Saturday, December 29, 2007

Put plants with similar water needs together.

Placing plants with similar water needs together means that you can look after the tender ones a bit more closely while letting the tough ones cope in their drier areas.
This is a simple measure to take for reducing water use in gardens but it is not often repeated to the public gardener. In my work I find that if people have reticulation in their gardens then everything gets the same amount whether it needs it or not. They just water because its easy. When I suggest they turn off a section I get a look of surprise, "Oh, but thats too hard!"
With a little planning and consideration of plant water needs you can pretty much ignore sections of the garden. Tough, drought tolerant plants actually prefer not to be watered too often. They will go soft and can rot if given too much.
For instance, keep all the succulents and cactus in the sunniest areas, so they can be watered once a week or fortnight, or even less. In another area place all your vegetable and herbs; these need much more water so they should also be near the tap if possible so you see them and remember to look after them better.
Many plants once established over one summer will survive on little or no summer watering, especially if the plants are shading the ground beneath them. Allowing leaf litter to build up is great as leaves will break down and feed the soil.
Grouping pots is another time where similar watern needs is important. Some things need a lot, so keep the pots sheltered from strong sunlight to keep the soil and roots cool. Sturdy desert plants, such as agaves and yuccas, seem to make good lone pot plants that can be neglected.

Reuse sink water.
Plants that are nearest the kitchen can be given water from rinsing or from cold water collected while waiting for the hot washing water.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ugh, cockroaches.

Why do the gross things hang out on my kitchen? I'm not a slob, there's not a lot of food lying around. They just completely gross me out. They lurk in the cutlery drawer, pooing and leaving egg cases in there with the knives and forks, which are clean, so why are they in there? There's nothing to eat. Yuck. I'm good with most little critters and I'm certainly not scared of them but they are disgusting. One of the few insects I can't abide. I'd take leeches, warthogs or tarantulas over cockroaches any day. I even like their cousins, the preying mantis family.. Lovely crowd, but not cockies.
The sticky traps I spent good money on are useless; they can escape from them, and I don't want to use toxic chemicals in my kitchen, or anywhere for that matter. Tea tree oil kept them out of the drawer for, awww, one day, say, so that's no use. Orange citrus cleaner slows them down , not sure if it kills them though - that's the most nasty product in my house. The frogs try to keep up, but they can only eat a certain number and there's hundreds more outside.

Edit: 26th Dec. I noticed they drown quickly after a rapid swim about in the manky dishwashing water that we have in the sink or compost bucket. As long as the water has a bit of oil or detergent in it, that seems to kill the little beggars pretty quickly.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Organic Growers Association Fremantle.

This is a group of gardeners who like to use organic and sustainable practices in their gardens to grow their own produce. They have guest speakers and do garden visits. Drop them a line at or call Maggie on 0412 836 777.
The group gathers on the second Thursday of each month.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mulch where you prune.

When you do a small amount of pruning, it's a good idea to leave the bits where you chop them. Make them a bit smaller so they'll break down sooner, but leave them where they are as mulch and a bit of habitat for little critters like beetles that help your garden stay healthy.

Fast growing trees for shade.

There are certain times of the year when we suddenly wish we had a large shade tree to sit under in the garden. It's at that point when you want a fast-growing tree. There are a few points to remember though when you enter a garden centre - trees that grow fast will often only live a relatively short amount of time, they need space to grow and there is no such thing as a tree that is only a metre wide all the way up and conveniently stops at 4 metres. Unless you want conifers but they are neither shady nor fast.
If you want a deciduous tree for the north side of your house (southern hemisphere) for summer shade and winter sun you will need to be prepared for "mess". In nature that "mess" rots back into the ground. In modern life it has become a hassle that people don't want to deal with. The best thing to do is to expect the leaf fall and use it for compost or leave it as mulch where it falls. It will feed the tree and the soil.
Deciduous vines are also great for the north side. Grapes on a trellis are excellent, with bunches hanging down being easy to pick when ripe.
Keeping the western side of the building cool makes a huge difference to the evening temperatures inside a house. Sun tolerant, evergreen shrubs to 2 metres are good for that side of the building. Deciduous trees or vines are also good along that side.
I'm always a bit disturbed when I see potentially large trees placed much too close along a front wall. Trees need lots of room, even non-invasive ones, so planting a large tree near a wall is a very bad idea. At least a metre would be the minimum. I always warn people that Ficus species should be kept in pots, not the ground, unless they have a very large area of open space without pipes and power-lines.
Beware also of trees that sucker. We have two in our garden; we planted them before we really understood how bad they can be. One is the Paulownia tomentosa - powton or princess tree. It is a beautiful tree; large soft leaves, stunning lilac foxglove type flowers in spring. We keep it small by cutting it back to a stump every year. When we leave this house though, we want to dig up the main base and take it with us. However, this tree suckers form any roots that are left, so we may leave a monster of multiple proportions here. Instead of one sturdy powton, it may end up being all over the garden. Hopefully we'll get enough warning to do it properly and not leave a nightmare for the next tenants.
The other, also an extremely good-looking deciduous tree, is the Gleditsia tricanthos var. inermis - Sunburst. It can sucker, making very nasty spines on fast growing shoots from the parent trees roots. We have not disturbed the soil anywhere around the base, so it is behaving here, but in Queensland they have become bad bad weeds, as they are hard to approach to kill them, sending up more suckers when the first lot are killed.
Take some time to consider what tree you like. If you see one and you don;t know what it is, pinch some leaves or take a photo and take them to a garden centre. They should be able to tell you what it is.
Trees are a much needed part of the landscape. There are lots of choices in size, habit, flowers, fruits...plant a tree soon. It's good for you.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Australia ratifies Kyoto Protocol.

