Saturday, November 27, 2010

Encouraging customers.

Today, there were a few people who already knew about minerals for the garden and one even had charcoal in his garden already!
Make soil happy, get happy plants!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Urban agriculture.

Really, everyone should be planting useful and edible plants in their gardens. There are so many beautiful fruit trees and decorative but delicious vegetables to choose from. Theres nothing wrong with a few exotics for show or to attract beneficials and, of course, there needs to be (preferably local) native plants too to support local biodiversity of insects, birds and small reptiles.

Fruit trees have pretty blossoms and if more folk were growing fruit tress and caring for the ones in their garden organically then I suspect that less fruit fly problems would exist, because correct hygiene for fruit fly is quite simple but needs to be done regularly.

With less chemicals for gardens available now and more food gardeners aware of the health benefits of organics there are increasing populations of predatory insects. This year there was a huge aphid population followed within weeks by hundreds of ladybirds and tiny parasitoid wasps. Frogs and small lizards play their part in pest control too, consuming slaters and other bugs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Some gardeners are getting better ideas.

Ladybird larvae. They eat aphids and other tiny insect pests.
Working in a garden centre, I hear all sorts of funny ideas about gardening but sometimes I do actually encounter folks that have the right attitude toward organic growing. Sometimes this is someone who is aware of using minerals or knows about beneficial insects.
These days we sell minerals and soil bacteria to increase soil health. It's getting easier to advise people to use least-toxic methods rather than head straight for the poisons. I show them ladybird babies and parasitised 'aphid mummies' on the roses. Once the balance of predator insects is in line with the pests there will be less reason to use any chemicals on our food plants.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Water Corp sprinkler restrictions.

Water restrictions for Perth.
In this dry city it is still easy to find people that love to waste water. On the spot fines are being issued for people who use sprinklers outside of their allocated time.
Today it actually rained a bit, but not enough to fix our dry winter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

RIP my old dad

He died last week after a long time of diabetes, kidney and heart problems. We weren't close but I will miss him. I am studying like mad to keep from thinking about it; not sure if that's the best thing to do but it would be stupid to not keep up with my studies. I'm gonna have to make sure I can support myself in the future if I need to. Scary.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Get ready for fruit fly..organically.

Spring has seemingly come early and plants are being bothered by aphids, caterpillars and I suspect once flowering starts there will be many fruit flies about.
There are various methods of controlling them.I would be most tempted to use fruit fly exclusion bags, as sold at green harvest. Here is the link to some great organic pest and disease control, including the Mediterranean fruit fly.

Green Harvest Organic Pest Control advice.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sunny winter's Sunday.

We have been having a dry winter this year in Perth, and today it continued to be pleasant and warm and sunny. The pleasant conditions had us out there repotting citrus and a dwarf fruit tree.
I did a species list and found that we have around 200 species all up including weeds, seedlings and sick plants. That's pretty excellent I reckon for a small suburban block. Plant horder, me! Out of 200 odd species about 33% are useful or edible and 24% are Australian (probably more than half those are fairly local species).
The birds certainly love it and we have no problems with pest species at all. Gotta love biodiversity and the balance that creates.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Positive people.

Most weeks when I work I encounter a customer who makes me feel positive and hopeful. Sure, they are all (generally) gardeners so that in itself is a positive activity but one person each weekend is a standout for having a positive story or otherwise encouraging outlook to gardening.
Some people have spoken to me of success in encouraging beneficial insects, or medical survival stories.
I feel hope for the future and an appreciation of how lucky I am to live when and where I do.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Planting makes me happy.

I've been rescuing a few seedlings from work lately. This morning I popped in some kangaroo paws in the little native garden outside the front window. Finally planted the native hibiscus that's been knocking about in a pot for ages by the front door; hopefully it ill do more than just flower and die, but even that would be okay.
Two little broccoli seedlings went in that Lynn shared with me. The other day I found some kale and cauliflower seedlings that the rats had nibbled some of, so they got 'rescued' and are now in biochar, organic garden heaven.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Winter uni break.

The winter break is shorter than summer, so I am managing to find enough things to do to get through the day without spending much money, which I can't help but do if I venture into town. Even though I'm not a big consumer of useless things, I can still find an excuse to buy tasty treats or a small kitchen thing or go op-shopping, so home is cheaper. Sometimes it means we have a really yummy dinner, as I spend more time on cooking.

Perth has just been through a nasty cold spell, broken for the last few nights by some good storms and rain. Finally! We have been suffering winter "dryness" (can't say drought anymore, it's dry and the rain's not coming back) and the dams are all low.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

We had an owl in the garden!

It landed in the tree near us while we were looking at the moon. Awesome!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Soil bacteria is the new black for gardeners.

