DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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22 January 2013

A drought in our backyard

One of the reasons we chose to live in this area was that the climate and rainfall would help us grow food in the backyard. Usually we get about 1300mm/51 inches of rain a year here. The January average is about 200mm/8 inches, so far this year it's 0. In the past six months we've had a drought in our neighbourhood. It's not a generalised drought over the whole region, it just seems to be contained in our small area. Strange. Hanno and I went for a drive out west a couple of weeks ago, we drove through the rainforest and came out the other side in a town that is usually dry and brown. But this time it was as green as could be. It seems our rain moved west.

The next few photos are our garden at various times throughout the year. As you can see, Hanno does a great job organising the plants and keeping the weeds down while growing the most delicious fresh food for our table.





I think we've had only about a quarter of our normal rainfall in the past six months. Luckily we didn't keep our vegetable garden going over summer because even though we have town water and two water tanks, we don't like using the town water on the garden and the tanks are almost empty. It breaks my heart to see the backyard now. In the 15 years we've lived her, this is only the second time I've seen it like this. Usually our grass is bright green all year, we never water it with the hose, it's kept that way with natural rainfall. But now it is brown and the grass crackles under your feet.

Above is this area of the garden a couple of years ago. Below is the same area yesterday afternoon.


Producing organic vegetables and eggs is an important part of our lives now. We don't want to lose that. We usually end our vegetable planting in November, keep harvesting till December, then let the soil rest until we sow our annual crops in March. But the garden is looking parched and dead. I wonder how long it will take the worms to come back once the rains start again.


But we won't give up. In the next couple of weeks, we'll plan our 2013 garden. We'll start most things as seeds sown in the bush-house, then transplant to the garden when they're big enough. This is the most cost effective way of producing vegetables.

From seeds, they'll grow into seedlings and will then be planted out.

Generally we have enough for us and to give away to family and friends. It gives us a good feeling to be able to do that.

Above is the garden last March when we had just started to plant up for the year.

This is what it looks like now.

The drought has severely effected the citrus. Many of the small lemons are falling off now and our orange trees, usually packed full at this time of year, have very few fruit.

In these two photos - above and below, you can see our back lawn. It usually looks like this all year round.


But this is what it looks like now.

Above is the chicken run last year. Now it's a dry dust bowl.


This flock of plumed whistling ducks landed in the yard late yesterday. They didn't stay long, they were looking for green grass and water. Photo by Hanno.

Above is what the garden looks like when viewed from the back verandah. 
This photo was taken from the same spot yesterday afternoon. Those few patches of green are chilli and capsicum/pepper bushes. They're still growing well.

I have no doubt our climate is changing. Australia is experiencing the hottest summer ever recorded. The weather bureau has added a new colour to our weather map - it's for over 50C/122F. We need to change how we live.

Hanno said the other day that he'll be starting the garden off early this year. It's essential we get those seeds sown in February so from about late March we have the beginnings of nine months of fresh organic food. But we can't do anything without water. Hopefully it will rain soon, the sub-soil and the top soil will be wet enough to entice the worms back, we'll sow our seeds, they'll start growing and the vegetables will turn this brown landscape into a green oasis. It all depends on the rain.

I sometimes get the feeling that many readers here think our garden is perfect all the time. Well, nothing is perfect and the photos above show you that we struggle as much as anyone. There is no golden ticket for anyone when there is no rain. But over the years we've learned patience and acceptance and I know that it might not be tomorrow but soon that monsoon will bring rain and new life to our backyard.

What is your greatest worry in your garden right now? If you have any photos to share of your backyard, post them over at the forum and we'll have a talk about it during the day.

97 comments:

  1. Oh Rhonda... We have been hearing the news of the record hot and dry weather in Australia. It really looks dead in your back garden. Although I know how quickly it can spring back when the rain comes, as long as the soil is healthy and I bet it is in your garden. (Used to live in Africa).
    Here in the North of England my biggest worry is the high winds and snow. Have to check our polytunnel regularly, but the rest just has to wait until it thaws...

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  2. Hi Rhonda - sorry to hear about your garden. It's so disheartening after all the effort you both put in - but don't give up - if Hanno gets the veggies in early they'll stand a chance of growing big and strong. Our weather in the UK is at the other end of the scale - I'm thinking of getting wellies for my hens, before they develop webbed feet! Stay strong, Chris x

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  3. Oh dear, Rhonda - that's a big change :-( I know several of the bloggers I follow have the same problem. We're currently under 6 inches of snow. I hope you get some rain soon, and enough to fill your tanks. You can't do much in a garden without rain. Jo

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  4. I think that we have had all your rain!! last spring a drought was announced in England and a hosepipe ban, the next day it rained and it rained almost everyday throught out the summer, into the autumn and winter. The wettest year on record. Our rain is falling as snow at the moment, trafic chaos and schools shut! Perhaps you will get the same -rain everyday for months!

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  5. and UK has just experienced the wettest year since records began.

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  6. I've read about your dry weather in various news articles, but I really didn't think it was THAT bad. Hopefully you get a good couple rains soon!
    Unfortunately we don't have a spot for a garden where our new apartment is. But I have a pot full of mint growing in my kitchen! :)
    Have a lovely day,
    - Kristin

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  7. I totally agree about the changes in the weather.Anyone denying this hasn't tried to grow their own for a few years. After 32 years here on our (small) smallholding we are experiencing increased temperatures with higher rainfall. When we moved here growing sweetcorn was something not on the list. Now we grow it every year with success. Conversely, last year saw plants sitting in water after an early drought. It has certainly been a challenge, but one we continue to rise to. You must be distressed at your veg patch at present, but I'm sure you will make afresh start and succeed in the next season. We are under a thick blanket of snow at the moment(hardly surprising for winter in England)which means no gardening at present, but time for crafting and cooking..every cloud ..!!!

