Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reducing waste at Christmas.

I'm not into Christmas for many reasons, one of which is the over commercialisation of what is meant to be a time of sharing and family. A lot of presents get bought that aren't wanted, a lot of packaging is produced for one off use before it's discarded to lie in the ground for thousands of years.
People put themselves into debt to obtain useless trinkets, stocking fillers that in their production fill the air with pollutants. I realise that there are some people who are more careful about about they buy but overconsumption of goods creates a lot of the western worlds carbon footprint so we need to rein back on buying junk that's just not needed.

The mad rush to consume makes the usually friendly public stressed and highly-strung, so they feel free to harass the person serving them in a busy shop.

There are better ways to show people you love them than creating a pile of rubbish in their name.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I passed my chemistry unit. Second times the charm.

Look, I know it's just Intro to Chemistry and many high school students get by every year, but it was damn hard for me, forcing me to repeat it. It was such a nightmare the first time around, making me feeling depressed and awful the majority of the time. The concepts are so foreign to anything but its amazing to learn how atoms and molecules works.

The second attempt felt much better because I was already familiar with some of the ideas, and the bits I didn't understand first time became clearer and clicked into place as they need to with chemistry. I could feel my brain stretching and its amazing how much better I remember small details. My memory isn't always too flash, so its brilliant to experience the pleasure of retraining my brain and knowing it is working better than before.

The total relief at passing has made me feel good since I got the results. I am more confident now that I know I can learn things I had a really hard time understanding.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Goodbye Rusty Bucket.

I'm feeling really sad today because I had to get my ancient dog put down the other day. My partner has been home the last couple of days to help me get over it, but this is the first day I've spent without Rusty for 14 years (well, apart from the days that he spent away after escaping and going chasing girls).
I met him when he was only 8 weeks old, so cute, little yellow fellow.
He was my first dog.
He was old for so long. I feel somewhat relieved that he's gone, he was sore and really slow for the last couple of years, but today I really miss him.
We have one of his offspring, who is doing a good job of letting me cuddle him when I start crying.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unseasonally pleasant weather we're having.

Compared to last November and early December it has been extremely mellow weather. I don't think we've hit 35 degrees C once yet. This is having various effects in the garden.
There has been a bit of rain here and there and since it is overcast and not very hot the ground isn't drying out as much. It's great not having to water very often yet; I'm not very good at regular watering, which is my biggest downfall when it comes to vegetable growing.

One of the best ways to reduce having to water as often is to increase organic matter and mineral content in the soil, especially on Perth sands which are weak, lifeless and have no structure. There are more minerals available in the Perth area.

There is the chance though that once the sun does come out properly a lot of plants are going to get scorched. I've seen it already on a few things, burnt on the very few hots days.

In Perth some people are now putting 30% shade-cloth over their vegetable growing areas to reduce scorch in mid-summer. It's the only way to be able to continue to grow soft, leafy vegetables in Perth.

If I'm going to plant in open ground away from regular water I dig in some soil improver with a pinch of water-saving crystals in the bottom of the hole. I just planted a prostrate rosemary plant across the road on the big empty verge near the two other tough plants I put in last winter. They managed to get noticed by the council workers (that is they didn't get mowed down), so I'm hoping to cover the bare area over there with various low-growing tough plants that can cope with dryness and full West Australian sun.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Great Gardens workshops.

Yesterday I attended the Great Gardens workshop at the Fremantle town hall. I was glad to see the content had changed a little. It seemed less like a condensed permaculture course but still had important information on how to set up a low water use garden. They are a lot more into remineralising the ground along with adding organic matter to retain moisture and nutrients.
There were quite a few moments where I was hearing statements I've only heard myself make before, so that was encouraging.
It was good to hear someone else talking about not digging Perth sand, to prevent damage to the soil life and so worms don't get exposed to bright sunlight.

The second part of the talk was about growing food plants, a special interest of mine. They covered hydroponics as well as mentioning aquaponics.
The guy who talked about growing fruit is a wealth of knowledge. His many years of experience shines through. He could have talked about growing food all day and I would have learnt heaps from him. I like to have a few of my ideas challenged and others supported by hearing a true expert explain some point that I have suspected for some time.

