07 March 2009

More Drought

Despite a brief respite in February, the drought continues in full force. Total rainfall for Feb was 63.5mm -- just about bang on average for February (as if the weather takes any notice of our arbitrary calendrical fantasies!) But this doesn't tell the full story...

Most of that most-welcome rain fell in a single week-long wet, with a few additional useless dots of rain spread through the remainder of the month; rainfalls of 2, 3 and 4mm, which simply cause more harm than good.

None of the rain was sufficient to begin recharging the dams or the soil in any meaningful way, but it does mean that the house-water tanks got topped-up, so we're quite relaxed about our domestic water. Even so, we're very conservative in our water use... baths are ankle-deep, and we all bath in the same water, and then use that water to fill the toilet. (I keep flirting with the idea of a composting toilet setup a la the Humanure Book, but haven't quite got there yet.)

To compound the problems, we're in the middle of the hottest days we've experienced in a very long time: Temperatures up into the high 30's, and even into the 40's in some places. (That's Celsius degrees for the unmetricated.) The Brandywines don't like it and are dying. Some Rattlesnake Bean plants simply burned to a crisp the other day, as if they'd been blasted by a blowtorch.

It is interesting to see, though, which plants show greater drought-resistance. All of the Tomato varieties we're growing have cracking fruits due the irregular and inadequate water supply, and in the excessive heat I'm losing a wholte lot of Tomato fruits to sun-scald. And there are not a whole lot to begine with, since they were so short of water during their flowering that many of the flowers aborted. I just noticed this morning, as I was watering them by hand, that the Tomato varieties that seem to be fairing best are the dark ones -- Russian Purple, Black Cherry, and Cherokee Purple. Very interesting! It would seem that the genes that impart the dark colour may also be tangled-up in imparting some degree of water-stress resistance. More thinking on this needed...

Ruminating on this for a bit led me to the stray thought: I wonder if I could breed/select/test for some varieties that would perform better for me into Winter, since we don't have to worry about frost in Winter, but we do have to worry about the very fierce UV conditions we experience in mid- to late-Summer (i.e. Right Now.)

For example, I seldom get a really good performance from Tigerella (which I love for their prettiness and flavour.) If it comes to harvest early -- say late-Jan or Feb -- it tends to get attacked by blight, since that is usually a very humid and hot time of year. March harvest sees the fruit blasted by the Sun, as the foliage is not very lush and shade-making. Perhaps if I could get it fruiting in May or June I might get luckier. Maybe it's not too late to give it a try this year, already.

Assuming the water situation improves and I can keep enough water to get seedlings established!

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