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  8. I think many of us are in the same boat Rhonda.
    I just posted how I have decided to mulch most of our grass away, hoping that it will conserve any rain that does come our way. We are on tank water and they are getting low. Our dam is almost empty and we have had some days of extremely hot weather.
    I do hope that it rains for you soon Rhonda. I know how depressing it is when you look out the window and all you see is brown.

    Take care.

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    1. I hope we all get rain soon and your tanks and dam fill.

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  9. I can understand how that would be heartbreaking. It's very worrying when you can see the affects of climate change in such an immediate way. It's not just a 'world' problem, it affects individuals in ways you've so aptly illustrated. I'm sure your garden will be as resillient as you are. I hope you receive rain soon.

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  10. Hoping you get some decent rain soon!

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  11. It's dry here too Rhonda. I too have shut down my vegie garden until the autumn. Luckily we have an irrigation water right which means we still have access to water but we don't waste it. Minimal watering (unlike some of our neighbours who water for 6 to eight hours at a time). It's enough to keep the garden alive but not to make it thrive. We, as the human race, need to desperately change how we live our lives. This hot weather and extreme conditions are Mother Nature's way of telling us we are stuffing up our planet. Youngest son (13)was watching the news the other night with the fires and severe heat and commented that "humans are pretty stupid people if we can't see that our world is in trouble."

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  12. Hi Rhonda

    Like you, we chose our location based on the mostly good rainfall, temperate climate and excellent soil. I also have no doubt that our climate is changing.

    I have made the most of the drier weather in the mountains and this year have had my best ever crop of tomatoes - cherry, Roma and some heirloom full-sized ones that I cannot remember the name. The great success has been rockmelon (cantaloupe). Normally I would not even consider trying to grow them in our 72 inch rainfall location but this year has been perfect for them. We have picked 4 already and there are at least 6 more still growing. Like all homegrown produce that is ripened on the vine they have brightly coloured flesh and a flavour that is so different to the anaemic supermarket offerings. This is from 2 vines so I am very pleased. The capsicums are also the best I have ever grown.

    Hopefully the rains will come soon and your garden will be back in full production.

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  13. So sorry to see the photos of your garden. Down here in western Victoria things are much the same. We have purchased water tanks so that not one inch of rain runs off any roof to waste. Even the chook house has its own water tank. Bringing in tomatoes,beans,green vegetables this year cannot help to bring a feeling of pride when you know the extra effort that has had to be made.Best of luck for the new season, Rhonda and Hanno. Gardeners always know next year will be fine.!!

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  14. We can relate to your garden Rhonda - water is something we do not have any control over. We are in the riverina and have a bore which we use on the vegetables planted and garden. We do not water our lawns and they are like yours brown and crackly. If we are not battling fruit fly there is always something else! All we can do is keep our chins up and persevere.

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    1. I wish you the best for 2013, Maryjo. I hope the rains find you too.

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  15. The drought here in Colorado has been extreme. I can't actually recall the last year we weren't in drought! It's very arid here to begin with but it's gotten really bad lately. Last summer was so hot that the tomatoes couldn't set on fruit for most of the season. I usually plant spinach in the fall and winter it over. This year it all died for lack of moisture. They say you should plant the cool weather crops in early March here, but I'm almost thinking I should start earlier so they'd have a better chance of withstanding the heat... problem is I'd have to irrigate them by hand. Sigh.

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    1. We have more problems from the heat than from cold weather. That's why we switched seasons and plant up in autumn (March). It works well for us. Good luck with your new season.

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    2. You're so lucky to have that option. Here in Denver the weather is just so darned unpredictable. Today was 60 degrees Farenheit, but it could have easily been twenty below zero. I guess this is just one of the challenges of living in a land of extremes! Someday I will actually get it together to build that cold frame that I've been dreaming about...

      Here's hoping you get some rain soon!

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  16. Oh my word - 122 degrees!! I am very sorry for you, and hope you get rain soon.

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  17. Hi Rhonda,
    I really feel for you, it's depressing to see those photos. I'm wondering why you won't use tap water - is it the cost, or the chemicals they add to it? I don't have tanks in yet, so without tap water our food production here in Armidale would probably be zero year-round.

    We were expecting drought this Summer but have had a couple of big rainfalls,fingers crossed we get some more and so do you.

    Have a beautiful day, Madeleine

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  18. We too are feeling the effects of no rain for weeks on end here in Melbourne. I had such high hopes for vegie growing here in our new home, but I have struggled to keep things alive. Our poor guinea pigs suffer the most as there is simply no fresh grass to feed them at all.
    I have run our tanks down just trying to keep plants alive. May we all receive the rain we need soon.

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  19. I hope you get rain soon. You chickens look happy regardless of the heat though.
    Like everyone else, I do feel your frustration. Last summer I had a rotten time with my basil, tomatoes and cucumbers which had done beautifully the year before and I was not the only one in the area, we live in New Jersey,noticing a change in our veggie garden. The three things that have stayed hearty have been kale, leeks and swiss chard. The other thing that blew my mind was my rosemary was growing even after it snowed! Amazing how plants adapt to these weather changes even though it may not always be positive.

