I’ve finally learnt not to fight the climate. The garden is situated on a windswept plain some 70 miles from the sea at an altitude of 400 metres. Summer temperatures can reach 47 degrees C. during summer although it mostly doesn’t top 42 C. Winter temperatures can go down to -6C. Our first frost occurs during the middle of April, which is mid autumn in Australia, and we have the last frosts during November which is late spring here. Most rain falls during the cooler months.
Good soil preparation and careful drought tolerant plant selection are the keys to gardening in this climate. Good soil preparation is essential if plants are to flourish with very little supplementary watering. The soil in the garden was very compacted and totally lacking in humus so at the start I dug the soil as deeply as possible and then mix 4 or 5 inches of compost through the top six inches or so. The compost both helps to aerate the soil and to hold moisture.
My soil is very acid, about 4.5 Ph when we started, so I added the equivalent of two tons of dolomite lime to the acre at the start and dust the garden with ground limestone most seasons. It’s very hard to raise soil Ph quickly from such a low starting point. After the soil is prepared I try to plant straight away as I like to mulch before weed seeds start to germinate. The mulch I use is a fine composted pine bark. I never ever use raw pine bark or raw woodchips. Any mulch I use has to be composted.
I water the garden well at the most four times a year but more usually two or three times a year depending on the season. When I do water I water well. I use an overhead sprinkler during a cool summer spell. I give each area about an inch and a half. A rain gauge tells me when I’ve watered enough. Watering during hot spells can be a problem for the many thousands of bulbs which are planted underneath the perennials. David Glenn