Just in time for the next round of talks, Kevin Rudd has done the right thing and signed on the line. We can now force industry in Australia to reduce the carbon emissions they spew constantly into the air. Australia has some of the worst polluting coal fired power stations in the developed world. It can be made cleaner and will now have to be. Go the geek.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Finished my first semester of university today.

Today was the last exam of my first semester of Environmental Restoration. I'm proud of my self. I don't know why I never thought I could do it before. Hooray for using our brains.
Learning little things can be very good for us. Learning big things may be more daunting, but little things lead to big. Gradually everyone on the planet needs to learn the necessary skills to lead a sustainable existence. We in the 'over-indulged' nations need to learn to live with a little less.
Buying things is not the way to make yourself feel good. Being with friends or doing something positive for you or your community is much more rewarding than buying some frilly piece of stuff that will mean nothing in a few weeks when it's out of fashion.
Changing people's behaviour is not going to be easy, but it needs to happen soon. And the changes need to stick.

I look forward to a day when we won't be called 'greenies' because everybody will be living environmentally.

Perth frogwatch tadpole exchange.

For some years now my garden has produced many hundreds of tadpoles. Each year we have at least four batches of motorbike frog tadpoles. Many have gone to new homes in ponds around this area.
Alcoa has been sponsoring the research of frogs and observations by the public to help find where they live in the metropolitan region and whether the chytrid fungus is affecting our local populations. Included in the research money was an allowance for someone to look after the tadpole exchange. Unfortunately this exchange is not being paid for anymore, though the research continues.
I contacted someone at the museum, letting them know that I am quite keen and willing to look after the list of people with tadpoles and those who want some. Hopefully I will hear back soon.

The web address to obtain tadpoles locally is...
Frog Watch

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Food miles.

When you drive your car home from down the road with some asparagus, ginger or other fruit and veg it may be th end of quite a long journey for those items. A lot of machinery may have brought you to those vegetables. Tractors, trucks, aeroplanes, more trucks then your little car driving it home for tea. Many foods travel halfway round the planet to get to us, including those things that we consider 'fresh'.
Supermarkets now have to label the country of origin on their fresh produce shelves. This gives us the chance to choose whether we want to buy food that has used a ridiculous amount of fossil fuels before they were delivered to our local store, such as asparagus from Argentina or garlic from China and Mexico.
By electing to buy locally grown fruit and vegetables you will be reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from transport vehicles and supporting your local economy. The food will be heaps fresher too as it will have generally only been picked a day or so earliler.
Next time you go shopping have a look at where things are from; you could be suprised.

Vicki's list of things you can do for the planet.

Eat organic if you can afford it. If not just eat more vegetables. Fresh ones - not boiled to death!

Grow some of your own vegetables - no food miles (see previous post) needed to bring it to your door and they are fresh.

Buy locally grown foods - keeps local economies healthy.

Find a local community supported farm and support it.

Ride your bicycle or take a bus/train sometimes - public transport can be amusing at times.

Plant trees for shade - helps to reduce the heat island effects of paving and bituminsed roads. Deciduous trees or vined pergola on the north side of your house will keep your house cooler in summer, reducing the need for earth-unfriendly air-conditioners.

Plant local plant species to support local reptile, bird and insect populations and keep biodiversity in the suburbs.

Get stuff from op-shops or at roadside chuck outs. Reuse something someone doesn't want anymore. It saves the energy needed to produce another one.

Write letters to politicians. Hassle them with the knowledge that we are informed and want real action on climate change.

to be continued...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Huge flower wasp at Samson Park.

The largest bit of bushland in Fremantle is Frederick Samson Park. There are some magnificent tuart trees, some marri and even jarrah. The wildflowers are pretty good in spring and there are 13 kinds of fungi there. I went for a little wander about the other day and came across a beautiful grass tree (Xanthorrhea preissei) in full flower; its spike was all bent and twisted. I realised there was a large (3 cm) black and white striped flower wasp on it. Not only that but he had his girlfriend with him. The female has no wings of her own, so she needs him to come and collect her and take her to the flowers. She normally hangs about on the ground collecting caterpillers, or digging for beetle larvae and the like. She lays her eggs on the grubs, for the larvae to eat when they hatch.
It's not often you see them together. I felt very honoured to see such an amazing sight. Of course I didn't have my camera! Duh.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Environmentally smart driving tips.

Smarter driving tips.

Pump up to cut down
Under inflated tyres create more resistance when your car is moving, which means your engine has to work harder, so more fuel is used and more CO2 emissions are produced. Simply check and adjust your tyre pressures regularly and also before long journeys. This will also help to increase the life of your tyres. Under inflated tyres increase CO2 but over inflated tyres can be unsafe so check your car manual for the correct tyre pressure. Remember, a car with a heavier load may need different air pressure in the tyres.

Less clutter in your car means less CO2
Clutter in your boot is extra weight your engine has to lug around. By removing it, you could reduce your engine's workload. This will burn less fuel and cut your CO2 emissions so unload any items you won't need for your journey before you set out.

Driving at an appropriate speed reduces CO2
Speed limits are the maximum lawful speeds which may be driven in ideal circumstances. Drivers should never exceed the speed limit. Staying at or within the speed limit increases driver safety. It also reduces CO2 emissions and saves money on your petrol costs. At 70mph you could be using up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more fuel than at 50mph.