Even if people didn't take in everything that was said they would come away fro these workshops with a great start to making their garden happier and less water-needy than before.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back from the depths of uni.

Phew, well, I reemerge back into the non-student world.
Sat my dreaded chemistry exam this morning and can now get back out into the garden for a little while before summer kicks in. So far the season has been very mild and there has been some rain so the veges and herbs are still lush.
The seeds I bought from Diggers seem ok. The beans and cukes are heading up.
Since I haven't been in the yard for while it needs a bit of attention but I will be glad to be out there again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Minerals for Perth soils.

Yesterday we went to the Gardening Australia expo. I found another source of minerals to improve sandy soils..
Sand remedy is made by the company that has taken over the Swan Garden (permaculture) garden centre in Midvale.
They are The Green Life Soil Co. at Lot 40, Farrall Road, Midvale. (9250 4575).
Eco-growth also produces a mineral mix which is sold through their own website or from Gardeners Direct.
Dawson's Garden World may be selling it soon, too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spring heat.

This beautiful orchid was in the forest last Sunday, somewhere off Albany Highway in Ashendon. Seems like a good area for looking at wildflowers. It's not very easy to find somewhere to pull off the road though.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Frogs aren't very clever.

When Paul opened the bonnet of the car to check the water at a service station, there was a frog perched up on the wiper-washer bottle. It had been for a drive at least 15 kms. He sprayed it with some water and hopefully it removed itself later when he got home and left the hood open for a few hours.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ashendon Road off Mount Dale Road.

Trigger plant.
Out beyond Midgigooroo National Park there are amazing exposed granite rocks. These are sacred sites so no public access is allowed, but some of the surrounding forest is well worth wandering around to look at some of the wildflowers.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Whale watching off Fremantle.

We went out to check out some hump-back whales off the coast yesterday. I'd never seen a whale before. I have still only seen bits of a few from a distance, but I figure that's a pretty good start!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bamboo suppliers in southern Western Australia.

Western Bamboo - Peter and Kree Jones, PO Box 146, Gingin, WA 6503. Phone/Fax: 08 9575 7507
email: (westernbamboo at yahoo dot com dot au)

Yarri Springs - Plants and poles - Peter Hicks & Wendy Wilkins, PO Box 66, Balingup, WA 6253. Ph 08 9764 1002
email: (yarrisprings at westnet dot com dot au)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ooopps, been a bit busy.

Back at uni, studying and reading, trying to have a tiny life as well.
The frogwatch list has been updated.

This is the link to the tadpole exchange program page. If you want tadpoles this is a good place to start.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Make homes for native bees.

A simple way to make some homes for solitary native bees and other insects is to get a big piece of wood, preferably a chunky post or pillar and drill holes in it about 4-6 mm wide for the bees and some a bit bigger for wasps and spiders.

The holes can be on all sides and be 2-3 cm deep. If you don't have a drill maybe try hitting a fat nail in then pulling it back out.
Some wasps can actually chew through the wood a little bit or may use mud to make a cosy coccoon for its babies.

The bees are good pollinators for your garden. Wasps are predatory on caterpillars and insect eggs and some even eat spiders.
This is a good website for native bees.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The FrogWAtch tadpole exchange.

The FrogWAtch tadpole exchange list is updated and back online.

It is getting updated from time to time now.

In my garden there hasn't been much croaking and squeezing going on in the frog world; I suspect it is the lower temperatures just lately that is slowing down. They like it about 20-24C or so, I've found.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A butcher bird catching a mouse.

This is a picture of a butcher bird with a mouse in its beak that it had just caught in the garden. It grabbed the mouse from the ground then dropped it into the birdbath where the mouse swam around a few times before the butcher-bird grabbed it again (the picture) and flew off.
I'd be quite happy for it to do that more often. When we first moved in here 11 or so years ago a black-shouldered kite caught a mouse in the back yard. Since then we've planted more trees and shrubs so it's not so easy for raptors to see our pesky rodents.
If the bobtail skink (Tiliqua rugosa) was here again it could eat baby mice. I try and make the habitat suitable for these creatures but I suspect that lizard was just passing through. It's not very good lizard territory here anymore

Growing vegetables from seed.

