Well. A field, it certainly is not. But today I decided to hitch up my bicycle trailer and guerilla plant further from home. A couple of kilometres away, actually… a place by the tram line I sometimes run past and where there has been nothing but weeds growing for years.
I managed to get two bucket loads of plants in the trailer by putting the ground covers on the bottom layer and adding tools to keep the top bucket from crushing them.
One bed was empty except for the remains of weeds. I reassembled the edging on the bed where it had fallen or been pulled apart and began. I planted three acacia paradoxa seedlings in the bed beside it (also a pretty sad sight but with some native plantings still alive). I was feeling pretty pessimistic about their chances in life and questioning my decision to plant somewhere where I haven’t done as much observation as usual when a gentleman walked up and asked if I was planting. I wasn’t sure of the alternative interpretations at this stage, but soon we were chatting about what I was planting and his past in Trees for Life. I have grown for Trees for Life too, so we chatted on.
He said he’d do some weed management! He thought he could add some stakes! He’d considered planting native grasses in this area. He lived nearby. He used to have that same trailer (we had both bought them from the chap who used to make them himself, in the 1980s). The chances of these seedlings making it to any size at all have just risen immensely!
So–in went seaberry saltbush (rhagodia). I lost some water going over bumps and when bike and trailer were travelling at different speeds downhill, but most of it was still in the watering cans to give the new plantings a drink.
I also planted ruby saltbush… and picked up rubbish. In fact, I made several stops on the way home. I do find cups, plastic lids for cups and bottles, straws and such but a staggering amount of cable ties and gaffer tape too, and today I found those plastic soy sauce fish in two different locations. Go figure. Hoping next time I run past these little plants will be bigger!
Finally we are getting autumn leaves and not leaves that have fallen in the dry heat of summer, so I’ve been out collecting them from the gutters and byways.
Collecting ruby saltbush seeds…
Bladder saltbush seeds, now being collected from third generation guerilla plantings.
In my wanderings I found these around the bike path–it looks to me like another rebel for life has decided to commemorate the plants that died over summer. This one was between the railway and the street.
I started the day with a run, and on the way home picked up a plastic bag. A charity has delivered them all round the neighbourhood, requesting they be filled with second hand clothing. Many have made their way onto the street empty, however–so I stopped this one going down a drain and half filled it with rubbish in only a few blocks. I know litter picking isn’t romantic, but I hate all the rubbish and it does give me satisfaction to remove some of it. A certain would-be politician who is spending some of his many millions trying to buy his way into office is currently contributing more handbills than he should to the litter stream (we are a week out from a federal election). But also lots of straws, single use cups and lids, free newspapers in their horrible plastic bags, and bottle caps.
Far better than litter picking is planting though! This time, prostrate wattles, Indigofera Australis, scrambling saltbush and a silver leafed saltbush.
Out into the street (in a hurry I guess, the photo is all wobbly!)
Some became understorey in an area where almost all the Department of Public Transport and Infrastructure plantings died. Others I planted in an area where council has installed a watering system, and recent works on the gas main in our street resulted in loss of more plants…
I picked up some more rubbish! And then home again. On my way home a chap asked me whether I was in training for some kind of event. What kind of event???!! I couldn’t help wondering, but I think he was just nonplussed by my hauling a wheelbarrow around the place, so I didn’t ask.
I just want to brag for a moment. My beloved discovered during the first rains that the transparent panel in our garden shed roof is now full of holes. I suspect the fact it is on the possum super highway through our backyard at night has hastened the holes. Well. I replaced it all by myself (with a drill bit from a friend and some help from someone with a bigger car getting the new panel home). So here you have the view of the broken panel from the ladder; the view of my neighbour’s bamboo patch from inside the shed with the panel removed; and the ladder view of the finished job. Far from perfect but perfectly functional. I feel proud! I even texted my Dad to tell him since he has taught me a lot and surely was responsible for the gift of that power drill in the first image in the 1990s, bless him.
I am sorry to say there was a considerable loss of the spring plantings from last year, and I lost a lot of seedlings this summer too. However: there is nothing to do but press on!
This week, after finally seeing some lovely rain, I started planting out once more. The first round was mostly ruby saltbush. It is tough and hardy and easy for me to propagate, and it forms a great pioneer planting, creating a context in which it can be safe enough for other plants to thrive. It stops fallen leaves being blown away and allows new soil to form. It creates habitat. And it protects other plants from passersby and dogs.
Most of the saltbush went up against a fence. I planted it previously with great success and then it was all poisoned! The second partial planting is a good size now so I’ve added more.
I also planted ‘wren bush’–the seed was given to me by a friend who doesn’t know its real name but observes that superb blue wrens love it. If I ever see a superb blue wren in my neighbourhood, I’ll need to start a festival in its honour. Some of these plants also have lemon scented gum (Corymbia Citriodora) seedlings in them, donated by my neighbour’s tree which showers our place in stamens and seeds.
I watered them in despite the rain and then picked up litter and walked home. Here is my wheelbarrow with some of the previous plantings in the background.