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  20. I'm a bit discouraged with gardening because our home is located in a coastal area that is prone to flooding. The soil can be enriched with compost, of course, but each time it floods, chemicals and oils from neighbors non-organic yards and from their mowers and boats contaminate the soil. After this year's flood in October, a bad one, I could smell heating oil from my neighbor's tipped over oil tank in my side garden. I think it's gone now. The smell is gone at least.

    Maybe I shouldn't garden here at all. This area apparently was a marshland before people moved in and built it up.

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  21. What a beautiful oasis you'd created, and how heartbreaking it is to see it so parched. Here on the other side of the world (I'm in Kansas), we're having a drought, too. Of course, it's winter for us but I've been looking forward to sowing our cold weather vegetables soon. Not sure how I'll keep them growing with so little moisture!

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  22. And to think only two years ago there was too much water and a lot of flooding in Australia

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  23. Here on the Northern Rivers of NSW I set out a few plants in November for the summer season, but I noticed rather soon that they weren't thriving. I decided there and then to not plant this summer, and I am so glad I have made that decision, we have had a hot dry (for this region) summer. We are on town water, but like you I don't like wasting it on struggling vegetables.

    So I gave the veggie patch a blanket of mulch, and put it to bed for the summer for a good long rest. Hopefully like you I can plant again soon.

    Also just a quick thought on using town water when you have to, I think it is still better to use a bit of town water to grow veggies, because it has to be better than all the water and fuel used to grow and transport supermarket fruit and veg.

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  24. rhonda, we are just a little south of you in northern NSW and are also experiencing drought :( we also normally get very high rainfall- but have had precious little in the last 6 months... our garden is sad- i've had to let it go because of the constant dry and crazy high heat (we've had so many days above 40 it must be a record)... it's not just my vege garden that's dead, my blueberries are dying despite me trying to keep water up to them (they obviously don't like such high heat) and shrubs!! are starting to die- shrubs that haven't ever needed to be watered before are now dying... it's very stressful to watch the plants suffering so much and being able to do so little about it... every day we hope for rain... i don't know what to do about my vege garden at the moment... i'm not even going to think about it until this weather cools down for a bit!

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    1. We have four blueberry bushes that weren't doing well so last year I dug them up and put them into four large pots. They stayed outside in the sun and were growing well until this drought. Hanno moved them into the bushhouse for me about a month ago, I gave them a drink of Seasol, cut the dead bits back and kept them in the shade of the bushouse (about 80% shade). They're doing really well now. We're going to change a few things because of the weather and when they go outside again, they'll be shaded from the afternoon sun. I hope you can save yours too.

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  25. Its a worry, im in Country Victoria, i have 5 garden beds that are raised tank types. I have a 1000ltr tank just for the veges which is usually enough. This season has been so dry that i dont think i have seen rani in our area for 2 months, so summer rain like we would normally get which tops the tank up. My tank is now empty and i have to use town water to keep things going. Most of my plants each have a soft drink bottle beside them and that how much water each plant get every second day or so. I have lost some lettuce as they have dried out in the extreme heat, its sad to see but there is nothing i can do but keep using town water and hope for rain.

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  26. Rhonda I live not far from you and our place is exactly the same. My capsicums are doing well but that is all. Even my beans got killed off by the heat and the melons I planted are struggling along. I had what looked like a great crop of pumpkins coming on but now even they look like they might keel over. Apparently Brisbane got rain yesterday and I was just outside and there were a few tiny drops falling from the overcast sky. Sadly unless there is a lot more to follow they will not even get past what is left of the grass to the soil. Praying for rain to come our way soon.

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  27. Oh Rhonda, my heart just aches for you and Hanno. I know how much the garden means to your livelihood and sense of purpose and identity, and I do hope this is just a passing season. I hear the monsoon has finally broken in the Territory, so hopefully that will mean a change for you too.

    I feel very silly feeling sad about my garden failures now. We had a puppy visit a few days ago and he dug up half my lettuce seedlings. I had been mothering them through the dry spells and had poured hours in, and litres of water.... But that's nothing compared to your situation. It was just a silly patch of lettuce in my tiny courtyard.

    Ill be sending thoughts of rain up your way, and be hoping for the best for you!

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    1. Don't feel silly. When you put time and effort into something you want to see it succeed. I hope you plant more lettuce. Thanks for your kind thoughts. xx

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  28. Good morning Rhonda,
    You must be in a rain shadow like us at the moment. We can sit on our back verandah and look around us in all directions and see rain, yet we are dry. Perhaps one saving grace for us is that our blacksoil is very heavy and does hold onto groundwater for longer than many other areas. However, I agree with you, our weather here is definitely changing. Let's hope some of the monsoon rainfall finds it way south.
    Kind regards, Barb.

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  29. We are having a dry hot summer this year and the gardens are suffering all we can do is wait it out and hope it improves.
    Merle....

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  30. The localised drought here means our garden looks much like yours, this is our growing season and never have we had such a pest-ridden one. In Friday's extraordinary heat Tony lost tomatoes, lettuce (bolted and wilted), beans and his roses out the front. We are giving some thought to more container gardening so we can move things around.