As with all gardening I think it's a good idea to start with something easy. That way you gradually feel encouraged to keep trying new things. Another way is to try and get things right the first time around - not always so easy.
Growing your own seedlings is a very economical way to grow food. A packet of seeds often costs a similar amount to a punnet of 6 or 8 seedlings from a nursery.
I will explain here some of the steps to growing your own seedlings, but firstly you need a few things.

Propagation area.
Make sure this is somewhere you will see or can visit easily every morning. It can be easy to forget to water in summer or miss a snail in winter and your seedlings will fail.

Seed-raising mix: Seedling mix is usually finer than general potting mix. It has less chunks in it and less fertliser. A seed has enough energy in it to germinate and grow to a size where you can move it into a larger pot or the ground.

Seeds: Seed catalogues are beautiful things. I love to peruse a Digger's Seeds or Greenharvest catalogue. You may prefer to get organic seed. It's a good idea to get open-pollinated, heirloom varieties as you can save the seeds of them and acclimatise them to your area.
Labels: Cut up some stiff plastic and write on them what the seeds are. It can be easy to get some plants confused.

Ok, so get some empty seedling punnets or a tray and fill it most of the way to the top with seedling mix. Pat it down.
Make little divots in the soil or rows if it is finer seed.
Generally with seeds they get buried at about twice as deep as they are wide, so bean seeds (big) go about 1 centimetre below the soil level, while carrot seeds (tiny) only get a little bit of soil sprinkled on top of them. This makes them a little trickier to germinate as they need to be kept moist and the thin layer of soil above them will dry quicker than the deeper soil over the bean seeds.
Label the rows or punnets as you go.

Water the seedling mix gently so you don't disturb the soil surface too much and expose the seed.
Now wait. Seeds have different germination rates. Some will come up in a few days, others can take up to 2 or 3 weeks. Be patient and don't let them dry out but don't drown them either.

Pricking out/transplanting.
When the seedlings have their two true leaves, (not the very first two leaf-like bits, which are the unfurled seed, but the first things that look like real leaves) then you prick them out into a pot or into the garden. Don't leave them too long- it will retard their growth if they get too big before transplanting.

Fill your pots with good potting mix or get the ground ready by making holes a few centimetres deep to place the seedling into.
Pricking out is kind of an art, which once practiced becomes much easier. Take a teaspoon or a short blunt knife, about 1-2 cm wide and push it gently about 3 or 4 centimetres into the soil near one of the seedlings. Ease the knife back a little and pull upwards. You will have the little seedling and hopefully most of its roots on the knife. Now gently place it into the prepared hole, make sure the roots are all pointing downwards, carefully push the soil in around it and water in gently using a seaweed tonic to help them settle in quickly.
Congratulations. You have created life! Some seeds are trickier than others but with the right set up and a bit of water you can grow pretty well whatever you want.

Good luck.

Monday, July 14, 2008

But I still like plants and gardens,

Having said that earlier today about being a bit off gardening, I still like plants and helping people do the right thing with their gardens. I just can't be bothered about my own garden. I'm still quite happy to help people figure out what can go in and when, figure out pest and disease problems and improving their soil; I know that stuff, it's easy for me and I'm very happy to share it.
Until the mouse 'problem' in the garden is solved I'm not gonna bother with vegetables. Mmm, except those lettuce seedlings I got yesterday. Perhaps I'll grow them in tubs away from the rodent zone.
When our garden has brief visits from ring-neck parrots and New Holland honey-eaters I just want to plant more native shrubs for them but know that I should be growing more human food stuff.
Improving habitat helps with pest control so its good to combine the types of plants.

Planting natives.

