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The January Garden

This year we began a new tradition – our Christmas tree was a fruit tree that could be made suitably ornamental. This year’s was a self-fertile dwarf almond. I’m not including a photo of it simply because my decoration skills are on par with a cane toad’s, even with a good looking tree and fifty assorted wombat ornaments, plus tinsel and ropes of purple and gold balls.

Dwarf almonds are an excellent investment – hardy, prolific and much more attractive than full-sized one that can become straggly.

New Year Resolutions

In 2017 I will:

. plant something – veg, flowers, a shrub I love – every week;

. finally get around to feeding even the trees at the far end of the garden;

. put a dripper system in the vegie garden to save water;

. get rid of the bindiis in the lawn so my grandsons can play there barefoot (all kids deserve to feel the grass between their toes);

. replace the concrete like stuff in the hanging baskets with fresh soil/compost;

. read the instructions as a family before any garden machinery received for Christmas is used and not assume that possessing a Y chromosome means all males know how to use a hedgetrimmer, barbecue or long-handled pruning chain saw.

Keeping Your Cool!

. a gorgeous, wide brimmed, straw hat;

. iceblocks in the dog’s dish;

. a mint leaf in each iceblock to slip into a jug of cold water;

. freeze halved oranges, to eat with a spoon, i.e. sorbet, or freeze grapes to nibble while gardening;

. prune low-hanging branches to let the breeze in to you and the house; and

. a shade sail over the sunniest windows.

This is the time to:

. mulch, using the coarsest material you can find, like sugar cane slash or even trimmed wattle branches – fine mulch can erode in summer storms or pack together so tightly that light rain won’t penetrate;

. scrub bird baths and dog bowls well – algae can build up fast in hot weather;

. invest in a good pair of ‘tick tweezers’ to remove uninvited garden guests;

. remember mozzies can bite through tight clothing – loose clothing helps keep you safe – apply mozzie repellent to your clothes too (check it won’t stain) to minimise the amount you need to put on your skin;

. feed, water and ‘deadhead’ roses for more and more blooms; and

. pick lush red tomatoes, baskets of zucchini, corn so fresh it almost sings in the pot … and think smugly of all those who didn’t put in their spring vegie garden and can’t share your delights.

Chooks in January

It is hot. The chooks are hot – and possibly not laying as much in the heat. Try giving them higher protein food, as well as lots of delicious household scraps to tempt them. Chooks can be tempted to eat too.

But make sure you only put out enough to eat in half an hour, or the scraps may go bad in the heat and infect the chooks, or you and your family from bacteria transferred from feet to eggs, and always put scraps in a clean container or a fresh patch of dirt every day, if they are free range.

Make sure your chooks have clean fresh water and keep it cool, too. We have a dripper plip-plopping into our chooks’ bowl – it keeps the water fresher and cooler, and the excess drains down into the camellia garden.

Always keep your chook house cool, too. Small low chook houses can get very hot indeed, and most prefab mobile chook houses are pretty low. I prefer a dunny-shaped chook house, small and tall. If necessary, insulate the chook house too, paint it white and make sure there’s a good cross draft of air and lots of shade. Chooks can die of heat prostration, and even slightly too hot chooks won’t lay well … or at all.

If your chooks are crouching or, even worse, panting act fast to cool them down and keep their chook run and chook house cooler. Why have chooks if they aren’t happy, clucking about despite the heat?

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