Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If you grow it, they will come.

...well, some of them will. I need a much larger garden to attract other critters but I was extremely pleased this morning to discover a new predatory bug in the garden that I'd never seen before. It was patrolling around on the tomatoes and looking for tiny caterpillars, aphids and other insect eggs. The longer it has been since any chemicals were used in the garden (we never used any to start with), the more varieties of good guys have turned up. It means there must be others around or perhaps the egg or larvae have come from a plant I bought into the garden. Either way, I am hoping there are at least two and that they breed and protect our garden from various annoying small pests.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some critters don't like mulch.

Native burrowing bee hole.

In many places and for many plants mulch can make a big difference to maintaining moisture in the soil by reducing evaporation. However there are some insects and birds that don't appreciate mulch everywhere because they are burrowing animals that prefer bare sand to dig through. Mulch adds another degree of difficulty to their task of tunneling. The bee hole above is in our back garden. I know it has tunneled a fair way down as the yellow sand it has deposited on the surface is a few centimetres below the slightly improved top soil.
Rainbow bee-eaters (Merops ornatus) are a migratory bird that burrows nests into the side of sloped areas. It eats bees, wasps and dragonflies, caught in flight. It needs a deep soft bank to tunnel into and will sometimes use old mines.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Talking plainly about plane trees

Outside where I work there are two large plane trees. They are only 15 years old but they are already huge. They are also one of the very few things that give me allergic reactions. In fact they are one of the most highly allergenic trees you could choose to grow. There are certain times of year that I can't go into Fremantle anymore because I can't breath from the seed fluff and fungal dust that the trees produce.
In suburban areas there are good reasons for and against growing large deciduous trees. They will provide shade in summer and lots of great leaves for mulch. However they can also block neighbours sun, fill up drains, causing flooding in winter, and quite a few European trees are really bad for causing allergies.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Inspiration comes in many ways.

Those who know me know that I love learning new things about horticulture and how to make our lives more sustainable by living more simply. Uni has been a big part of my life for the last few years and getting my head down and studying has been easy enough to fit in with my simple life. This semester has been very different. The semester started with my partner and I being quite skint and then a few weeks in I got sick and was feeling properly depresed for a few weeks. So I ditched all but one of my units to concentrate on looking after my tender brain and taking it a bit easier on my self for a while. Duering that time I have been completely lacking any inspiration to study, preferring instead to spend lots of time in the garden, enjoying the spring, taking photos of interesting bugs and wasps n things.

Also, in this time my contact with some of the local (Perth metro) keen permaculture and food growing folk through facebook has been very encouraging and inspiring. In a time when I have felt often quite dismal and sad it has been fantastic to read about other people's gardens and see their produce. So though I have felt bad, I have felt good when I know that there are other like minded folk working literally at grass roots, turning their lawns into food. Thanks, permaculture peeps.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spring (and pollen) is in the air.

Long time no type. Things were difficult for a while there, I was depressed and sick for a while and have had no inspiration to do anything, really, at all. Luckily have been able to chill out and recover a bit. It has been strange having absolutely no interest in my study. I've managed to keep up with one unit and have spent time trying to be extra good to myself, spending time in the garden and trying not to stress about all the terrible things that humans do to the planet and each other; yes, sorry I did put the planet before the people.

Strawberry flowers.
The garden is starting to need watering again after a decent winter of rain. We collected water from the roof that has stopped us having to use tap water to put on the garden.
The garden has produced lots of lovely greens for us over winter, lettuce, spinach and stacks of parsely. The strawberries are "going off", now that we have rid them of slugs and snails - last years obsession of dropping any mollusc into soapy water seems to have worked.
Baby doves with silly big beaks.
The garden has also made some baby birds. Singing honey eaters have produced one youngster in the back garden and out the front a dove has two little funny looking babies- their beaks are much too big for the heads. The babies are quite relaxed and lurk about in a couple of favoured spots.

Some inspiration (though not for studying) has been coming from interacting with some of the Perth permaculture peeps from PermacultureWest on a little facebook group we have. It is good to know that there are people who are keen to get out there and share knowledge about how to grow food and live a more sustainable, simpler life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's gotta be edible or useful.

I work at a garden centre. It is easy work for me, too easy, I find it boring, but it is permanent part-time, which is handy while I am at uni.
However, I'm less and less interested in selling people anything that isn't edible or native. Why plant an Azalea in that acid soil when you could grow delicious healthful blueberries? Plenty of native plants can grow in semi-shade areas (after all, there was an overstorey of tall Eucalypts or Banksia in most areas to give shade and protection to the plants below. In fact it works both ways, the little plants act as mulch and provide a sanctuary for soil microbes for the larger species to develop).
Flowers do have a place in a garden of course, but it's best if they are insect attracting ones, to encourage pollinators into your garden to help with fruit fertilisation. Beneficial insects rely on pollen to give them the energy to come and lay their eggs in your garden so their young can destroy the bad guys who damage leaves, buds and flowers.
There are plenty of ornamental looking edible species that can be integrated into gardens, so at least there is some edible yield coming out of it. Rainbow chard, lettuces of all kinds and colours, parsley and all the herbs are pretty. Peas can be grown in spots where deciduous vines are bare over winter.
Many fruit trees are also quite handsome too. Many dwarf varieties are available these days so even small gardens can have an orchard of sorts, even in tubs. Citrus are excellent for very sunny spots. Stonefruit love the climate here in Perth. There are effective controls for Mediterranean fruit fly and citrus leaf miner which are both prevalent; regular and dedicated resetting of traps and sprays are necessary for organic control.
Everybody needs to learn how to grow food so get out there and grow something to eat.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blood oranges are delicious...

