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