As Christmas was approaching we had an extreme heatwave which culminated in an official temperature of 46.6°C (115.88°F) in the shade, on 20th for our area, setting a new record for December. Much of the garden, which is out in the sun, would have had over 50°C (122°F) to endure.
There was no getting around the fact that copious amounts of water were needed to get it through this heat. I tried to deep water before it started, but ran out of time with various trips out needed in the run up to Christmas. So I rotated through the garden over the next few days with deep watering to a different section each day and a slightly quicker watering to the rest. Certain areas with seedlings needed watering several times throughout the day and I still lost one.
For several days the smell of bushfire smoke was in the air from the nearby hills fires and it cast an orange glow over us with a dusk feel in the middle of the day.
My camera didn't capture it very well, but this is unedited and the sky looked browner in reality.
Currently we're experiencing temperatures over 40°C (104°F) again. I've been assessing how the garden is fairing, which plants are coping the best and which ones are really struggling. Each year I can pretty much guarantee we'll get some sun damage to some of the plums. This year the sun practically stewed them on the tree and the current wave of heat has only added to the tree’s stress, cooking some more plums and leaves.
Normally I remove the worst affected ones, but some have already dropped on their own.
The mulberry and loquat have singed leaves too, but they should bounce back.
The plants which have been unfazed are the Mediterranean ones, mostly; the olive trees, bay tree and the some of the Mediterranean herbs. The sage seems to struggle a bit, though, with its softer leaves. The oregano can get a bit scorched too, but it never affects its ability to send out new growth fast and spread some more.
One of the turmeric plants started to come back through, but I think that's the last I'll see of it now. It's in a bed that gets shade from all bar the midday sun, but because I struggle to access it easily it gets neglected on occasion and on days over 40°C it really needs to be shaded to allow anything tropical to survive.
Shortly before the first heatwave, I'd planted a fig tree on the front and an elderberry, which was a gift from my friend @ligayagardener. The elderberry I planted between some oregano plants which sheltered the bottom section. This is probably the only thing that saved it, because the top got fried.
I was given two root stocks and knowing the heatwave was coming and how bad I am at keeping things alive in pots, I split my options, putting one in the ground and leaving one in the pot. It's not looking good for the one in the pot which I didn't bring far enough under the shade and the sun caught it part way through the day.
The fig is in full sun, because it's natural environment is apparently dessert like. It lost all its leaves in the heat, but had some new buds starting. These got eaten by weevils which came out in plague proportions each night and I couldn't keep on top of them before they polished off those fresh new buds. The plague is under control now and amazingly this little twig is putting out some more leaves! There's hope yet. What resilience!
Some plants that came through the heat brilliantly, just making sure the soil stayed moist, were my new chilli plants. I've been digging this area out and removing all the rubble while adding lots of manure and organic matter. Capsicum plants are resilient, but they are also heavy feeders, which means they need good soil and they need it to stay moist to be able to access the nutrients. In theory, they are perennials and as long as we don't get frost, they should be able to survive the winter. I've never yet gotten one through more than one winter, however. I think this could be down to poor nutrition and allowing the soil to get too dry in the summer growing period. So I'm hoping to give them a better chance this time. I've added gypsum to the soil as well, to break up the underlying clay layer and lower the risk of them getting water logged in the winter rains.
At this point I'm reassessing what sort of plants we should be growing moving forward as these summers become the norm and while I still don't have much time to attend to the needs of less hardy plants.
I'm pleased to say we had no losses on the poultry front. All flocks had shallow water containers that they could stand in, in the shade. I also dampened the soil in the shade to keep temperatures down there. The quail run and the run with the apple tree in were the coolest. Living, leafy shade is the best shade hands down. Under the apple tree with damp soil was nearly as good as being inside with the evaporative air conditioning.
The other run used to have an apricot tree, but that died. They have the aviary, with a bamboo screen, but once the afternoon sun hits it, the bamboo may as well not be there.
The cruiser works better, being solid wood, and let's minimal sun in throughout the day. They have a paddling pool in there. On the hottest days I'll put bottles of frozen water in places around the shade and in their pools. This probably works best for the ones in the cruiser as it can contain some of that coolness and the biggest bottles aren't always fully defrosted at the end of the day.
The cruiser had a couple of broody hens in When I took this photo. Once the heat sets in I open it up for them all to access it and hope the broodies don't decide to sit in the hot nest boxes in the aviary.
Another place they like to shelter from the heat in this run is under the feed storage tub. I couldn't tell you how effective it is, because I can't fit under it, but I make sure to wet it each day under there. I know the tub itself gets quite hot with the black lid.
The bunnies have been mostly inside; only briefly outside when I needed to clean them out. The babies are over six weeks old now and have moved to a separate cage for weaning. When they are 8 weeks old they will be ready for moving to new homes.
On a final note, can anyone tell me why little cockerels look so darn cute!