For someone who is supposed to be a keen gardener I'm not very keen sometimes!
At the moment my vegetable growing efforts are being badly thwarted by mice which eat any seeds, parsley or broccoli I try and grow. It's a bit more difficult killing mice outdoors. I don't want to use a rodenticide as they cause secondary poisoning of birds that catch the poisoned mice while they are dying. Most baits cause internal hemorrhaging of the poisoned animal causing a slow death. When a raptor eats one they take in the poison too, slowly dying in a lot of pain.
Racumin is the only choice if I were to poison as it doesn't kill things that eat the poisoned rodents, but still, I'm just not into poisons! I may have to resort to Racumin though as I just noticed the mice are also eating the silverbeet which until this point had been untouched. Grrr.
I have just planted a Chorizema cordatum in the garden. It is a pretty understory plant from the forest here. I am hoping it will grow in the shady spot in the garden underneath an Acacia cyclops.
I am sometimes quite torn between the idea of growing food for myself or food for native fauna. We have a lot of legless lizards and fence skinks and the frogs but I love to see birds visit the garden and I also love insects. I want to grow food *and* create habitat. Most of the native plants are around the edges of the garden or out the front but the centre beds and other areas with more sun are best for food. Except the mice are putting paid to that. So just for today I'll just look at the locals and sus' out where to get some poxy Racumin and how to put the bait out in a safe way so my dogs can't get at it.
Edit: I bought some traps and put peanut butter on them. It's gross but necessary. I might put the 'humane' trap out too. We usually freeze the little's meant to be one of the most humane ways to kill something.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Useful weeds discovery of the day.

Nettle, comfrey and nasturtium are a great combination of weeds to add to compost. Between them they access all the nutrients in the ground that plants need. They are all great plants in their own right and grow readily in the cooler seasons in this climate.

Nettles: good indicator of plenty of nitrogen in the ground. Highly nutritious edible leaves - after wearing gloves to pick them they are not prickly once cooked.

Comfrey - brilliant for compost and 'poo tea' for gardens. It has a long root system so it can bring up nutrients that are a bit below others range. The leaves can then be used for the above applications. It also has medicinal uses, which are controversial. It is also edible in small doses. Comfrey is probably a weed in some wetter areas than Perth.

Nasturtium: common nasturtium is quite rampant in the cooler rainy season but is easily controlled by pulling up. The flowers are edible and look good in salads. There are other varieties of nasturtium that behave a bit better and stay where you plant them. The Alaska nasturtium (pictured above) is a variegated variety that stays put.

Of course, always check before foraging for weeds that no one has sprayed or its not getting road run-off or some nastiness on it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Mundaring Weir.

We were going to the hills to buy a cheap CRT monitor from some one as ours had died so thought we'd check out some bush nearby. Since the dog was with us we weren't allowed into Lake Lechenaultia, so stopped up the road a bit and found a spot he could run around. There were a few Hibbertias in flower and a pretty little Daviesia. There were flat sundew plants here and there.
From there we went to Mundaring Dam and had a ltttle walk across the top. It has been a long time since I visited there; I'm quite positive the water was much higher back then.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We can't ignore the trouble we're in.

I heard a not-so -hilarious comment the other night.."Kevin Rudd (our new Prime Minister) has made petrol prices go up. It's only happened since he came in." I know I'm a bit better educated than most, and care a lot more, about the environment, but it's not Kev's's Peak Oil and the fact that the previous government was keeping prices low through subsidies. Many goods are subsidised and petrol is one of them.
It's not one persons fault that the price of oil has finally started to go up. It's everybodies fault that lives in the modern world.
How long can we continue to ignore that we are deep in trouble with all the solutions possible but no direction being taken to start on the good road to living in a future that is not all food riots and starvation.
Living in ignorance is not going to save us. Pretending there is no climate change is not going to help. Alternative energy needs to be made more affordable. Emissions from industry need to be reduced.
We can't keep putting our heads in the sand. Unfortunately the modern person thinks its okay to spend huge amounts of money on useless crap that is polluting in its manufacture and used a few times before it goes to the tip and leaches its toxins into the groundwater.
Changing peoples behaviour is a hard thing to do. It will be forced on us.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Mercer Cycles, Fremantle.