Less stopping and starting means less CO2
Every time you stop then start again in a traffic queue, the engine uses more fuel and therefore produces more CO2. Keep an eye on the traffic ahead and slow down early by gently lifting your foot off the accelerator while keeping the car in gear. In this way, the traffic may have started moving again by the time you approach the vehicle in front, so you can then change gear and be on your way.

Over revving accelerates emissions
Modern car engines are designed to be efficient from the moment they are switched on, so revving up like a Formula 1 car in pole position only wastes fuel and increases engine wear.

Using your gears wisely by changing up a gear a little earlier can also reduce revs. If you drive a diesel car try changing up a gear when the rev counter reaches 2000rpm. For a petrol car change up at 2500rpm.

Idling is wasting fuel
When the engine is idling you're wasting fuel and adding to CO2 emissions. If you're likely to be at a standstill for more than 3 minutes, simply switch off the engine.

Shamelessly swiped from :

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day of the Hoverflies.

There were many, many hoverflies in the garden on Saturday. They were landing on flowers and foliage with gaps of only centimetres between them. One umbel on the elderflower had 8 or so on there. The weather was warmer and drier than it has been, the flush of hoverflies was amazing. We were watching as they flew to and fro across the fence. The air was full of them.
Perhaps some were blown in with some of the northerly winds we've had lately.
In the bush near Canning Dam Road there were also a lot of them, so it wasn't just a suburban phenomena. There was some pink boronia flowering out there along the creekline. I didn't realise they got to about 2 metres tall. Pretty!

The Stems at The Fly by Night Club.

Nothing to do with gardening, I know, but The Stems have always been my favourite local band, so I was really pleased to see them play again the other night. They were excellent, yet again.
Richard Lane is still my favourite, even with his salt and pepper beard - quite funky really, I thought. I love his organ interludes and the lovely Rickenbacker guitar.
There was a bunch of sweet young things dancing down the front, 60's chicks in full regalia, beautiful. It was pointerd out to me that this was the first time my friend and I had seen them legally..they broke up before we turned 18. Our fake id's had worked a treat back then.
I was little surprised not to recognise a few more folk that were there.
It was great fun.

Friday, November 2, 2007

These Come From Trees.

A guy in the US has created these nifty stickers for putting onto paper towel dispensers to raise folks' awareness about how much paper they are using to wipe their hands.
I bought a bunch and will be gladly sticking them about the place.
Great simple idea.
Check out the blog here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cut out junk mail.

Putting a little sign on your postbox that says "No Junk Mail" reduces your paper consumption by a huge amount. There is no need to look at that much advertising - in fact, it's probably bad for you! - and it contributes a huge amount of single use paper, promoting the cutting down of more trees.

Another simple step to reduce your use of resources.

Eating local.

There are two places in Fremantle that make great food.
'The Local' on Paget Street in Hilton. They do a great breakfast or lunch and make great coffee. They source their ingredients locally, where possble, using free range eggs and good quality local bread.

'Gypsy Tapas House' in Fremantle is also delicious. Great way to eat - little plates of different delicious things. Great for vegetarians or people who want to try a variety of tasty meats.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Karakamia Sanctuary

Last night I was lucky enough to go for my second visit to Karakamia, a small mammal sanctuary near Chidlow. It's a fantastic place tovisit, to see some forest and some of Perth's small mammals. These mammals are quite endangered outside the sanctuary, in fact extinct in most of their natural habitat. Many of the animals survive only here or in places where they have been reintroduced from breeding stock starting at the site.
We saw woylies,a quenda and a brush-tail possum, but there are also small populations of numbats and other rare beauties.
Anyone can go there, it's a small fee to visit, and the guide will walk you around as a group, pointing out interesting facts about the country and the animals. The wlk starts before dusk, so you get to see the trees and the view across the valley, then as the sun goes down and the animals become active they use a spotlight torch to see them. Woylies are the most often seen. They are very cute, but not very clever, which would seem to be why they are so rare, through predation from cats and foxes.
Definitely worth a visit.
Visit the site at
You could even consider become a regular contributer to their fund, which buys large tracts of land with significant habitat to help save endangered species within their boundaries. It is very important work they do. Feral proof fencing alone would use a fair amount of their funds.
And you too might get to see some woylies.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The frogs are in full force.

Now the evenings are starting to warm a little, the frogs have started croaking a lot again. There will no doubt be some tadpoles quite soon.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The garden's been well watered lately.

I'm in my second week of uni. And yes I should be doing some homework right now. I've been learning about alternative fuel sources and biofuels.
Then I did some vacuuming, bothered the dogs a I think I'll actually do some reading..wetlands or groundwater.

The garden is booming along. There has been lots of rain recently, still not enough to fill the dams, but at least enough to soak into the soil well.
I'm glad I've filled in some of the larger gaps out there with Grevilleas. It will stop me looking out there and thinking that I need to do something. I really can't be bothered with my garden just at the mo'.

Well, down to it then...back to the books. I'm trying to make sure I stay ahead of the game and don't end up being one of those late people at uni, who always hands things in at the last minute.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

You don't often see this many showers in Perth.

Fremantle Permaculture Designer.

I'd like to start doing some small permaculture design and consultancy jobs for people, for their gardens, preferably close to Fremantle or a train line.
I know a lot about common and less known food plants, native plants, including local species , and organic pest control is another area of knowledge. All in all, I could help people create more water and fertiliser wise gardens with more food species and habitat plants for local fauna.

Or feel free to just ask me something about growing edible and useful plants in your garden.

If anyone is interested, send an email to

I'll get back to you.