There is more and more talk recently of adding soil bacteria to increase productivity and disease resistance.
It is an interesting time in horticulture as more poisons are removed from the arsenal of biocides and more natural methods are being reintroduced. Combining traditional methods with modern technological knowledge has the capacity to increase soil and human health, stopping the need for chemical fertilisers by creating fertile soils that are more active and full of carbon.

Biochar is an example of a soil ameliorant that can increase the health of a soil by providing somewhere for bacteria to lurk about. The large surface area provides sites for cation exchange, where nutrients are held and released around the fine root hairs of plants.
Bentonite clay and humus from composted organic matter also provide sites for nutrients to stay around the plant roots and organic matter also holds water. These characteristics are important in sandy soils, especially, as nutrients and water can easily leach away without the addition of organic matter, humus, compost, manures or minerals. You don't need to use all of these products but it is important to add some form of soil enhancer to help the new plant grow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Uni meltdown time.

Although I am not highly intelligent nor highly daft, I am not very good at maths. I am okay once I know what I'm doing, but some of the concepts are confusing and very hard to grasp, if you're not used to thinking that way. I have been tackling an intro to stats unit at uni this semester. I have done better than I suspected but now with the exam looming and last assignment due, I have been feeling quite unsure. There is a pretty good chance that I can scrape by, despite the fact that I am ignoring one section of the unit. Hopefully it won't be in the exam too much (it will def. be in there).
My preservation instinct will kick in and I will start to revise properly...soon.

Last week we bought some endemic species to put in the garden. We included a tuart tree, which will hopefully get to grow for a long time. When planting the natives, I just mixed in the top soil that was formed and didn't add too much fertiliser, just a bit of minerals that I like to add here and there. I enjoy adding a little bit of habitat to the local landscape.

We have been getting many kinds of honeyeater birds in the garden lately. They love the trees and the smaller shrubs. So many places to hide out.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Urban orchard in the city..coming soon.

I saw this very encouraging sign the other day. Seeing the words beneficial insect and companion plant right in the centre of Perth-Northbridge was quite a surprise. It will be interesting to see how it looks when it's done.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cooler season vegetable gardening.

Perth's gardener's holiday is over and autumn is trying to cool us down. It is a good time to get some vegetables in for the rainy season, meaning we don't need to rely on daily water to get them through to maturity.
We made the mistake last time round of planting cabbages. They take up a fair bit of room and we don't really eat much of them so I am making sure we only plant what it going to be of most use to us. It's only a small patch, too, so it needs best use of the area.
Little seedlings.
I put in some lettuce seedlings (various, as I rescued some from work, too) and broccoli and popped some peas in near the best climbing spots.
The soil is looking really good, too, despite being the end of summer, it is still quite brown and rich. Is it because of the biochar we used when the bed was set up? It's sure to be helping. We also regularly apply minerals, bentonite, various organic manures and composts and it shows.
Soil profile in our veg bed.
You can see the good soil above the line of original sand.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A solution for slaters.

A woman told me at work today that if you have too many slaters, you can get bran and put it around, they eat it and die.
She sounded like it had worked really well for her.
Give it a try and let me know.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Using carpet as mulch.

Please please please don't use horrible nylon carpet as a mulch and then lay down organic mulch on top. The carpet never breaks down and you end up with nasty plastic strands through the garden.
When the idea first came into being there was plenty of woollen carpet about and felt underlay was easy to find at the side of the road but these days most thrown out carpet from bulk waste has nylon through it or it is completely synthetic.
Please check before laying it down. You WILL regret it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Encouraging customers.

This doesn't mean how to encourage customers in my case, but the fact that customers are coming in asking about beneficial insects and what sort of plants to grow for them. This makes me feel that people are really starting to learn the benefits of balancing nature in their gardens to reduce pest populations rather than resorting to an insect spray.
Even though least toxic sprays are pretty safe they can still kill non-target species by accident, so it is better to attract insects and provide habitat to have the good bugs in your garden.
Blue or purple flowered plants are especially good at attract insects, as are plants with many flowers. Australian local species are ideally the best, if you can get them.
Having more bugs also means there will be more bird life. The birds will help to feed your garden!

Monday, March 8, 2010

What is crop rotation?

What is crop rotation?
Crop rotation is an important aspect of organic gardening. It helps to prevent the build-up of soil borne diseases by rotating the families of plants grown in an area over a 3 or 4 year cycle. Some plants are especially prone to soil diseases and these problems will persist in the soil if the same species are grown for 2 or more years in a row.
Certain plant groups will also tend to use up specific nutrients from the soil so you may end up with a soil that is deficient if you don't change their growing position.