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  31. Hi Rhonda, its not easy when the weather in this country is so variable! Apparently this happens every 20 years or so, the monsoon just doesn't come, or is really late. I have managed to keep our garden going, and through a number of strategies, some of which may help you. First we have shade cloth over all our vege garden, which helps to reduce evaporation, and all the gardens have a thick layer of mulch. Second we are on tank water only, so it is far to precious to waste, all our bathroom and laundry (not kitchen) grey water goes on the garden. I know this is not recommended, but whoever came up with that must live in some magical world with lots of water! So I always have about 50 L/day for the garden. We have had maybe 50mL of rain this summer, which doesn't go far with temperatures over 35degC, and like you, we would normally expect 200mL in Nanango. Our grass is crunchy too, and we have animals to feed, but I keep having to remind myself that the full-time farmers are doing it so much harder right now, some of our neighbours are very down at the moment, with no feed for their stock and crops in the ground that are not going to produce, we at least have full-time off-farm jobs to rely on. Now that the monsoon has finally come to northern Australia we hope it will also bring us some relief. I hope some of my ideas can help you, as its awful to not be able to produce anything over summer. Cheers, Liz

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  32. We are just south of you and our grass is golden brown and brittle, water tank near empty and tantalising grey clouds - alas rainless *sigh* and to think the past 2 years we have been on flood watch. tis a harsh country we live in!

    Our ony saving grace is the biocycle water hose pumps out on our new(ish) turf keeping it lush and green!

    Im sure it will rain from next week, school returns & it always dumps down when we are driving to and fro!

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  33. Hey Rhonda, our garden is the same here in Brisbane, everywhere is brown and dead, we have lost some of our trees, our Lemon Myrtle has died which was quite well established and healthy. It breaks my heart too to see things so dry, the birds are searching for things to eat, I suspect there is also a lack of insects around with the temps we have been getting too! I have always know your area would have good rainfall being at the bottom of the Maleny hill. Our fruit trees are struggling and much of the pollinated fruit has dropped off. We will have to think of new strategies for the future I am sure. I wish you and the rest of Aus some good rain.
    Shirley

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  34. Up here in the tropics we have not had as much rain as normal, although there is a low to the north of us right now and that is giving us some of the deluges common to the area. Hopefully it continues down south and spreads the liquid joy around.

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  35. Rhonda, we are having the same problem here in Maitland (west of Newcastle) - We had some light rain a couple of days ago, but that was all we'd had for a looooong time. All I can suggest is conserve and reuse as much water as you can - I keep a bucket in the shower and any excess water is tipped into a receptacle that later gets used on the garden. When rinsing out pots and pans, I try to trot them out and chuck the water over the garden instead of down the sick.

    Even the water that doesn't get drank from water bottles when we go out, gets tipped on the garden! I also keep a receptacle (my partner made me a couple of mini-wheelie bin water tanks - taps and all!) next to the animals water bowl - so as I am washing out their bowl - all that water now gets saved instead of tipped out.

    I'm also thinking about investing in some containers I can keep in the sink - so all that water that gets wasted whenever someone rinses out a glass etc can then be saved for the garden.

    One thing I used to do was save the rinse water from the washing machine and use that to wash the next load - may have to start doing that again!

    I certainly hope the situation improves soon!

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  36. I'm in Melbourne's south east suburbs and had a water tank installed 2 years ago for my vegies and fruit trees, and occasionally washing the cars. The 2000L tank has always been at least half full until this summer. It ran dry 3 weeks ago and I think in that time we've had only a sprinkling of rain. I've taken to watering my fruit trees with the mains water as a few of them started to look very sad. Our grass is like straw, which is fairly normal for this time of year. We were right in the thick of some of the fires last week (in Pakenham)and it worried me a lot knowing how dry all the grass, trees and area is. We were very lucky though, the CFA got it sorted.

    Fingers crossed for some decent rain across Australia soon.

    The photos of your garden broke my heart Rhonda :(

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  37. I live about 40 minutes from you. We too are having a severe drought. Since July last year, we have had just 6 inches of rain. We don't have town water, only tank and that brings its own issues.

    It's amazing when we think back - between 1 December 2011 and 15 January 2012, we had more than a metre of rain fall.... This year it's about 2 mm....

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  38. hi Rhonda,

    it's so interesting hearing about your drought as this summer we had non stop rain here in north west England - it meant it was impossible to get onto the allotment and we in essence gave up - when you're taking more soil off your plot on your feet than you put on in manure you know something's wrong. Here's hoping you get some appropriate rain and we get some appropriate sun - notice the caveat there - i don't think we want to be trading our last summers weather.

    So good to hear Hanno's had a successful resolution to his condition and here's hoping for continued health and happiness to you and yours - and some rain.

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  39. Dear Rhonda,
    In spring in Victoria it rained and rained not much grew, then summer hit no rain, and heat. I have been watering my veg garden with town water for the past month. Not sure what my water bill will be. I never water grass it is dead, will be soon dust. I have been getting extra lettuce and scraps from fruit shop, poor chooks nothing green to eat in the run. Waiting for rain hopefully some later this week. On the upside I have tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, beans, broccoli, lettuce, strawberries (not many to dry for them), to eat from the garden. Home grown tomatoes are the best. I have just finished reading your book, loved it. Di

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  40. The warm fireplaceJanuary 22, 2013 9:03 am

    It is very worrying the way the weather is going, your poor garden, the worry is that food production in your garden and the country will suffer, we had so much rain here in the UK last year lots of crops failed. We have snow here at the moment. Hope that things will improve for you.
    sue

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  41. Our worry is the same as yours. no rain. Usually we get Spring rain which sets us up for summer. But not this time.