You may have noticed that if you stand out of the breeze in a sun facing corner you are warmer than if you stand out in the breeze. If you have, you have already discovered microclimates.
Microclimate recognition and creation can help you to grow plants out of season; tomatoes can be started earlier in spring in a warm spot, coriander can be grown in cooler afternoon shade in summer to prevent it going to seed, and so on.
On a large scale, fruit trees that are not from your climate zone can be planted near large rocks to collect heat over the day and keep them a bit warmer overnight as the heat dissipates from the rock, or you could plant on a south side (in the southern hemisphere), to give fruit trees an extra chilling factor in warmer places (like Perth).

Water restrictions to continue in Perth.

It still hasn't rained a lot this winter. The dams are still way below capacity.
Unless it rains ridiculous amounts the dams are going to remain that way.
Thus we have sprinkler roster days.
Use of mulch and appropriate plants, together with correct planting and management means we can still have productive, beautiful gardens.
I know through my work that some people water plants that don't need it.
Automatic reticulation systems lead to gardens getting too much water. Many plants, if chosen wisely, will not need any water once established, especially if they are at the edge of a lawn that gets regular water.
Many native plants need no help once established. Some plants don't even need anything extra after their initial watering-in, even in Perth.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bromeliads for frogs.

A fellow frog-lover was talking to me about plants that frogs like. I suggested some bromeliads; I happened to have some lying about that I wondering what to do with.
They expand so much that they need thinning back sometimes. I have too many of them these days, so I give them away intermittently..
The frogs like to lurk about in the tubes of the plant with a bit of water. Bromeliads are actually quite low water use plants. If you fill the tubes a couple of times a week when it's warm, they are quite happy. Bugs n stuff fall in there, which helps feed them. It's a good idea to let them dry out sometimes between drinks too, to stop mosquito larvae.
He was very happy with them and gave me a bag of macadamia nuts from his tree in Winthrop in return.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Organic scale control.

Scale insects can do a lot of damage to plants. They are sometimes not noticed until the infestation is quite bad.

They are sap-suckers and will take the life away from plants, slowly but steadily killing it if the pests are on there too long.
The tiny insect creates a waxy outer covering to protect itself. Adults don't move. The young crawl away to a spot where they settle in and form their own scale.

There are soft and hard-bodied scales, which need different approaches to control.

Soft scale are easily killed by spraying organic eco-oil or white oil all over the pests on the leaves. This kills them fairly quickly. The oil covers the insects and suffocates them. It's not harmful to beneficial insects.

They can also be removed with an old toothbrush or dish brush. Give the stems a good scrub with soapy water and they will go easily.

White wax scale are larger and their cases are thicker. Oils may not sufficiently penetrate to suffocate the pests. A repeat spray after two weeks or so should finish them off.
Painting turpentine onto them will also kill them.

There are some tiny parasitoid wasps that will sometimes lay their eggs inside scale. Wasps are important bio control for many insect pests.
Hoverfly, lacewing and ladybird larvae also eat some scale.

Controlling ants near plants susceptible to scale can help as ants 'farm' scale, carrying them around to plants, where they produce sweet honeydew in their wastes. It is a rich food for ants.

So, if you see scale on your citrus or rose, don't panic, just get rid of it and your plant will be happy again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The first Grevillea "Honey Gem" flower.

How to grow celery.

Another round of seedlings - celery, lettuce, spring onions.
In the background, between the other leaves is the celery "patch". They are only about 10 cm tall at the moment. We will have to be extra nice to that bit of the garden now. Celery likes to be grown with regular feeding and water.
It has shallow roots, so it can dry out easily, when it becomes stringy and salty and bitter.
I planted them near together, so they can hold each other up. The soil was recently improved, so it should grow pretty well. A few feeds along the way will make it grow. This is where I love seaweed and fish emulsion as an easy way to feed.

We had both recently pulled out some excess parsley, so there was room to put some more upright veg in their place.
It seems so springlike for the time of year. It's midwinter, but it's beautiful and sunny. Great planting weather.

The small strawberry guava went into a slightly bigger pot. It's been having a stretch lately, and will hopefully make some delicious fruit for me next year.

One more birdbath.
A simple birdbath outside the window is a beautiful thing. They love to have a splash. Only the small birds come as the baths are only shallow. I use a big round plastic plant tray, so it's really easy to give it a good scrub when it gets green or dirty.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Permaculture weeds are edible.

Permaculture is about growing food in the city and reducing our reliance on using fossil fuels. It's also about setting up systems that don't need much work.

Over the few years we have been at this house, we have tried to develop a few useful weeds as a living mulch and ground cover for areas we are not ready to plant into.
In the rich, more watered areas, this is flat-leaf, or Italian, parsley. More recently rocket has joined in. An odd lettuce or mizuna comes up too from time to time. Many of our greens come from our "pet" weeds in the garden.

After a variety of leafy annuals have gone to seed in your food growing areas there will be a succession of tasty seedlings coming up when they think the soil and temperature are just right.

If there are too many seedlings they can be removed and replanted elsewhere or given to friends as tasty treats for their gardens.

Some useful "weeds" - parsley, lettuces, dill (not fennel), spinach, rocket, coriander, basil, nasturtium, chives, cress, NZ spinach.

Growing veges is good for you.

The prices of fresh vegetables is going up because of the water shortage.
With a little bit of space and sunshine, it is easy to grow a few vegetables of your own. You don't need much space,and containers are easy to come by, if you don't have ground to work on. In a pinch you can just cut holes in the sides of a bag of potting mix and grow in that.
Without reticulation is can be difficult to keep the water up to veges as they are shallow rooted and can wilt easily. In Perth it is necessary some times during the height of summer to cover plants so they don't get burnt by the sun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fresh soil for the miniature stonefruit trees.

