A drought in our backyard

22 January 2013
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.