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  42. Dear Rhonda and Hanno. I am devastated by these recent photographs. Thank you for posting them to remind us all how much we depend upon our rainfall. I have done the same thing with my allotment, I will not water it during this time. I tried to water it for a while but the water hardly penetrated, then decided the water was too precious. Living in Brisbane, I can harvest fresh veggies during a long growing season and I preserve the surplus. I bought a small second-hand chest freezer for surplus veggies and I'm now using that produce. I feel blessed that even during these scorching hot days I can still eat produce from my tiny allotment every day. A relief, it rained here last night and we are promised more of it today. It's very cloudy, but the promise of rain does not always come good. Best wishes.

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  43. The photos of your garden in times past are absolutely beautiful - I'm sure it must be disheartening for you now, although it will change and the rains will come at some point. I heard on the news last week about the very hot summer that Australia is experiencing - unthinkable that it could be 120 degrees plus. Here in the US, floods and hurricanes are wreaking havoc, and the weather seems to be changing dramatically. I agree that some changes need to happen, and I do my part as much as possible. Mindboggling that there are still people around who don't believe that the climate is changing. Thank you for your post, Rhonda.

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  44. From the other side of the world and on a freezing night, with snow outside, it is heartbreaking to read all your stories about the heat and drought in Australia. We had a poor harvest from our veggie garden last year because of the cold, very wet summer. I do hope that some gentle rain arrives for you soon ( no more flooding!) and that your temperatures drop again. Best wishes from a very cold England.

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  45. I have lost a well established tree here in Brisbane, and my lime tree has dropped all its fruit. I follow your lead, Rhonda, and don't garden through summer, but my garden bed is full, because I must have missed a sweet potato when I harvested. Now I have to dig up a bed of sweet potatoes to plant my next crop. Those things are hardy!

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    1. Emma, we harvested our sweet potatoes last year and turned the soil over. When Channel 7 was here for one of their shows, they asked Hanno to dig something in the garden. Trouble was, it was March and the garden was empty. But he dug the spade in and hit pay dirt. One of the sweet potatoes had escaped us and multiplied ten-fold. I agree, those things are hardy.

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  46. So sorry Rhonda - I had no idea because your photos of your garden always llok so lush and green, and you have not mentioned it before now.We live in south Australia. A few years back all we heard was drought, drought, drought. Lately I have realized that our two tanks are nearly dry, and we have actually started to cart water. I find this unreal, given that there has been no 'official' talk of drought.I feel so selfish and awful when we use mains water for our vegies and garden, when it is in such short supply.It is a real concern.We pray the situation changes soon.

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  47. yes, dry & crispy everywhere i'd say, i've lost my lavender, one sage plant, tomatoes are 'boiling' on their vines the only thing that seems to be really enjoying the heat is my 2 beautiful rosemary bushes
    ohh we did get a sprinkling last night, of rain i think... i bucket water to trees i planted a few months back they are doing ok, the jacaranda has powered off, i have noticed one thing though even though i've mulched & watered heavy the soil under the mulch was dust! so i had to scrape it aside dig up around the plants give another good soaking & put mulch back over & then watered that. it was awful to find that the mulch was more of a hindrance than good, will be watching that in future (sugarcane mulch you buy in the bags)
    anyway hope it rains soon for all
    have a great week
    cheers :))

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  48. Hi Rhonda,
    It has been a harsh season, for sure. We are in WA, on the edge of the wheatbelt, and have decided to plant nothing but green manure crops for the next four seasons, just because our soil quality is so poor that it wasn't retaining any moisture at all, and wasn't able to put up much of a fight against our strings of 40 degree plus days.
    We have lost all of our tomato seedlings, so lovingly nurtured from seed, our strawberries, a couple of fruit trees (those precious long term investments) and have had so many seeds not even come up at all.
    I think it may be too much to ask that this year be a 'one-off'. Like you, we are slowly changing the way we do things, because I do believe these extremities are here to stay.
    All the best with your gardening this year Rhonda and Hanno.
    Nicole.

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  49. Hello Rhonda from far south Tasmania (next stop Antarctica). We have crunchy, brown grass with weed stalks waving in the wind; the hottest day ever recorded in Hobart of 42 degrees; sunburned plums, dropping apples and pears, but with careful watering the tomatoes are coming in really fast. You would have seen the Tasmanian fires on the news but so far where I live we've been okay. But, everywhere is brown and the nights are warmer, something we're not used to down here. We hope for some rain today but so far it's just grey clouds. Fingers crossed - for all of us!
    Jan

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  50. We live in an area known for its market gardens and orchards and we have four acres, but I choose to stick to grass lawns and to grow my few veg in pots because it summer we can go a month or two without significant rainfall and we are on tank water. I didn't grow anything successfully last in in my old veggie bed so this year it is pots for everything and we are showering with buckets to catch the water and the washing up bowl keeps my roses and flowers (also potted) looking fabulous. Without irrigation water I can't grow veg and we don't keep animals but I can keep up a steady stream of tomatoes and flowers with the grey water throughout the dry months. You have to do what you can with what you've got!