I finally repotted the two miniature fruit trees. One is a peach, the other a nectarine. They make good fruit, but I've not had manyon there. Then the dog ate a couple, anyway. Hopefully this year it will produce better. They had been in the same soil since I bought the, some 4 or 5 years ago.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

More little local plants in the front garden.

After clearing a bit of rampant Rhagodia baccata out of the way, I put in two little local fellers from APACE nursery. One is Enchylaena tomentosa, a grey furry-looking groundcover plant with red berries that are quite tasty (though very small).
The other is a type of Calothamnus, another local, though probably from slightly further inland. It should be tough enough to survive out there, though.
Once it grows I can get rid of the stupidly big and ever-growing Tithonia diversifolia, which I'm a bit over cutting back all the time. It does have great sunflower size daisies in winter, but it takes a fair bit of pruning to keep it small enough for its spot.

Swales and terraces.

While it's raining is obviously the best time to see if there are any areas of your garden that have run-off areas, which may result in erosion.
Depending how much space you have you can make some swales or terrace type arrangements to catch that water and send it sideways, so it can percolate into the soil better.
Best suited to large open spaces on slopes, the swale is a trench across the slope, with the soil from the trench placed on the low side to make a mound.
Plants are grown on the high parts or in between swales on the slope, to make maximum use of the gathered rain and organic material that gets washed down into the trenches.

On a much smaller scale, simple use of small berms or bowls around newly planted plants can aid immensely in gathering water to soak in around the root zone. When you give it water it all soaks straight down, rather than washing away.
Tree bags are often used for revegetation projects, where they are placed around young plants to collect water for the seedling. They catch extra rain, but also gather dew in the mornings, and help protect against evaporation in the immediate area. A tree bag with a small berm around the seedling or young plant gives it a much better chance of survival in a tough environment. Some lucky plants even get a pulped cardboard mulch mat to keep the weeds at bay. These too reduce evaporation.
It all depends on the scale and number of willing people there is to carry out the work.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Wild wooly winter is here.

Perth is getting some rain. Not floods, like the east coast has been receiving, but some decent fills of regular rain. It seems like a lot to me, because you don't get much here these days.
The plants all look happy. Our rocket and parsley patches have gone ballistic. Lots of fresh greens!
So far, in this area we haven't been storm affected. It was pretty windy here on the hill the other day and night, but this place is pretty well protected by the roof of next door. It sends the winds over the top and probably sends it up to the landlords veranda two houses up!
One plant that has sustained damage was one of the trunks of our tall San Pedro cactus. It refused to bend any further and snapped.
Deciduous trees drop their leaves at quite different rates. The edible fig down the back lost all its leaves within a day or so. The powton leaves are mostly still attached, despite the battering it took.

It would have been a good week for filling a rainwater tank. At least our soil is pretty open and allows the rainfall to fall through, hopefully back to the aquifer.
One of the only things that is any good about lawns is that they allow water infiltration, as long as they have used a wetting agent or forked it recently.

Cactus babies.
I've been making a few cactus and succulent babies lately. Mainly just separating the little ones out from the parent. It's an easy way to increase plants and hopefully I can sell some at the local car-boot sales.
The dragon fruit is easy to propagate and easy to grow, so I'm keen to get a few of those out into folk's gardens. The fruit are quite yummy.

Sitting here looking out the window at the garden makes me think I might go out there for a while and have a wander around.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gombok Sculpture Park.

Today while the sun shone we went for a drive to Gombok Sculpture Park in Middle Swan, to see our friend Sara's sculpture.
It was a quick drive up the Roe Highway, almost to the very end of it. It was even past the airport!
There were some very cool sculptures up there. We stood Sara's piece up - it had blown over in the strong winds yesterday. I think we left it pointing the wrong way, though!?
Gruntle even got to have a run around. He was quite interested in a few of the sculptures, too.
We found another spot for him to runaround, and we had a cup of tea, off Bailey Road in Mahogany Creek.
We treated ourselves to a Judge's "famous" hamburger at the Parkerville Hotel. It was very tasty; with chips and salad it was quite a meal.
There are still some fairly chunky marri and tuart trees up that way. Good to see tree holes that black cockatoos would fit in - hopefully there are some nesting there.

It was good to see a few wildflowers out too. There was a beautiful Daviesia with dark red and yellow flowers, tiny ones along the jagged edges. Gorgeous and spiky. The Daviesia genus are pretty amazing plants. They are very tough, and have sharp points on the small, stiff leaves. The flowers are small but quite brightly coloured. There was a fair bit of Hovea pungens around in full bloom, too. You can see the striking purple spikes of small purple pea flowers from quite a distance.
It was a very pleasant Sunday drive. And a little bit cultural. Aah.

There's actually been a decent bit of rain the last couple of days. Like winter should be, almost. It's still way below average, though. The dams are still less than 20% capacity.

Anthurium coriaceaum

This is an interesting plant that I didn't like when I first saw it, but it grew on me, and after three other owners it ended up amongst my collection of oddities and useful species.
It's quite tough, doesn't need a lot of water, just plenty of shade.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Greville hedge at Mike's.

Planted a hedge of Grevillea at a client's house, as a privacy screen.. It includes G. Winpara Gem, G. "Apricot Glow" and G. "Honey Gem".

Monday, June 11, 2007

Getting into planting some natives.

