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.