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.