I just thought I'd mention that there is a really good family owned bike shop in Fremantle, where the service is friendly and fast. The current owner has taken over from his father who ran the shop before him. They are great for advice and all parts and accessories for the new or experienced rider.
I think that it's really important to support small business so I am pleased that Clive and his family are doing well in therse days of rising fuel prices. Fremantle is an easy place to get around by bike and we all know it's a healthy alternative to driving short distances.
Their address is 97 South Terrace, Fremantle. (08) 9335 9536.
It's near the Fremantle Hospital.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Helen's garden.

I went to visit some friends recently. Helen and her feller have a great block on a slope with a fairly decent view.

She has an orchard in the front of the block (which is at the back of the house, front in this case meaning north-facing).
The trees are going to be quite cosy when they get bigger, but apparently Jackie French reckons this works well.
The tall existing marri trees kind of restrict what can be done out there, but their shade is well above the garden, so in many ways they are the perfect canopy.

In the street facing side of the garden is mixed vegetable areas and low native plants. It's a complete fairyland of a garden for their intelligent little daughter. She's a lucky little one with very smart parents.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

World Environment Day.

In case anyone didn't notice, and really why would they, it's World Environment Day. I was feeling good this morning after listening to one of Al Gores speakers give a short talk on climate change and how we can do our bit, with a couple of other positive talks about personal responsibility and how we can do good things, then I came home and one of the people down the road is removing all their shrubs and trees from their garden. I think its the shrubs where the little group New Holland honeyeaters live. Its made me feel a bit bummed out. Sure, some of them can move here, but its always really sad I reckon when people get rid of the tiny bit of habitat in an area.
Listening to the chain-saw and then the big mulcher chew that habitat up is a bit of a sad thing for me. I try and stay positive about the fact that we have the technology to do good, but when one little thing like that upsets me I wonder how much we can do.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Natural aphid control.

Unlike most people with gardens I actually don't mind if there is an invasion of aphids. This is because I like a lot of the insects that are going to come along and get rid of the aphids. One of the most interesting ones is the tiny wasp called Aphidius. They lay their eggs inside aphids, thereby paralysing them and providing food for their little larvae. Once the new wasp emerges it can then carry on the cycle by laying more eggs inside other aphids. The aphid 'mummies' are a light brown colour and swollen. When the wasp has emerged you can see a tiny round hole in its back.
It's pretty amazing to see how quickly a group of aphids gets turned into mummies. There's a good chance ladybirds will also discover the aphids too. These little helpers in the garden are most likely to visit if you don't use any poisons in the garden.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Good things to eat in Fremantle.

*Gypsy Tapas - Highgate Court, High St (Cnr Queen St).
*Cafe 55, High Street - breakfast and lunch, Thai and other Asian dishes and your usual lunchtime fare.
*Juicy Beetroot, High Street - vegetarian and vegan lunches and treats.
*Culley's Tearooms - pies and pastries and sit down meals. The longest running lunchbar in Fremantle, favoured by the old dears.
*Manna Wholefoods, South Terrace, South Fremantle. Organic vegetarian and vegan lunches. Fresh foods and organic produce.
*Joe's Fish Shack.
*Frank's Gourmet Butcher, Wray Ave. The best butcher for miles. A huge array of delicious things. Organic steak, all chicken is free-range. He's one of those butchers you trust.

More as I think of them..

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reasons to reduce your lawn. And some alternatives.

My like of lawn is non-existent. They use a lot of resources best used elsewhere. I personally reckon that couch grass should be banned from sale. It destroys many gardens by taking over and forces people to use chemicals to destroy it. There are some better non-toxic (to humans) herbicides these days but its still a hassle when your precious waterwise plantings get invaded by poxy couch.

Fertiliser use: Lawns need to be fed to look green. If you use too much fertiliser the plants can't use it and in our thin sands the excess can get washed down into the water table or into the river system causing algal blooms.

Chemicals and weedkillers: Ditto for the above reasons with the added bonus of being toxic and using the wrong ones can do more harm than good.

Petrol: to power the lawnmower.

Time: having to spend precious weekend time mowing must be a hassle. Surely.

There are alternative plants you can grow that will take foot traffic including:
Lippia (Phyla nodiflora): this can be weedy as it spreads by stolons, so goes where it wants but its much easier to control than lawn species and doesn't need to be mowed.
Dichondra repens is good for shady areas that will get watered. It's soft and cool but not hugely tough for daily use.

