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Question of the week
Can you eat the flowers on chives?
Judith of Toowoomba
Yes, you can eat the flowers of chives - although many people may think they look so lovely, it seems a shame to do so. The unopened flower buds can be added to a stir fry or used as a garnish. The individual flowers (separated from the globular flower head) are great as a garnish, added to dips and salads or cooked in an omelette or other egg dish.

Question
I have tiny ants on my gardenia flowers. Do you have a solution - preferably organic?
June
Are you sure they are ants June?
If so, you must also have scale or mealy bugs as ants are typically attracted to these pests. You will need to control the ants (try chilli powder), plus control the scale (oil sprays) and mealy bugs (difficult, but try drenching with molasses - 2 tablespoons per litre water - each week). I suspect that you have thrips (see image). Try an oil spray or pyrethrum. Alternatively, if you are just picking the flowers for indoor use and not that worried about a few bugs on the plant itself, plunge the cut flowers in water and drown the thrips before arranging the blooms.


For more of Annette's articles and other interesting stories on how to 'Live For Less'

 

What an honour it is to be featured in Anne Vale's new book, 'Influential Australian Garden People and Their Stories'. Dr. Anne Vale is a historian, lecturer and garden photographer. This latest book is a sequel to her 2003 award winning title, 'Exceptional Australian Garden Makers'. I am enjoying reading about colleagues like Jane Edmanson, Steven Ryan and Tim Entwistle. Other Queenslanders featured include Arno King and Paul Plant. Copies will soon be available at BCC libraries or you can purchase copies online at www.heriscapes.com.au

Oh no, it is the dreaded Dendrobium beetle! This is a common pest of potted and shade house orchids, but as you can see, will also attack orchids grown in tree forks or other naturalistic settings. Beetles and their larvae destroy new leaves and stems of orchids, so control them if you can. Squash them by hand (like I did this one) or try using any organic chewing insect control (Spinosad, diatomaceous earth, molasses drenches etc).

Mite Damage on Citrus
Take a close look at your citrus blooms (these are from a Minneola tangelo) and you may observe some distorted flowers and developing fruit. These blooms have been affected by bud mites (most likely Eriophyyes sheldoni). Sulphur or oil sprays can be used as a preventative, but once flowers and young fruit have been affected the damage is already done. Pick them off if you like. Fruit typically still develops, but will be distorted.

Silver Leaf Desmodium -  (Desmodium uncinatum)
Here is another introduced pasture legume that has become a weed problem in gardens and bushland areas. It grows incredibly quickly and flowers and seeds prolifically. You will see it covering the soil and growing up trees as a dense climber. The small, flat seeds stick to your socks and clothing. You really are best to remove it by hand. If you try to spray it with a herbicide like glyphosate, the vine will die, but the seeds will drop to the soil and before you know if you will have another crop to contend with. If you have grazing animals (sheep, goats, a cow), you could feed it to them as it is high in nitrogen. Avoid putting it in the compost as the seeds are problematic, but you can soak it in water and use the nutrient enriched liquid as a liquid fertiliser.

Question
Thank you for the terrific Thai Pea Eggplant seeds you so generously gave away at the recent Green Heart Fair in Carindale. I dutifully planted them with love and care, and they have germinated. Horray!! Picture attached!!

I would now like to plant out into containers (on a balcony - NE facing, good sun). Information about growing Pea Eggplant in pots is somewhat scant on the internet... I have tried!! These are my questions.
(1) What pot size is appropriate? I like the 95c, 9L buckets from Bunnings after I drill 6 holes in the bottom. Would they be OK? One plant per pot?
(2) Also I like to plant a couple in smaller pots, so I can give away to friends for them to repot at their home. Do you think Pea Eggplant will still fruit OK after two re-pottings, from seedling pot, to 600ml pot, to something permanent?
(3) Most of the seeds I was able to plant separately, but in some cases there are 20-30 little plants clumped together. Do you have any recommendations for techniques to separate out the little seedlings?
Claire from Taringa
Well done on your germination of the Thai pea eggplants. Pea eggplants (like all eggplants) need as much sun as possible. One plant per 9L bucket should be fine. You have plenty to give away so pot them into small containers for friends. You could also do this with the ones you are keeping and gradually pot them up into the bucket-sized containers. Separate the clumped seedlings by washing the roots in some liquid seaweed (dilute according to directions). Overcrowded seedlings can be separated and successfully repotted when they soil is washed off. Fertilize your eggplants every week with liquid nutrients and be sure to add extra dry fertilizer to the potting mix.