On this fine Monday (kind of my Sunday), I have planted a few more bird-attracting plants, which also happen to be pretty and drought hardy once established.
These were a dwarf Banksia, a rescued, broken Grevillea Winpara Gem, a Dryandra nivea and some mystery low-growing Grevillea that I'm hoping will handle coastal conditions out the front.
Finally the pepino dulce plant has been put in too.
There has been a bit of rain recently, so the ground isn't bone dry, which is great. The other grevilleas that that have been in for a month or so are all looking good. Some have even started to flower.
It's a great time to be planting. The soil is still warm and there's a bit of sun, but the rain has been as well, with, hopefully more to come.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Waterwise gardener training.

Yesterday I did the professional Waterwise training at the Water Corporation building in Leederville.
I am pleased to say I actually did learn a few things, some of which were really reminders of why I prefer organic gardening in the first place.

One piece of news that I was glad to hear is that soluble chemical fertilisers are being taken off the market in coming years. These are the sort of products that quickly leach through our degraded sands and get into the river or the aquifer.
A rather shocking thing to learn though, is that in some areas around Perth, there is enough fertiliser in the bore water to feed everything, and in some areas there is even a toxic amount of nitrogen. All these excess nutrients leach quickly through the sand into the water table.

While there is more and more bore use the aquifer is getting less fresh water recharge from rain fall. What rain does fall is often diverted from roads and paving into the sea, instead of soaking into the ground.

Having the correct (chunky) mulch and groundcover plants will allow rain to soak into the ground, where it can sustain your garden between showers and help recharge the aquifer.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

"Climate of Hope" movie.

I meant to mention the other week that I saw a documentary called "Climate of Hope".
It explains the process that happens to create nuclear power, and tells about the other uses of 'by-products' from the nuclear industry.
Depleted uranium has been used in a few wars now. This means that hundreds of people have been exposed to it.
It seems like a stupid and terrible thing to keep digging the stuff out of the ground so that even more people are exposed to it.

If you see it advertised anywhere, being shown for free, check it out. It's probably even on the web somewhere for download by now - it has copyleft on it, so once it's been paid for it can be shared.

Otherwise, just check out and remind yourself how dodgy the whole nuclear power idea is, how polluting and bad it is for generations to come.
I even sent a letter to John Howard after watching "Climate of Hope".
et stirred up and send a letter to a politician today!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What goes in which bin?

I've been meaning to make up this list for ages. It's from the City of Fremantle Resource Recovery leaflet that comes in the postbox each year,but it's been rearranged so I can check it out easier.

The contents of this bins should be loose and preferably rinsed. Items are sorted and sold on for reprocessing.
All glass, inc. light globes and broken glass.
All plastic containers.
All tins and cans, inc. foil.
All paper, inc. wax cartons.

OTHER: broken ceramics, lunch boxes, empty paint tins,plant pots, seedling containers, yogurt containers.

All food, organic and general household waste, grass clippings and small prunings go in the green bin.
Ideally, food scraps get composted at home and used on the garden for growing your own veges!

OTHER: meat trays, take away containers, kitty litter, baskets, band aids, weeds, tapes, cellophane, cotton wool buds, disposable nappies, foam boxes and meat trays, glad wrap, animal waste, cooking oil, pens, pottery, polystyrine, terracotta pots.

NO glass.
NO construction or building waste.
NO hazardous materials.
NO hot ashes.
NO medical waste or needles.

Can be taken to local tip for disposal. No charge for household quantities.
These include: acids, ammonia, batteries, bleaches, cleaners, fertiliser, garden chemicals and poisons, insecticides, medicine, mineral turpentine, motor oil, paint tins with paint in them, pesticide concentrates, petrol and flammable liquids, poisons, pool chemicals, rat poison.

Fees apply for tip site entry.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My first visit to the FERN site.

In it's previous incarnation, the rectangle of land at the corner of Montreal and High Streets, Fremantle was an organically based garden centre. We sold manures, plants, open-pollinated seeds and seedlings, along with a few other odds and sods.
It closed down suddenly and dramatically a few years ago; the locals were aghast.
Deep in debt, there was a sale of anything on site.
That scene, of people tearing the place apart, digging plants up, basically ransacking the place made me cry at the time, seeing all these strangers (I didn't recognise one of the 'seagulls' as prior customers) tearing the place apart.
It had been such a beautiful concept for a shop and place to live my ideals of sharing my knowledge of permaculture and organics.

FERN have been doing lots of good work there. Still I hadn't been to check out what they did with the place..
Last night, I finally visited. It was sparse, no pots anywhere, the ponds and their reeds were all gone, most of the fruit trees were gone, but I could see the hard work that has gone into the place.
We went out the back to the shadehouse area. That's where I felt the most sadness. I'd grown lots of things in there. Some things grew themselves-like the 3 metre tall powton that came up from a root cutting that escaped from its pot.
Some of the good folk from Rocky Bay had been employed potting up plants for sale on site. We had grown some useful plants out there.
Now it stands completely empty. I'd like to get in there and grow lots of plants; all the things I don't have room for at home!

There was a talk about Ecological Engineering, including the use of algal photobioreactors, which can be part of a cycle that cleans water used by industry.
It was a very exciting and inspiring talk, and if I can get my head around the maths and chemistry at uni, I'd be interested in checking it out further.
I knew it would have t be something pretty special to get me back to that site, and the talk was excellent.
So was the vegan nosh-up afterwards!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Time well spent in the garden.

I'm pretty impressed by the fact that I can spend a couple of minutes planting some seedlings and they give me so much back with how long they last and the joy of eating your own garden or seeing flowers you've grown and the birds or insects they have attracted.