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  51. We're in the snowy mountains of NSW and our lawn looks exactly the same! I was worried I was killing our usually lush lawn! We don't have rain tanks yet, so are on town supply. We had a big storm here, which damaged a water supply pump, so we had water restrictions til it was fixed.

    This summer has made me not feel so bad that our vege garden isn't started yet. We have a lot of crispy little plants in pots at the moment!

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  52. Hi Rhonda
    We live down at Palmwoods and it too is quite dry although we are getting an occasional shower. Most of my family are in Gympie and there are great big cracks in the backyard at my mum's house. She can't remember this happening before. However, when I feel depressed about my poor garden drying up, I stop to think of my brother. His family have 2 horses. The paddocks are pretty much dust, they are buying feed which as my brother has said - usually at this timeof year you only need to do supplemental feeding. They don't think they can plant their paddocks as it is just too dry to sustain crops. He is happy that at the moment the cost of buying feed has not gone up - but that will no doubt happen if we don't get some rain. Today I have ordered 4 round bales of cane mulch for my garden. It does make me stop and think about those farmers who are relying on farming to support their families.
    Yang1

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  53. I live in the midwest portion of the U.S. The past three summers have been extremely hot and dry but this past summer was certainly the worst. It stopped raining in May and didn't really start again until mid October. Heat records were set all over and most of the counties in my state were listed as experiencing drought or extreme drought.

    It's really horrible to look out and see things so brown and dry. We only had water restrictions for a month in September but even when you can water, watering with a hose or bucket just doesn't get the job done no matter how regularly you do it. The area around where you are watering just sucks it up and only a fraction of the water goes to the roots that you are aiming for. Mulching is of some help but only so much with out adequate moisture.

    Here's hoping for something normal for both of us for this coming growing season.

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  54. Our annual rainfall in this area is about 15 inches annually, and seldom seen in the scorching months of July and August. Town water is the only real choice if you want a garden to grow here.
    Hope you have rain very soon.

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  55. It's so dry everywhere :( We have been keeping everything alive with washing machine water... we put the water into a tank and at the end of each day water the lawn and fruit trees with it... the good news is we have managed to save our lawn and trees...

    I hope you get some much needed rain soon...

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  56. We've had the strangest summer here in Sandgroper land, heatwave over Christmas, a few cool days, cyclone up north bringing heat and humidity and a very little bit of rain a week or so ago. The only reason my vegie patch is still going is pea straw and the shadecloth I've got over it, granted everything does grow more slowly but at least it's growing with the bit of water it gets. I do have a whole lot of little pea plants coming up too from the straw which is both entertaining and annoying :). Most of them will have to be pulled out as they wrap around the plants but I might leave a few around the edges to see what happens! We've had no decent cumquat harvest for the last 2 years, it fruits early and just suddenly ripens and dumps it all on the ground whereas the lemon tree has gone mad constantly fruiting which is fantastic as I prefer lemons to cumquats :)!

    We have a bore as well as town water but I know that even our groundwater has been suffering with the ongoing lack of rain here in the west so it's used sparingly. I care little for the lawn out the front but keep the back lawn (which gets some shade, unlike the front) going so our son can at least run around in bare feet at the end of the day, it waters a couple of the vegie patches too as an added bonus. It's a fine line, not wanting to waste water but also trying to grow some things to supplement what I pick up from roadside stalls and the farmer's 'shed' I get as much of our fruit and veg as I can from.

    Best of luck with your garden - I think pea straw and lucerne hay (if you can get it) are fantastic for mulch. Our lemon and cumquat trees thrive on their whenever I remember dosing of newspaper, straw/hay and manure.

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  57. We've lived in the Shoalhaven in NSW for over 13 years, nearly 10 years in this house. We have never seen it so dry, all the more remarkable because only a year ago we were wondering if it would ever stop raining. We are hand watering our vegies, but our fruit and grapes are cooking on the trees. Our shrubs and trees are having an extra hard time, the grass crackles underfoot and our dam is almost empty.
    The only upside is that the fruit fly numbers are way down this year.

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  58. We went through this last year..drought was so devastating it brought wildfires that destroyed entire counties. This year, as a result, we are plagued with falling trees. Large pines that didn't survive last summer's severe dry heat are snapping taking down fences and anything else in their path. Our biggest fear for this year's garden..pests. With no freezing temps so far, the bugs are going to be tremendous.

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  59. tassiehippiechickJanuary 22, 2013 1:58 pm

    We are down in the Huon Valley in Tasmania and this is the first time, since we moved into our house, that we have bought water. I have been rationing what the garden will get and refuse to not water due to the fact that all of the springtime planting had been done a couple of weeks before the rain stopped. Everything everywhere is brown and the sheep are continually escaping to find something green to eat. As I type, it has started to rain outside (in Hobart) and I hope it covers the whole state, especially where the bushfires have been. That is something for us to be thankful for, while it is brown and dry, we have been spared the fires.

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  60. I'm empathising with how you feel Rhonda (and other dte bloggers). Our farm is struggling under this heat and lack of rain. the cows are struggling to give a good drop of milk in all this. We focus on their health and condition in weather like this, more dry ration in the bales and molasses and dry feed in the paddock. It will rain again! We just need to be ready for it. I too am struggling in the vegie patch. My bore water is destructive and killed my kidney beans, and the heatwave finished the rest. But the fig tree is fruiting well and the sweet potato have never looked better. Irony for us here is that 2 years ago we couldn't use the motor bikes and the cows weren't coping because of all the mud. Oh how things can and do change

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  61. Hi Rhonda,

    We live The Dandenongs in Victoria where it's always fairly cool and moist. It has been so dry this summer and we've seen next to no rain.