There are MANY very pretty other plants, including Grevillea species that can be used in areas where groundcover is needed but won't be walked over.
These are some Aussie species.
Grevillea nudiflora - low growing with little red flowers.
Myoporum parvifolium - flat plant with tiny white flowers. Spreads to about 2 metres wide. The cultivar M. parvifolium 'purpureum' has a purplish tinge to the foliage and is tough enough to use where a car will be parked (according to Sabrina Hahn, who recommended it as such).
Hemiandra pungens - prickly groundcover with pretty pink or white flowers. Local Perth species.

Edible groundcovers include many species of thyme, oregano, strawberries, sweet potato, nasturtium (they can take over a bit though).

If you don't use your lawn, maybe consider getting rid of at least some of it. Plants will reduce the heat island effect as much as grass will, they will absorb more carbon and use a lot less of your time and money to look good. Plus they provide habitat and or food.
Go on. Kill your lawn!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fremantle Farmer's Market at FERN.

Locally produced and organic goods from 7.30 am to 12.30 pm on Sunday mornings. Lots of farm fresh goodies.

Corner of High Street and Montreal Street, Fremantle.
We went there at about 11 and there were still lots of people. Loads of good food, some decent coffee, organic fruit, veg and lamb. It was cool to see the place so busy.

Permaculture plants book.

Capuli cherry: Jeff Nugent.
Jeff Nugent is a longtime permaculture designer and gardener. This book is an amazing collection of species that will grow in the southwest of Western Australia. He has a great little permaculture farm where he teaches courses form time to time.

Semester one is nearly done.

Having withdrawn from chem and feeling much relaxed about it, I have done a spot of gardening and found a bit of space to squeeze another grevillea in down the back. It should hide the neighbours nicely!

Frogwatch list update: I will be going to see the man with the list soon and returning a backlog of emails. I'm looking forward to meeting the herpetologist. Good timing too as its the uni break quite soon. Phew.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Elder Fizz Recipe.

This is easy to make and a good thing to do with some of the many elderflower bunches that grow in spring. I've been meaning to put this online for ages.

*4.5 litres water
*700g sugar or honey
*Juice and rind of one lemon
*12 elder flower heads (shaken carefully and checked for bugs!)

You will also need some fine cotton cloth to strain the brew, one large enamel, ceramic or glass container (a bucket will do in a pinch but not metal), a clean stirrer and four 1.5 litre plastic water bottles. These are used because they won't burst easily;

*To make sure the utensils are really clean, sterilise them with boiling water. Contaminants in brewed drinks can result in explosive and smelly failures!!
*Mix the ingredients together, making sure the sugar dissolves properly.
*Leave to stand for 24 hours, covered with a cloth.
*Strain well and bottle.
*Store in a cool dark place for two weeks, somewhere you'll see them. Releas the built up pressure in the bottles every couple of days by twisting the lid slightly to let the gas out, then doing it up again.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I really hate uni right now.

I'm failing at chemistry and it's making me feel really depressed about the whole thing. If I fail chem I'll have to redo it. The work that I want to do has absolutely no need for chemistry.
I thought I was smart until I started doing this unit. I hate maths and the lecturers may as well be speaking Greek or something. One lecturer almost was, speaking fast with a heavy Chinese accent, not pronouncing half the words properly so many of us have no idea what the hell she was on about. I am frustrated and angry and feel like giving up. It's really bad. I go to lots of extra help classes, but it's not helping. I just wan to make people plant local species of plants. Why the hell do I need to do chemistry for????

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A list of the Grevillea's in my garden.

Grevillea brachystachya - low growing, has many pink flowers starting in late autumn.
G. "Winpara Gem"
G. "Winpara Gold"
G. "Apricot Glow" - shrub to 2 metres.
G. "Coastal Glow" - spreading 1-1.5 m shrub. Gorgeous red toothbrush flowers from winter to summer.
G. thelemanniana - local coastal variety. Grows to only a metre or so. Good for coastal sands.
G "Pink Surprise"
G "Honey Gem"
G. species ground-cover on verge. From Lullfitz.