I guess that's a pretty obvious statement in regards to gardening, but I was thinking about food plants and how simple it is to grow a few little things that can help your vitamin and mineral intake immensely.
If you can get your hands on some seeds or seedlings, soil, fish emulsion and kelp solution, you can grow some lettuce or parsley, chards, and with enough sun all kinds of veg are easy to grow as long as you can water and feed them. This isn't so easy with water restrictions, but a watering can will suffice, especially when it has fish and seaweed in it every couple of weeks.

Reusing Kitchen Water.

The double sink in our kitchen has basins in it to collect our washing up and rinsing water. One side has the clean water, which can go onto plants out the front, near the door.
The rest of the water goes into a large bucket that also has our kitchen scraps.

Any edible-ish scraps are collected for our dogs, who get blended leftovers and veg as their meal a couple of times a week. They especially like it if there's a bit of cheese or meat scraps or a tin of sardines in it.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Fantastic FERN

It's brilliant to see that FERN are organised and advertising themselves and their upcoming workshops in the local paper; no doubt the most useful information ever in said local paper!

What/who is FERN?, you may ask.
Fremantle Environmental Resource Network a group of passionate and dedicated folk who have spent many hours of voluntary time to create an organisation, which aims to educate others on all kinds of topics related to sustainability.
These topics will generally be based on what urban-living people can do to reduce their impact on the environment and global-warming.
Permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, becoming more water-wise and other environmental education is what it's all about.

I admit, I haven't been to any of the meetings. My connection is that I used to work at the site that they're using. It was an organically-based permaculture garden centre.
A great place to work - there were fruit trees planted around the place and some ponds with fish and frogs. We sold a lot of edible plants and many interesting 'permaculture' type plants - rare or lesser known useful plants.

The site has changed a lot now, I'm sure. I will go there one day, I want to see what they've done with the place.

Anyone is welcome to join in.
Tuesday night's at 6.30 pm there is the 'magic beanstalk soup night' - share some food for a donation to the cause.

Who knows, I might see you there!

By the way, there's a link to the right to the FERN website if you want a closer look at what these good people are doing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ahh, lovely clouds.

I don't want on harp on, but this bit of rain is great. It isn't enough to do anything towards filling the dams but it just feels good to have a bit of the stuff.
During summer it's just too hot and dry to establish new plants so it's fantastic to be able to go out there and grow a bit of food.
Growing your own vegetables and fruit is an important thing you can do to reduce the carbon emissions needed to provide your food. It's ridiculous that so much food is flown to us from other countries.
Buying locally produced foods is another way to reduce your impact.
The Fremantle Markets has a great selection of locally grown (and some imported) fruit and veg. I like to get exotic ingredients occasionally, but generally only get local grown.
Jerry's Organics has lots of good organic, biodynamic and conventional fruit and veg.
He's been selling veg there a long time. Good bloke!
There's a good organic health food shop down South Terrace, too, called Manna Wholefoods. They sell organic and biodynamic fruit and veg and dry goods.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Autumn rain, make my seeds germinate.

In the last week or so it has seemed like a good time to get some veges started. The heat has backed off and the soil is good to grow a few tasty things.
I am trying out some Brussels sprouts and broccoli, while the silver beet is coming along nicely already.
It also seems like a good idea to grow leeks and spring onions. Both these onions are expensive in shops and so I don't eat as many as I'd like to; they are easy to grow, and delicious.
I reckon that I'm gonna grow some of the leeks hydroponically too. It will probably make them go a bit faster and they won't have a lot of crud inside them.
There is also a stainless steel sink full of potting mix that has some carrot seeds waiting to germinate. I've only grown tiny carrots before, so it will be interesting to see how big ones go. Our soil isn't that flash, so thought potting mix may be okay.
I always reuse the mix anyone, beefing it up a bit with some manure or something for potting plants up into.

The other day we had a tree out the front cut down by our arborist friend and have replaced it with two young Grevillea plants - G. "Honey Gem" and G. "Pink Surprise". I'm really looking forward to them growing and flowering. They will be quite beautiful and will attract more birds to the garden.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Slightly autumn.

Despite the weather report saying it would reach 34C today, the season is changing. The angles of the sun have prompted the need for some of our unruly Acacia saligna trees to need pruning to let sunshine onto the ground.
The dragon fruit is growing well, but is in the shade now. One of the other dragon fruit plants in another part of the garden managed to make one fruit. It grew on a piece that was hanging over the fence and was getting the morning sun. The fruit wasn't a large one, but it was very yummy.
We are lucky to have the red-fleshed dragon fruit. It is a little sweeter than the white one.

It's difficult gardening when you want to grow trees and also want to grow some food.
Veges and fruiting plants mostly need quite a lot of sun.
In Perth some things need protection from the worst of it on a summer afternoon.
This year a lot of plants had leaves burnt by the 42C days. The leaves are just not expecting that kind of prolonged heat.

More Grevillea species for the garden.
In place of an Acacia saligna out the front we are going to put in two more Grevillea species. One is Pink Surprise, the other Honey Gem.
These will be stunning in full flower and should grow fairly quickly to provide a screen from the road. Not to mention the many birds that will come along and have a feed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Flowers for good insects.

It's good to have flowers in the garden at all times of year. It's not always easy, though. Some seasons are too extreme for flowering plants.
These flowers will attract and maintain hoverflies, lacewings and other useful insects in your garden.
Flowers: daisies, allysum, Queen Anne's lace, mint, thyme, tansy, lemon balm, santolina, caraway.
Vegetables: Gone to see vegies often have good flowers that will attract insects which are beneficial to your garden; such as parasitic wasps, killers of caterpillars.
Veg to let go to seed include: brocolli family of veg, mustards, fennel.
Buckwheat, a grain, is also good for hoverflies. It has blue flowers.