    My garden has suffered terribly. My well established lemon tree (8 years old) has dropped nearly all its leaves and all the fruit fell off. My nectarine and peach trees (again established) appear to have died. My poor baby pear tree has had all its leaves burnt (despite our best efforts to shade and keep it going).

    Our water tanks (3000L) are empty and have never been empty in the last 6 years.

    My vegie garden is just holding on because we are watering from town water. But I have lost all our eggplants, 4 tomato plants, 2 chilli plants, and all our potatoes. And our grass is just burnt and bare in places.

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  62. I'm so glad you posted this Rhonda. I thought this litte "drought" we're experiencing was unique to our area and the extreme weather conditions we've had the past month. It was so green only a short while ago. But my vegie garden is very sad looking too. The grass is dead, and it hasn't looked this bad since we first laid eyes on our block,at the end of the last drought. It's a little heartbreaking thinking about all those hours watering (precious tank water too), money on seedlings and time and money mulching. The tomatoes are just barely hanging in there, maybe we will get some fruit yet. But like you, I'm hoping for better things with the Autumn plantings. The fruit trees are hanging in there quite well though.

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  63. Hi I thought I would add my bit, I live in Brisbane and am fortunate enough to have a 10,000 litre water tank which is my pride and joy. It is hooked up to the toilet and washing machine and I use it to wash and rinse my dishes. We also drink it when boiled for coffee. I also use my washing machine grey water for the grass and citrus tree. I try to collect my kitchen water but husband doesn't like and always tips the water out. Today between a few showers the gutters were cleared of debris so as not to loose water that could be going into the tank. I just love my tank and love watching the rain (when it does rain) going into my tank.
    They always say it will rain again.
    Regards
    Melinda

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    1. Melinda, we have two tanks - 10,000 litre and 5,000 litre. the 10,000 is almost empty, the 5,000, we hope, will see us through if we're careful.

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  64. Sorry to hear you are having a drought :(

    I found your comment about weeding interesting:

    "Hanno does a great job organising the plants and keeping the weeds down while growing the most delicious fresh food for our table."

    Quite a few common weeds in Australia are both edible and medicinal and can sometimes be more healthy (nutrient dense) for you than cultivated plants. The best thing is they are free and grow themselves :). I have tried Dandelion, Cats-ear, Cobblers' Pegs and Green Amaranth, as they are the varieties that have sprung up in my backyard . As far as simple living goes, weeds are well worth trying :)

    have a look at: http://www.eatthatweed.com/
    http://edibleweeds.com.au/about-us/
    http://www.weedyconnection.com/

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    1. We have gotu kola and purslane growing wild here and we eat that.

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  65. My goodness, Rhonda. Those photos tell a story. I thought we were doing it tough, but being so very close to the coast we have had just enough rain for most things to survive (so far) but I have still to get through February and typically that's the hottest. It's harsh this season.
    My peppers and chilis are happy, though- like yours! I'm also finding cucumbers and pumpkins are the hardiest in my garden this year.
    However, I haven't started raising any new seedlings, I will wait because what has been lost in the garden are the sensitive leafy plants and new seedlings. Even with watering by hand, they just don't survive the above 40C heat.
    I really appreciate this blog post. You always tell it as it is, and that gives others encouragement and strength.
    Hope Hanno is ok, and your lovely self.
    I will try and pop into the forum sometime.
    xx

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  66. Welcome to my world Rhonda :)

    We haven't had rain since I don't know when...If it is not the heat killing the plants it is the terrible wind like we are experiencing today. Our rain water is running low for the first time ever, since we moved here 11 years ago. We have had to drain water from one tank to the other in the hope that it rains soon. My daughter that lives in Quorn has had to buy some water in as they have just about run out.

    I am feeling just a bit down at the moment about my garden, but it would appear there are plenty in the same situation. After all said and done we are usually dry here so you would think I would be used to it by now. Three good years spoilt us!

    I have lost cucumbers, zucchini, beans, and the heat has scorched my tomatoes and pumpkins really bad, and they were covered over with shade cloth! The oranges on our tree have burnt patches on them, the new lemon tree has crispy leaves as does the fig and guava. Our lawns are struggling. Even the tough old geranium has lots of dead leaves. Have even lost a couple of native plants and the salt-bush that grows naturally here is scorched too!

    x

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  67. There is a childrens book i love and i think you would really relate to it right now (and it would bring a smile to your face). It's called Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema.
    Charlotte

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  68. Wow. I'm astounded at the devastation. Water is truly our most precious resource and I'm terribly sorry that you (and so much of Australia) are experiencing severe drought conditions. If only we could send rain your way... Hugs XO

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  69. We had a similar drought over the summer here in the USA. We had 112 degrees Fahrenheit and week after week without any rain. Now we are having a very wet winter with 8 inches of rain here last week alone. I am wondering what this next summer will bring and how much of our landscaping is actually dead and what will come back. We have a well and can water with that but when it is so dry and hot I worry about running our well dry as it has happened to others in our neighborhood. I hope the weather rights itself for all of us.

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  70. Given your reliance on the garden, you might want to be investigating drip and spot irrigation methods as a backup. That would stretch your water supplies and protect your food source.