Question
I would like Annette McFarlane to identify this tree which I have growing in my garden, if possible, please?
Keith of Carina
Your mystery plant is the Australian rainforest native known as the powder puff tree (Syzygium wilsonii). It prefers a shaded position, is very slow growing and has a natural weeping habit. It bears its stunning, signature crimson flowers massed with stamens during spring.

Blue Cycad Butterfly
The cycad blue butterfly has become an increasing problem for gardeners over the past decade. This small butterfly lays eggs in the centre of the plant, often prior to the emergence of the new fronds. The new fronds either fail to emerge or are permanently ruined by the chewing of the slug-like larvae. The presence of ants on cycads is often an indication of the presence of larvae on the undersides of the fronds. Any organic products that control caterpillars (including molasses and spinosad sprays)

will control this pest, but must be applied before the larvae being to chew the new foliage. Correct timing is essential. I prefer to cover the centre of each plant with a small section of soft, green, mosquito netting, prior to frond emergence. Tuck it loosely over the centre of the plant leaving room for the new fronds to gradually push it off as they mature. Covering with ting keeps plants free of larvae and once the fronds become hard they are immune to attack. If you are not prepared to go to this effort consider an alternative plant. Zamia furfuracea (a close relative of the cycad commonly known as the cardboard palm) is immune to attack from the cycad blue butterfly.

              

Other articles of interest:

Seed-saving:
When buying seeds look at
where and how the seed
is stored and packed....

 

Edible Ornamentals
My Top Ten:

 Kangkong (Ipomoea aquatica)
 is an aquatic plant popular
in Asian cuisine, in fact you
 have possibly eaten it
 unknowingly in vegetable
based dishes. If you have a
 pond or water feature you
 can grow kangkong....


Native Plants W/Shop Notes
Lawns W/Shop Notes
Citrus Guide
School Planting Guide
Soil pH Plant List
NEW FEATURE!
Ask A Question

Poem by Annette McFarlane

Question
I have three citrus trees. But it seems only one has an infestation of stink bugs. I've tried picking them off with a gloved hand and snipping of entire branches. Is there anything I can spray? from Mary
To control adult stink bugs (or bronze orange bugs), spray with oil (a plant-based oil or pure neem oil - note Eco-Neem is not registered for edibles) by aiming the spray directly at the insect. Another option is to use an old vacuum cleaner to dispatch them at arm's length. In future, it will help to recognize the various stages of the lifecycle. It is likely that your tree was infested several months ago. Control the eggs and immature stages by spraying each season with oil. This will also control scale, mites and aphids. Without treatment your stink bugs will spread to all your trees next year.
more pest information....

Save Your Back
Increasingly popular with new gardeners is the no-dig or sheet mulch gardening technique.  In no-dig gardens, layers of organic material are built up on the top of the soil, rather than dug into it.  Lucerne is usually used as the main component of the no-dig garden, but you can mix in other high nitrogen materials such as grass clippings and sappy green prunings with animal manure and compost.  This will make the lucerne go further.  Straw, sugar cane or some other high carbon material is used as a mulch on top of the garden.  No dig gardens can be built on top of the soil or any surface, even concrete!

Ingredients:
To build a no-dig garden 2m x 3m you will need:
Four bales of lucerne
One barrow of compost
One barrow of manure
One bale of straw/cane straw
Wet newspaper

Method:
Slash or mow any existing lawn or weeds.  Water the area well and spread some gypsum if your soil is heavy clay.  Lay down a thick layer of wet newspaper, overlapping it well.  Alternate thin layers of the lucerne, compost and manure, watering as you go.  When you have a nice thick layer almost knee high and all your nitrogen materials have been used up, spread the straw/cane mulch over the top to form a mulch layer.

Leave for at least two weeks before planting, re-wetting if necessary. Covering the bed with plastic will ‘cook’ the layers and help them to break down more quickly.

To plant the no-dig garden create small pockets within the lucerne layer and fill with compost or potting mix.  Plant seeds or seedlings into the compost pockets, drawing the straw mulch layer back in around the plants.  Leafy crops such as silverbeet, spinach and lettuce grow well in no-dig gardens as do tomatoes, melons and pumpkins.  Avoid planting root crops in no-dig gardens for several seasons until a good depth of compost has accumulated.

Change a Life with a Loan

Interested in sustainability? Consider giving a no interest loan through Kiva. By getting involved in micro-finance, you can help fund an individual or group  involved in the type of activity you believe supports the planet.

 

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