Monday, March 12, 2007

When will autumn arrive this year?

I haven't written anything of late, as it has been stinkin' hot and still very dry. There was a decent thunderstorm with some rain a couple of Mondays back, but apart from that we've had the hottest March day for 70 years or so, and it has just been hot and dry.
Most plant problems at this time of year in Perth are due to non-wetting problems.

Roll on a bit of cool weather, so I can plant a few veges for the cooler season.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Kingfisher using our birdbath.

I was at work while it was happening, but a sacred kingfisher ws using one of our birdbaths. It was quite a warm day and it had a good old splash about.
We have a fair few fence skinks and , of course, the frogs.
They've always been one of my favourite birds and it's pretty rare to see them in the suburbs. There's not much hunting in these parts, I imagine.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Planting in summer - soil preparation.

Soak the plants that are going into the ground to make sure the root ball is drenched.

Firstly dig the hole twice as wide and as deep as the pot size to be planted.
Fill up the hole a couple of times with water and let it soak in. This can take a long time.
You could fill up the hole with seasol and let that soak in too.

Combine the existing sand with some organic matter of some sort: soil conditioner or potting mix or manure .

When you plant consider including soil soil wetting granules on top to make sure the water will soak in correctly and evenly. Dry pockets in the soil can prevent a plant ever really taking off.

Water in thoroughly with a weak solution of kelp/seasol. Water again at lease twice a week, giving a good soaking each time to keep the soil damp enough for the roots to grow easily.

San Pedro cactus in flower.

This stunning, rather tall and successful cactus has been threatening us with flower buds for a few months now and has decided to suddenly flower.

5 flowers were out this morning when I noticed it and then after night fell I thought I'd check again, and there were another 7 out.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Creating shade.

At this time of year there's never enough shade around in urban areas. This is true for tree shade as well as shade for the soil level in the garden.
Mulching is an important part of garden maintenance, but it is really better to have plants as a living mulch where possible. This will add to the cooling air that is created by plants and help more water soak into the ground on those odd occasions that it does rain in Perth these days.

There are many useful and hardy ground covers: native plants include Myoporum parvifolium, Hemiandra pungens and various Grevilleas. Exotics include: Arctotis daisies, Mysembryanthemums, carnations, thyme, oregano and many others.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dragonfly nymph.

I'm pretty pleased to see dragonflies are using our pond to breed.
This is a dragonfly nymph.

Planting in summer.

Strictly speaking, it's probably not the best time to plant, being the middle of summer, but it is the time when you really notice areas that need some shade or shelter.

I have finally planted a couple of shrubs to hide the neighbour's window and have thought of a way to plant something else to hide another of their windows.
I used a lavender which will grow tall enough to cover the lower part of their window without cutting out too much light and a little further into the garden is a Westringia fruticosum (native rosemary; apparently the largest form available, so it will be about 1.5 metres in all directions.)

It will also provide nectar for certain insects.

It has been cool and overcast today, not the 40 degrees Celsius Perth summer is known for. It's even rained a little just recently, not enough to make a real difference, but I guess it reduces evaporation for a couple of days, and that helps.
It is handy as it will help a couple of the newly planted shrubs settle in.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Grevillea Coastal Glow - Aussie native plant.

This plant is excellent near the coast. Not many Grevilleas would do so well with the limestone and the ocean winds. This one has stayed fairly short and has spread out instead. It flowers for many months of the year. The honeyeaters love it.

Re-wetting dry soil.

At this time of year many plants are not getting enough water, even when they are being watered.
Perth soils are not only very dry, but they actually repel water once they have dried out completely. Water will either just sit on top of the ground or roll away to where it isn't useful, possibly even causing erosion damage .
I have recently used a granular soil-wetting product which has helped parts of my garden that would otherwise not be getting water soaking in properly.

It is also important when trying to establish shrubs and trees that they will benefit more from an irregular deep-soaking than regular small watering.
When given a good, deep soaking the roots are able to follow the water down to where it is cooler and there is soil moisture. This is especially important if it a plant that you only want to water through their first summer.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Importance of Bees and Wasps.

The insect family Hymenoptera is very important. There are many interesting and beneficial, yet lesser known, relatives of the commonly seen honey bees and paper wasps.

Australia has many native bees. Many of these are solitary bees, but some live in groups and produce small amounts of honey.

As an aside: Honey bees are used in Australia for honey production, but when swarms get away and become feral they are a nuisance and take the homes of parrots and other native fauna. For instance, cockatoos need certain sized holes in trees to live in. Feral bees also use these holes, and being more aggresive they are able to take nesting holes in trees, reducing much-needed homes for the birds.

Hoverflies are easily seen in the garden if you stand and watch near flowers for hovering insects that seem to hang in mid-air near flowers. These small fly relatives have larvae that eat small garden pests, such as aphids.
Adult hoverflies rely on pollen and nectar to live so it is a good idea to include plants that have many small flowers. These can include marigolds, allyaum and umbelliferous plants such as dill, fennel and queen Anne's Lace.

Australia doesn't have hornets, but we do have some very large wasps. These are spider-wasps, and are upto 4 cm long.
Their job is to hunt down wolf and huntsmen spiders, which they drag back to their burrows in the soil to feed their young.

At the other end of the size scale there are tiny parasitoid wasps, which lay their eggs inside the eggs of other insects. Some are small enough to lay their eggs inside the eggs of aphids.