We live in the desert. It seems therefore obvious that we should have some date palms in our gardens. Not only are they very tasty when they bear fruit, but they provide vital micro-climate creation due to their dense shade. In the arid lands they hail from, tender crops such as lettuces, tomatoes and capsicums can be seen growing underneath the date palms. Such a blessing of cool in the middle of 50 degree summers will be a vital part of building our eco-system.
With this in mind, and a clear spot picked out for the palms, I did some research and found Gurra Downs, an organic enterprise who specialise in cultivating, growing and harvesting dates in South Australia. I organised to travel down to their property and pick up 3 palms a couple of weeks ago; 2 advanced females and one male. Making a bit of a road trip of the mission I loaded up Grandma and Terrica and we headed off with stops in Port Augusta, Booleroo (to pick up the Trees for Life tree guards), overnight in Kapunda, visiting a friend near the River Murray and then to the palm plantation.
Once we arrived I was treated to a small tour of some of their established palms and we had a good talk about ways to help the ones we were picking up prosper. Then, we loaded up the back of the ute with our palms (and Grandma bought 3 as well) and headed home via Barmera and the Banrock Station Wetlands Centre.
Once we arrived home after our 1,300km adventure the time for some real work had come. While at the plantation I had learned that it is best to plant the palms in a well so that the dirt can be filled in as they grow, as they have a tendency to try to jack themselves out with their roots otherwise. This meant that the hole for each palm ended up being much bigger than any other hole yet dug for a single plant… and there were 6 to do including Grandma’s. It took us 4 days over the course of a week to get them all planted (and some very interesting blisters) but they look fantastic in the ground.
Of course, the job wasn’t finished yet. I also learned that we needed to put up a good windbreak for them and that the male, which had yet to be hardened off would need shade for this year at least. This meant the construction of some guards that could remain in place for at least a year (probably a bit longer). Using droppers, wire and shadecloth we were able to make something that has worked quite well already through some strong winds in the last couple of days, and I finished the shade roof on our male today.
Female with windbreak
Now there is just some spreading out of shale, placing some edging stones and the arrival of the mulching hay to go and this area will be pretty much complete for now.
Bonfire area progress over last 6 months.
Once the palms are big enough to be creating their shade micro-climate we will be planting some more interesting things in the beds around their base, but for now, just the mulch when it comes.