About a month ago.

Our little blood orange in a pot has been good to us, in return for us spoiling it rotten all summer, and now has 10 ripe fruit (nine, we just ate one).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Water-repellency in Perth sands.

Here we are still hanging out for rain in Perth. It's on a promise .. "chance of a cloud" all week they reckon at the Bureau of Meteorology.
Even when it does rain, because surely it has to eventually, it will take some time before there is enough to soak into the ground and if we are really lucky some might even make its way to the dams or aquifers that are all parched too.

When the rain does come it also needs to be able to soak into the ground through our water resistant sands. I suspect there will be more problems with water-repellency this winter than previously. More soil has been allowed to dry out and have no vegetation on the surface so the organic bacterial and fungal compounds that are suspected of causing the problem have taken a stronger hold. Add to this the number of ants that are drying people's gardens out this desert year... we really need the rain!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Want an easy garden? Plant a tree.

If you want a garden that is easy to look after, just plant one carefully chosen tree. You could let the leaves fall and rot into the ground - no sweeping or feeding necessary.
It would provide shade and cooling effects - with sunshine from the north in winter if you plant a deciduous tree.

Macadamia nuts (Aus Mac site).

Citrus trees are good, not really prone to fruit-fly, too much. Or a nut tree - macadamia or almond - so you can accidentally feed some black cockatoo in a few years time.

There are a number of small Eucalypts and Hakeas that can fit in well in a garden. A few grasses and small shrubs can make a good little garden to provide habitat for local small birds.
Eucalyptus caesia is not a big tree, Euc forrestiana is another good one. Hakea bucculenta and Hakea laurina are also beautiful small flowering trees. Australian flowering trees are an important part of birds needs so a garden gets lots of visitors when they are flowering. The birds also provide pest control for any fruit and veg that are growing nearby.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Passionfruit's new home and lemon grass garden edge.

Our passionfruit is looking marvellous at the moment, one of the happiest things in the garden (we do spoilt it a bit). The other night my feller went across the road and reclaimed an old metal ladder from a skip bin. It is now holding up our lovely passionfruit vine, which we now notice has quite a few fruit forming. Tidying and rearranging that is also making way for a large pot of lemongrass to become an extension of the row of lemongrass in the ground, that will make a new layer of garden in front of the biochar garden patch. Slowly the edible garden extends north.

After one bit of rain the other day and temperatures finally falling below 30 C (just under halfway through autumn) Perth gardeners are starting to think it's okay to plant food plants again. Poor old Perthites, we miss the rain. It can be such a long time between visits.

Friday, February 25, 2011

But where's the habitat values?

I decree Cordylines boring and useless for habitat. Trendy gardens that are 'easy' to look after can surely have some life in them instead of rows of Cordylines and frangipanis, neither of which seem to support much life, let alone local birds and insects.
Cordylines don't cope with our WA sun either. Luckily they seem to be falling out of favour as they are being burnt in this ridiculous heatwave. Lots of plants are getting burnt by the constant high temperatures. Watering things extra is not necessarily the way to help them either as then crown rot can happen.

I reckon people should adopt a street tree and help it through this hot season by giving is some wetting agent if it needs it and giving it at least one big long soak to get it through to the end of summer. There are many stressed trees about on verges. Please help them pull through. Surely, this heat will have to finish soon. Please.. make it finish soon. Perth.. the city of hot cranky people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back to school.

Uni semester started last week. Neither of my two units had lectopia work successfully, so two lectures out of five didn't get recorded. Of course, they were the lectures I couldn't get to.

Both units are looking to be very interesting, both subjects I'm keen on, so that should help. Straight into assignment panic mode though, with outlines due for both in the next week or so. One is on biochar, doing a 15 minute talk. I could probably already do that without extra research, but I suspect I need some references to back me up. The other, a group project, will be on Environmental Estrogens, with the subject chosen by me and agreed to by the other two in our little group. Group work is not my favourite way to do things, but we shall see how we go.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Chance of a cloud with possible cyclone. Or not.

Summer in Perth. Hot this year. Sticky. Fremantle Doctor (the afternoon sea-breeze) has been slack and the easterly has been firm.
Trees and shrubs maintain what green there is in the garden and the vegetable garden is slow and lazy, hardly growing in the heat.
For a day or two we expected a cyclone, we all dreamt of heavy rain.. but nothing happened. Drizzle.. a light wind. Avoided catastrophe yet again. Phew.

The floods in Queensland and Victoria will make the price of fruit and vegetables rise, so it is a good time to get into growing your own.