuyu?

    • // June 3, 2019 at 9:28 am // Reply

      Nancy, it is similar to couch, but the runners are much thicker and generally longer, growing in almost straightish lines. So it pulls out easier than couch – it doesn’t break off so easily. But it grows like wildfire here… Yes, that is the question – how to turn it into a solution? It is a great grass for kids and dogs to play on if it wasn’t that invasive (dog wee doesn’t make it go yellow). We had it in South Africa too, but there it is much tamer and easier to manage. I read somewhere that Australian soil has way more potassium, that’s why it grows so wild. ANyway, the neighbour’s neglected horse loves it – we often give him the long bits (not the runners, they’re too hard for his old gums). It’s great compost fodder if finely mulched up – it heats the compost heaps really nicely when added freshly mowed. The chickens don’t seem to make much of a dent on the couch, so I don’y know how they will do with the kikuyu (but on our properties the chickens are quite far away from the kikuyu problems.) So we have some uses for it, but we’re not keeping up with its wild expansion. As you can see, we’ve been thinking of ways to turn it into a solution, but we’re still thinking!

      • Sounds like a great grass for sand dune reclamation! More like a mini bamboo. I wonder if it is nutritious? That’s always a satifying solution if it’s edible! Couch is, but it’s not really worth the faff – I’ve not tried it I admit. If it comes out in nice lengths perhaps it would be useful for weaving or string once dried?

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