On Wednesday, the day before my normal jaunt to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast a maximum of 30 degrees for the Thursday. At that stage I considered going to volunteer at RTBG early and leaving early. Then I woke fresh on Thursday morning , ready for the day and checked the forecast; hmmm, now expected to be a maximum of 33 degrees. My first priority was my own garden so I spent over an hour watering every nook and cranny; already it was 24 degrees and the warmth was increasing. My energy levels were low and I contemplated missing a day, but I decided not to wimp out and set off much later than I wanted. I arrived about 9.40 and it was already very very warm in the Food Garden. The sheltering which the convict brick walls give against the cold also means the area holds in the heat.
Coordinator Adam set me to work planting. There were trays of tomatoes and other vegetables to plant – already the window of opportunity to plant these was passing so getting them in today was a high priority. The past couple of weeks have been so extreme; a fortnight ago unusual torrential rains poured off and on and then, last week, the wind was unforgiving.
My job was to plant well established tomato plants about 30 cm apart, stake the rows, connect the stakes with string, attach the tomatoes to these strings for support and give some water. N grabbed a handful of Sulphate of Potash and sprinkled around each plant to promote good fruit growth. Meanwhile I drank water by the litre to stave off the feelings of heat exhaustion.
Apparently this Wapsipinicon Peach tomato has a furry skin – I will be very interested to see this.
At one point, I told Adam that when I finished planting that garden I wouldn’t be doing anything more under the direct sun. Of course he told me that I didnt have to finish this, and could go straight to the shade if I wanted. No way, I said. Suck it up I told myself. I will finish this. Later the in-ground watering system was activated to try and give these plants the best hope.
A few other volunteers were already hard at work harvesting onions and leaves for the charity SecondBite.
Someone said it’s reached 33 and soon after another remarked it is now 34 degrees. Nevertheless a lot was achieved by all the volunteers. However, by mid-morning I was helping to move the unplanted trays of plants into a shadier position – they wouldn’t be planted today.
A few volunteers stayed out in the sun clearing spent pea plants and silver beet, digging and hilling up potatoes, and planting more tomatoes.
The rest of us found shady nooks and tackled the extraction of weeds. I finished the morning weeding around a ring of assorted herbs that had been planted at the end of winter before the overarching tree had sprung it’s new leaves.
All volunteers (and staff) have the choice. We were not forced to work in the sun. We were not asked to work at all. But we love the place. We love working in the Food Garden. So we all rose to the occasion and did what we could.
Eventually we stopped for lunch and sat amiably in the shade. By then the temperature had peaked at 36 plus in Hobart city and nearly 38 at Hobart airport. As we sat munching and yarning, suddenly we felt the expected easterly wind bringing change. Within half an hour, the temperature had dropped to the late 20s so we all felt much more comfortable.
But I was spent and called it a day, leaving the few remaining volunteers (there was an attrition rate as the morning passed) to work through the afternoon. Wonderful hardy souls! I was very impressed.
And yes of course, it was another glorious Thursday.