The Big Southern Dry

Invercargill reached at least 25 degrees celcius today, according to the Metservice, and this was higher than Nelson, Gisborne and Auckland. We have had a month of almost continuous fine weather, except for the 14th and 15th when a total of 15mm fell (just a light shower compared to the 510 mm that fell in Takaka over the same time). The average rainfall for Invercargill in December is 105 mm and with five days left in the month we are 90 mm short. Environment Southland are monitoring the dropping river levels and those who have water consents are being advised of the possibility of having to cease taking water.

Our "quarter acre pavlova paradise" (for those of you who are old enough to remember Austin Mitchell) sits on an ancient sand dune and the continuous rays that are burning through the ozone hole fry the roots of my lawn and quickly change the lush green blades to a crunchy brown. Our new solar water heating system is steadily earning its worth, however.

My vegetable garden is thriving only because of my regular hand watering. The corn, yams and peas are growing like triffids, but if I forget to water for a couple of days my darker leafed lettuces and seedlings wilt and flatten themselves against the soil. It is best to water in the evening or early morning as there is less evaporation and the soil should absorb more, however when leaves begin to visibly dehydrate I want to immediately resuscitate them.

To minimise watering and to help retain the moisture in my raised beds I tuck fresh compost around as many plants as I can and have covered the roots of my fruit trees with mulched hedge clippings and mown grass. The flower beds also need constant hand held showers and I will be very concerned if a hosing ban is applied. When we built our shed few years ago I had wanted to capture the rainwater from the roof into a barrel that I could then use on the flower beds, but the City council refused to allow this and I had to flush the resource into the storm water system.

The positive element about our weather is the fact that we are now eating all our meals outside and with our wonderful twilights I am often still doing things in the garden at 10:30 pm.


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