All doing well in poor Fremantle soils and with coastal conditions. I rarely water these, if ever, once established.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Public tree planting.

One of my favourite eucalypts is Eucalyptus macrocarpa, also called "mottlecah" or 'the rose of the west'. It is a West Australian tree from a little north of Perth. I have snuck one onto the verge near my house so I will be able to see it from the front window.
It's very drought hardy once established and needs hot dry summers to grow successfully, so I think it will be happy where I put it. The leaves have a silvery powder on the leaves which helps them deflect heat in their desert habitat.
The flowers are very big and red, sometimes pink. It will be interesting to see how much bigger it gets by the end of winter.
I had been thinking of planting something there for a while, as it is an exposed area that could do with some brightening up; plus I figure that if there's room for a small tree then put in a small tree!
Mottlecah is also not a visual block or able to hide bad-guys as the mallee habit and leaf arrangement makes it easy to see through. They also rarely get very tall as they sprawl. Being a mallee also means if the plant needs to lose a limb that is in the way it can grow new ones from the lignotuber.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Education is what people need.

Due to having lived an "alternative" kind of lifestyle, I am actually quite out of touch with how the general population feels about environmental issues. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of people who don't really feel anything about it, despite the news and current fairly obvious situations going on in the world related to how people are damaging the planet.
However there is a good proportion of folk who do want to do something but don't really know just what they can do. It would be better if people could take on change as their own idea than be forced to when (if?) the governments of the world decide we'd better get serious and drastically cut our consumption of resources.
There are lots of small things that we can do and hopefully enough of us are doing it to show it makes a difference. Hopefully we also get to pass on our ideas to others in our families or circle of friends. Living a more environmentally friendly life makes me feel more positive about the future. Other people living a more envrironmentally friendly life would make me feel even more positive about the future!
Growing some herbs at home, catching a bus to work or school, turning lights off when you're not in the room..there are hundreds of small thing to reduce consumption of resources. They easily fit into or lives and may even save you some money in the short term, while helping the planet in the long.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

It's been a while.

Learning chemistry at university has been getting the better of me lately and I've not had much of a chance to write. I don't actually get into the garden a great deal to be growing any vegetables. Some of the other interesting plants that I have are happy enoughafter another summer in Perth. The potted citrus are growing and a few of the grevilleas I put in last winter are still alive with very little care. A few of the native plants are coming along really well, hopefully some will flower this year.
The Chinese elm had been infested with aphids again recently and getting all sticky from the aphids' honey dew. The aphids have supplied a big supply of ladybirds which have bred to predate the aphids. Good old biological control! The birds have been feasting on ladybirds and their larvae too so it's a good little cycle, completed when the birds poop in the garden, leaving some of the nutrients back where they came from.

Packaging has been something that's bothering me lately. I've had a couple of conversations with people where they think the recycling bins should get emptied every week instead of every fortnight. It's an unfortunate side effect of our culture that people want trucks to drive around every week to collect all the daily crud we all produce just by buying stuff.

Ideally, by buying in bulk, buying fresh foods, such as fruit and vegetables and cooking from scratch (not just taking some processed junk out of the freezer and micro-waving it, we produce little in the way of wastes, recyclable or intractable. Food wastes can mostly be turned into compost. Electronic goods is the big baddy. Replacing any or all the electrical and electronic items in a house leaves electronic waste, termed e-waste, which cannot be recycled. Heavy metals and plastic compounds make this kind of waste as an environmental disaster in the making, as leachates from these products get out into the environment in the countries to which e-waste is shipped.

I'm not saying I'm a green angel. I do eat out at least once a week, sometimes two, but not at multinational fast-food places (have proudly not eaten any KFC, Muckdonalds or Hungry Jacks for 20 years). I try and avoid getting takeawy containers but if I do they get reused for packed lunches.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Algae biofuels.