A long, record breakingly hot summer has come to an end–almost. So I’ve been out in the streets, saving eucalypt leaves that have fallen in the heat of summer, and that would be headed into the drain if there was enough rain to wash anything down a drain. I’ve taken it as a bit of a project to gather what I can, prioritising leaves destined for waterways and sewers when they could be mulching my garden instead. And that bag? Each time, I take a bag with me. I have a little stack of them that have held greasy filthy fleece and that will not be washed and re used in the kitchen–and they are being used to pick up rubbish. Because when you’re out in the neighbourhoood with gardening gloves on, you will never be better prepared for the job. And because, when you come from a colonising people and live in a colonised country, opportunities to care for this place are opportunities to take up.
Saltbush are fruiting and all kinds of native plants are seeding so it’s seed collection time too, and when what I hope is the last of the big heat passes, I’ll be planting out seedlings and taking cuttings. I’ve made a start on planting out sedge offsets into pots already (but you know, I didn’t think of taking a picture).
Adelaide has had the Fringe, the Festival and WOMAD recently and I had a dip into all of them (well, maybe not the Festival proper). I got to see Pussy Riot! And Yothu Yindi! And Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping! And so much more–but these acts in particular had me enlivened about the importance of doing things that are not expected. In places where they may not be welcomed. And yet are so important. Somehow that seems like cultural guerilla gardening to me, planting seeds where they may and may not germinate. I take my inspirations where I find them and with gratitude.
And meanwhile, I gather leaves and pick up rubbish! And since I didn’t post this draft when I wrote it… still more… and several barrow leaves of falling autumn street tree leaves too.
This culvert has been one of my patches for a few years now (in this post in 2016 I am not sure I am planting for the first time…), and it is really looking good now. In fact, today as I weeded, a gentleman in a suit came past and his only comment was “oh, I wondered who had been doing that!”
Ultimately, my goal is to have native plants out compete weeds, so that no one feels the need for poisoning, and native insects and birds and lizards can have a little more of what they need. In the meantime however, the struggle is on to make sure that effort to poison weeds do not kill my little plants before they can become established. So here is my weeding toolkit and our biggest bucket.
I filled it to overflowing and at this time of year, a weed the hivemind on this blog identified as a cudweed predominates. It is probably Gnaphalium affine (Jersey Cudweed) (so far from home!) But look! The saltbushes (three species here) are really established now.
There is flax leaf fleabane and prickly lettuce and fourleaf allseed , and even a few fumitory plants have survived past the first heatwave and my best efforts. On the other hand, look at the native plants now.
Even the Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes are looking good at the moment.
And, here it is afterwards–perhaps you can’t tell iin so small an image. But hopefully the seed burden is reduced. Already, the boobialla and saltbushes are crowding out weeds which really can only take root seriously at the edges. I hope the poisoners will leave things be.
And seedlings for autumn planting are springing up under the regular watering provided by my beloved. Life rises up in its own defence, and so must we rise up for the future of life on earth. Today, with a little local weeding.
The last of autumn’s cuttings went into one of my favourite patches. I now have only correa alba cuttings left and I am not convinced they have established good enough roots to set them out into the wild yet.
This patch was my first, and it looks great. But, there is an invasive grass coming up there that is seeding. So I pulled as much as I could and tried to rogue the rest (yanking off the flowering heads to reduce the seeds that will be produced). One of the large saltbushes had died so I took that out too, and started to wonder how to remove my pile of green material! I planted rock roses here–cistus–and now I ave looked them up I find they are not actually native (well, they are native to the Mediterranean!) There were cistus growing here when I first moved into the area but they died long ago.
My friends close by couldn’t help me out with my pile of weeds this time. Along came a couple of women, one farewelling the other to a nearby train. I asked if the fareweller if she lived nearby and if so, whether she would mind if I filled her green waste bin. I must have been having a bold morning.
She told me where she lived–not that close! And then offered to come and pick it up in her car if I’d pull it into a pile. I checked whether she really wanted to do that and she said she appreciated what I was doing and we are both part of one community. I love meeting people who feel this way, while I’m out and about doing guerilla gardening. It helps my hopefulness a good deal. Twenty minutes later I had broken all the saltbush into small sticks and finished panting, and she arrived in her car and we filled up the back with weeds and dead bush.
Here is some of the bigger picture–everything apart from the tree planted by my friends and I. And of course, this isn’t really the end of the spring planting, because I’m putting seeds into pots as soon as I can free them up. A friend gifted me two containers of seed she saved over and above whet she could use to add to my own collection. So I made some tags from a yoghurt tub… and wrote on them with a pencil, and put some more seed in ready for autumn planting-out…
Last week I went out and planted in a space where the council has planted and even put in a watering system, but some plants have died and not been replaced. I filled in some gaps…
Earlier in the week I went out and planted these little treasures in a spot where the conditions are harder both because there are still a few big eucalypts–hooray! and because the train authority is responsible for this patch and clearly doesn’t invest as much as the Council in setting up plants for success. Many of the original plantings could not manage and died so I’ve been planting into the gaps.
While I was working here in a light drizzle, a man came out with his dog and had a chat–there seems to be an artists’ co-operative in an old industrial building here. He’d been putting on a play at a Burning Man festival (in Australia though–news to me) and spoke enthusiastically about the festival’s gift economy, building community and such. He clearly approved of my efforts and offered the plants in the raised bed that is the entire front garden of their place as a resource. There is a plant in there that I’d like to try dyeing with so at last I got to ask about it….
These new plantings are tiny. But last year’s are coming along…
And those that have had even more years are growing well, protecting the bigger plants from being parked on and working with the mulch to keep weeds (and poison) down.
A bit of weeding and rubbish picking, and home again…