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.