Snoozin’ sea­son

Un­like those in warmer climes, MICHAEL McCOY is hun­ker­ing down and let­ting his gar­den take care of it­self

Gardening Australia - - THE BIG PICTURE -

At no other time of the year is there such an ex­trav­a­gant dif­fer­ence be­tween my nor­mal day­time tem­per­a­tures here in Vic­to­ria’s Mace­don Ranges and those in, say, Dar­win or Townsville.

Nor is there ever such a big dif­fer­ence be­tween our gar­dens. Mine is like a fat old bear, oc­ca­sion­ally turn­ing over with a quiet, sleepy growl in his ex­tended hi­ber­na­tion, while those up north are like gam­bolling spring lambs or crazed March hares. And con­se­quently, our gar­den­ing pro­cesses and prac­tices are never more markedly dif­fer­ent.

Take wa­ter­ing, for ex­am­ple. Gar­dens in the coolest parts of the south-east need wa­ter at this time of year at about the same rate as my sleep­ing bear needs a drink. As it hap­pens, this is one of the wet­ter times of year, but even if that were not the case, plants that are in a state of to­tal or semi-dor­mancy need very lit­tle wa­ter in­deed. The sprin­klers have been stored for months now, along with (if you’re bet­ter or­gan­ised than I am) most of the hoses.

Tem­per­a­tures in the trop­i­cal north, on the other hand, en­cour­age con­tin­u­ous growth in many gar­den plants, so wa­ter de­mands re­main high. Be­ing the dry sea­son, trop­i­cal plants in full, pant­ing growth will most likely need plenty of sup­ple­men­tary wa­ter­ing.

And then there’s the feed­ing. The need any plant has for food is in di­rect pro­por­tion to its growth rate. Feed­ing plants in my cli­mate at this time of year is a to­tal waste of re­source. I may as well be leav­ing great slabs of hon­ey­comb or suc­cu­lent an­i­mal car­casses at the mouth of my bear’s win­ter cave. No mat­ter how de­lec­ta­ble my of­fer­ing, he’s go­ing to sleep right through it. Like­wise, plants in dor­mancy sim­ply can’t make any use of food. It’ll just leach away with the rain­fall.

Any­where warmer, whether that’s in the far north, or Syd­ney, or even

“I may as well be leav­ing slabs of hon­ey­comb or an­i­mal car­casses at the mouth of my bear’s win­ter cave”

Mel­bourne, there’ll be some growth (how­ever small, de­pend­ing on lat­i­tude and al­ti­tude) that could ben­e­fit from an ex­actly pro­por­tional amount of food.

And pro­por­tional is the key­word.

My teenage son, still in ter­ri­fy­ing growth, can con­sume, ab­sorb and put to use any quan­tity of kilo­joules.

I, on the other hand, can sur­vive on a frac­tion of his ba­sic needs.

In its sim­plest form, it’s the am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture that sets the growth rate of plants. We just need to be ready to re­spond to them with cor­re­spond­ing amounts of food and wa­ter.

Mean­while, I – like my fat old bear – can snooze on a bit longer.

Michael blogs at the­gar­denist.com.au

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