The rotation system is best for larger gardens, ideally four beds are needed, however it is important to use in small areas too, especially for tomatoes and potatoes as they are prone to many diseases which can persist in the soil.

There are some advantages in planting one crop after another where one will benefit from the actions of the previous crops, for example a good cover crop turned into the soil will add nutrients for the following season. Legumes add nitrogen to the soil so they should be followed by a nitrogen hungry crop such as silverbeet, leafy brassicas or potatoes.

Four bed crop rotation:
Legumes/other pod crops > Alliums > Solanums/root and tuber crops > Brassicas > back to the beginning.

If you aren't sure what those food family members are:
Legumes - peas and beans: sugarsnap/snowpeas, broad beans, lima beans, French and climbing beans
Other pod crops: okra.
Alliums - the onion family: brown, red or white onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, spring onions.
Solanums - the potato family family: tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum, chilies, eggplants.
Other roots/tubers: parsnips, carrots, swedes, turnips, kohl rabi, celery.
Brassicas - the cabbage family: cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbages, radishes, brussels sprouts, kale, most Chinese vegies, etc.

Another important thing to remember with crop rotation is that you need to keep track of what you have grown in the different areas each year so you can have a succesful system. If you have a large garden with four beds it will be much easier to keep track.

Vegetable growing seasonal calendar.
As a general and very rough rule those vegetables that produce a fruit (eg, capsicum, pumpkin, tomato, corn, eggplants) are summer growing, heat-loving varieties, while the more leafy plants (includes most of the cabbage family) will be a cooler season crop.

Year round vegetable varieties.
Some vegetables can be grown year round. Carrots and lettuces have varieties for each season; radishes, spring onions, beetroot and silverbeet can be planted regularly for an ongoing supply. Many of the Chinese leaf vegetables can be grown year round, as they need to be grown quickly and replanted regularly for a good supply. Strawberry varieties seem to be around at most times of year these days, too.
Many of the popular herbs such as parsley, basil, chives, coriander, mizuna can be repeat sown.

Summer crops need to be planted in mid to late spring. Vegetables to sow and grow at this time of year include the pumpkin family, such as watermelons, honeydews, zucchini and cucumbers, tomatoes, capsicums and chillies, eggplant, beans, corn. Leeks need to be sown in late summer to allow a long growing season.

Winter crops: Some plants cannot take the heat and will dry up or go to seed quickly in Perth's high summer temperatures.
English spinach likes the cooler weather, as do peas, broad beans, cabbages, cauliflower and co, kale, brown onions, parsnip, turnips and swede.

Digger's Club "Grow what when" planting guide. (2007).
Readers Digest Encyclopedia of Gardening. 1995. Reader's Digest, Sydney, Australia.
Planting guide (2002): (Accessed 13/01/2010).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's stinkin' hot. It's Perth summer.

In these stupidly hot days of Perth summer, especially days over 35 C, it's really not a great idea to prune plants. If you promote new growth by pruning, the new growth may get burnt off by a hot day or even just singed by the strong hot easterlies we get.
If you have already had parts of plants burnt by the sun I believe its a bad idea to prune off the damaged parts. Leave them there to protect the other foliage below. I don't think its a great idea to fertilise in early summer for similar reasons, to prevent new soft growth that may not cope with the heat.
Some vege gardens can even benefit from having a sheet or piece of shade cloth thrown over it if it's gonna be really hot for a few days.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reusable water bottles are go!

A friend gave me this book for Christmas, an excellent choice, about pollutants in our daily lives. One of my main sources of possible pollutants (apart from what I eat and the air I breathe) is from plastic bottles. Occasionally I buy a large plastic bottle to reuse as my water bottle, but I have just bought a 1.2 litre reusable stainless steel bottle.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Here we come 2010.

Another year begins and we look to the future again and wonder what will happen this year. Will the people in charge do anything about fixing the problems of the world? Is it left again to the people to try and do the hard work, without the support of the government's money and infrastructure.
The general public can try and do the right thing, those of us that do, or do a little, but there needs to be a genuine large scale effort to do anything about stopping runaway climate change. It may be too late already. There are long lags in how the atmosphere works.
Industries need to pull their heads in and make further anti-pollution measures, and chemical companies should stop adding poisons to so many everyday items. It's a huge job but I refuse to believe there isn't still al little chance something good will happen.
Because, if I do stop thinking we can do something, then I don't want to have to be around to watch it. I need to believe that there are enough positive actions going on for us to not wipe out the human race with our greed and misguided use of technology. I love technology but its not all working out for the best, really now, is it? If the amount of pollutants created during its production outweighs the lifetime of the item and the humans using it, then its not really making much sense to me.