This morning in the news on ABC Australia it was reported that Virgin has used biofuels during a test flight. This of course brings all the reactive responses from people that don't know what they are talking about.
I would just like to point out that there are biofuels that won't use arable land or 'steal food from Africans" and all that other dosh that people come up with. These fuels are called algae biofuels and not only do they not use productive or marginal land but they actually use waste products from industry.
There is an engineering movement that is trying to create Zero Emissions from industry, so people can still have their gadgets and all the mod cons but create less pollution in the production of these goods.
Algae photo bioreactors (APB's) use waste products from factories to feed algae, which is then processed fairly easily into an effective fuel. It is still being researched, but there are APB's up and running in many places. will give you a bit of background on these marvellous machines.

Perhaps people who spend their time reacting against positive news for the environment should spend that time actually looking into what can be done to help reduce our negative impacts on this little planet of ours.
There are many small things that can be done which will add up to a good thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Perth's summer heatwaves.

I haven't written anything for ages because it has been far too stinkin' hot to do anything in the garden.
This time of year I water as little as possible, just enough to keep important things alive; rarities in pots, a few herbs, the frog ponds and tubs all topped up and the occasional new seedling of something that wants summer heat to get started.
This is when the concept is handy of putting the propagation area both near a tap and somewhere that you will almost trip over it everyday so you are reminded to water the tender little dears. Start at the back door, so each time you go and look at the garden there are the plant babies in their small easy to let dry out pots.
This house has no reticulation or watering system, except the hose. I think retic systems make people too separate from the gardens making watering too easy and things happen in the garden that can be missed, like a pest or disease infestation.

Gardener's holiday.
Gardener's holiday, we call it. High summer. 35C highs for 4 or 5 days at a time. Too hot to bother being out there, except in the shade of the beautiful Gleditsia. Sure I could be growing lots of veges - though last year I found the capsicums didn't enjoy the extreme high temperatures anyway. if I had fruit trees they'd be happy, but it just takes forgetting to water a couple of times and your good work in small herbs and annual vege growing becomes dust and mulch.
It really brings out the fact that perennial plants are the way to go; you can get them established with the rain in winter and only need to look after them sporadically during the hot season. Deep soaks once in a while in summer can get the right things by.
Perennial veg' such as asparagus are good. Short term perennials such as silver-beet and chives are handy; long season crops like leeks and onions can grow throughout summer for use in winter, so there are things going on, they just don't get much of my attention.
The figs and grapes are happy though - again given little help but we have fruit from both.
A few of the native plants i put in are going well, many flowers will come in autumn, I am hoping.

It did actually rain the other day, quite well, not the disastrous flooding that is going on in Queensland. It was welcome relief after the consistent 30C plus days we'd had for most of 2 weeks previous.I was happy as it meant I didn't have to use any of Perth's tap water on my garden.
Tomorrow I am back at uni; currently a little nervous about starting chemistry...quite scared in fact. It is the maths fear.
When I am feeling stressed, it will be good to be able to look out the window at my low-water use garden and consider the eventual outcome of my learning fears and successes - to help restore degraded landscapes and encourage effective water use and reuse, using all the principles I have learned in permaculture and from just staring at the garden and thinking about it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What's the right mulch to use?

In Perth for some reason there are people who promote the use of black mulch for their amenity gardens. This is not the recommended waterwise practice. It is better to use a chunky mulch, such as pine bark, which allows water to quickly soak through to the soil below. Many of the dark, fine mulches actually absorb the water. Not only this but I believe the dark colour is not going to keep the mulch as cool as a lighter coloured low-density mulch like chunky woodchips. Even pebbles would work well, having the added benefit of condensing water from the air in the wee hours of the morning, providing a little water in dry environments. However, many of these pebbles are sourced in a very unsustainable manner.
Vegetable gardens are treated differently as they use mulch more quickly, receiving more regular water. For vegetables use a layer of weed-free straw or hay (best being lucerne or pea-hay) if there are large gaps between plants or sprinkle manure or mulching compost on there occasionally during the growth season. It will get broken down by the higher level of biological activity. Ideally the whole of the soil surface is covered with some small herbs or low growing veges to protect the soil surface. It depends on whether you grow veges in tidy rows or untidy clumps. Both have their merits.