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  71. Rhonda, The weather situation all over the world is going crazy. I wish that I could bundle up all the snow in our back yard and send it to you. It was so cold this morning that they had to cancel school. We usually see deer tracks all over the place, but it is so cold they haven't been moving.
    I pray that you will soon be getting the rain you need so much.
    Love and best wishes,
    Susan from Michigan U.S.A.

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  72. How devastating! I really feel for you and am anxious for the coming spring up here. In previous years we have had summers of rain (more than 40 days straight!) that rotted the crops in disease and mold and years where the winter snow never came and groundwater was low. The farmers almanac says this year will be average temp and dry but we have covered our bases with varieties that did ok in the wet year and others that can handle some dry conditions. I figure if I plant both we should get something. I'm even trying out some seeds that typically do well in areas much warmer than we've historically been just in case.

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  73. Rhonda we live on a small farm in the midwest U.S. and experienced a drought last growing season and are still in one also. It is so hard to see the fruit trees that you have nurtured for years struggle and we feel for you. We did manage some harvest last year but like you we are down almost 20 inches in rainfall and have no idea how our spring garden will survive with no rain. Sending our prayers for your drought to end as well as our own : )

    Canned Quilter

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  74. We're moving into our third year of drought in Northwest Iowa, USA. Our area is considered in extreme drought and its predicted to continue thru 2013. We haven't even had any snow worth mentioning! Unless we have early Spring rains I will have to consider not planting a garden this year.

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  75. We are going through the same lack of rain in Victoria. We are on tank water only so mainly trying to keep our young fruit trees alive and having to watch the rest of the garden struggle. We also have wallabies desperately looking for food and water and destroying our plants that are coping without the rain. It feels like one step forward, two steps back!

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  76. We live not far from you Rhonda. My native garden started dying last December, syzygiums and austromytrus being the least hardy. My vege garden was struggling, so I left most of the undersized produce for the wildlife. However I protected the tomatoes and eggplant which fortunately were in pots and they have thrived. We have had to buy water for the house and our dam is low. So far this week we have had 3 wildfires within a 2 km radius, one threatening 4 houses. But with all this being very depressing, it is the thoughts and best wishes of the broader gardening community that give us all a lift. What a feeling of friendship and support you have developed on your blog Rhonda. Thanks.

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  77. 22,000 litre tank empty, dry & hot here in Ballarat with crunchy grass as well. Very little in the veggie patch. A few first real fruits from 2 & 3yr old fruit trees BUT possums ate most of the nectarines, plums, apricots & a few of the apples. A honey eater enjoyed one of my few tomatoes this week. The birds & native animals must all be struggling. I'm putting out some more shallow water bowls for the lizards. Thanks to your post getting thinking about this I'm going to ask dad, (my resident 84yr DIY handyman make anything from scrap) to make something we can put out wild bird feed.
    How are your chooks fairing without the greens? I suppose the kitchen scraps wouldn't go far with all your 'girls'.

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  78. I guess hydroponics or aquaponics might be the way to go rather than trying to grow on the land here on the Sunshine Coast with the lack of rain.

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  79. We are lucky to be experiencing some light rain today - and thank goodness too! We have been buying water since Nov as we rely solely on tank water for all our needs. Hubby is currently in his shed working on a new inlet to the tank to ensure that during heavy rain we dont lose a drop.

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  80. I live in Tasmania and my lawn looks much the same as yours ,very dry and brown with lots of bare patches. I have used mains water on the veggies only,the flowers and shrubs have to fend for themselves.It rarely seems to rain much these days.

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  81. I am so sorry that you are being affected by the drought! I am sure the garden will recover once the rain starts falling but it's just sad to see what would normally flourish under all your care looking so dry. We have had the reverse here in the UK - last year was the wettest on record and cold at that. Our apple trees in the garden would normally be full of fruit in the autumn but last year it was too cold & wet for the bees to come out to pollinate at the right time, so we had one (yes, one!!) apple. We do hope that this year will be better. Hoping for rain for you & safety from bush fires for everyone! Kirsten x

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  82. There's been very little rain down here in Ballan Victoria too. Precious little! Our grass is even deader (if that is even a word) than yours which is not such a bad thing since our neighbours have lost 2 calves to snakes in the last fortnight. They've been coming up looking for water presumably. We have yet to install our tanks, having just moved up in December so we are on town water and it makes me feel incredibly guilty when I water my veggies but until we get both rain and tanks...
    I totally agree that our climate is changing. We will need to carefully think about what crops we plant and how we water them. Wicking beds, deep mulching and drip irrigation will all replace hosing the garden. Doing a rain dance for all dry areas of Australia.

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  83. t
    Rhonda,
    So sorry to hear this.Last year we had a lot of drought in the states.
    A lot of people have applied this concept with great success here during the drought.


    http://backtoedenfilm.com/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9NU2To4bAM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1olVuYMoQg


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    1. Thanks for the links. I linked to Back to Eden about 6 - 9 months ago. It's a great video.

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  84. Hi Rhonda was thinking about you and Hano and your garden as I listened to the rain this morning... hope your water tanks have filled up and the strong winds didn't get your gardens. kind regards. Karen in west Brisbane.

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    1. We're fine thank you Karen. The tanks are full, we've had about 10 inches so far and we're safe. We are protected by surrounding rainforest and pine forest so we don't have much wind. Thanks for your concern.

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