In Pots| |Going
for Weeds| |Land
of the Giants|
with Drought| |No
Dig Gardens| |WaterWise| |
Click To Enlarge
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.
This legume weed was introduced for agricultural use. It
fixes nitrogen in association with common soil bacteria.
It has a long tap root, spreads like a mat, and is a
prolific seed producer. It is a common weeds of lawns.
Common lawn chemicals are registered for the control of
this weed (MCPA/Dicamba), but I prefer to dig it out so
that you remove all the seed pods at the same time.
Burning with fertiliser is another option.
I have been asked to identify some lawn and garden weeds
on ABC radio recently. Identifying weeds from verbal
descriptions is always difficult, so I will post some
names and images of some problem weeds here in the hope
that you might see the one troubling you.
My favourite weed control method is burning. I do this
with a gas powered flame weeder or by using fertiliser.
To burn weeds with fertiliser simply apply a
concentrated fertiliser directly on top of the weeds
(without watering in). The weeds will be burnt out
completely in just a few hours, after which any
remaining fertiliser can be watered into the
Moving from the cool south to the tropical north? Be
warned: gardening will be different up there!
Australians are a mobile lot. Not only are we changing
careers more frequently than earlier generations,
statistics tell us that we will leave our home, and
gardens behind more often than our parents. The climate
across Australia varies so enormously that moving to
another state can prove to be a whole new gardening
experience. The climate The climate of an area dictates
the various plant species that can be grown most
successfully. It pays to do some research on the
rainfall, maximum and minimum temperatures and frost
(yes, some areas of southern and inland Queensland
suffer badly from frost), you are likely to experience
in your new location. Keep in mind that while the
overall rainfall may be significantly higher than you
are used to, the warmer the climate the more likely that
this will be interspersed with long periods completely
devoid of rain. Forget the drizzle of Melbourne and
Sydney when it rains up north, it comes down in buckets!
Contact the weather bureau for specific details of the
climate in your new area.
Read complete article....
Is Rotenone/Derris Dust Safe?
Should Organic Gardeners Use Rotenone/Derris Dust?
Feedback received from a fellow gardener
"I am medical scientist, in addition to keen gardener. I
have spent the last 7 years researching
neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s
disease. It occurred to me in the garden one day that
the Derris Dust I was putting on my veggies, contain the
same active ingredient, Rotenone, that my colleagues and
scientists worldwide give to mice to induce Parkinson’s
disease. The Rotenone mouse model is well established,
with treatment of 30 mg/kg over a 35-day period in mice
resulting in spontaneous locomotor movement and
increased alpha-synuclein expression (the protein
responsible for Parkinsons disease pathology). I have
attached some publications for your interest. Canada and
the USA have band the use of rotenone, however Australia
has not yet. I am writing to you simply to make you
aware of the link between rotenone consumption and
Parkinson’s disease pathology, with the hope that fellow
gardeners will stop using this chemical on their
Laura J Vella, PhD
Gardening In Pots
Going To Pot
herbs and vegetables in pots is a quick and easy option for many novice
gardeners. If previous attempts have been a failure read on. Beginners often
make simple mistakes that are easily overcome. Listed below are six of the most
common reasons for lack of success when growing plants in pots.
Planting in Small Pots
Small pots dry out very
quickly. When plants dry out they stop growing. Cute
glazed pots or tiny terracotta troughs may look good,
but productive plants rarely grow well in them for very
long. Each plant has two halves. The top half is the
foliage above the ground, the bottom half is the root
system below the ground. If you want to grow big plants
the top and the bottom should be in balance. Big pots =
bigger root systems = bigger plants. Small pots also get
hot. Plant roots like to remain cool. Sunshine beating
down on the outside of a small pot penetrates inside the
roots. This can literally ‘cook’ your plant’s root
system and cause roots to die.
Read complete Article....
Everyone is being hit by lawn grub. Remember that lawn
grub is not one insect but the name gardeners apply to a
range of beetle and moth larvae that attack the roots
and stems of grass. These insects have been busily
laying eggs all during the drought. The eggs did not
hatch because there was no grass for them to eat. Once
the rain came multiple generations of these insects all
hatched at once into grubs that attacked lawns. The
lovely orange wasps flying over the grass are now
frantically trying to provide biological control by
laying their eggs into the lawn grub larvae.
If your lawn is already brown, there is no point
spraying. The damage has been done and the insects will
have moved on. The chemical sprays used for lawn grub
are toxic. If you choose to spray a 'still green' lawn
remember that you will kill not only the grubs, but also
beneficial organisms including earth worms. You should
also be aware of keeping children and pets off the lawn
immediately after spraying.
The lawns were brown during the drought and recovered.
It is now brown due to lawn grubs, but will recover. It
is all part of nature's cycle.
Aquaponics combines hydroponic food production with fish
aquaculture to create amazingly productive food and fish
growing systems. In an ironic twist, water restrictions
placed on backyard gardeners have provided a much needed
boost for this fledgling aquaculture-based food
Maintaining traditional home vegetable gardens during
the drought has been impossible without a good supply of
tank water. Water restrictions do not apply to
aquariums, so aquaponic growers have been able to
continue to produce a bumper harvest regardless of the
rainfall pattern. Fortunately, aquaponic systems are
very economical water users.
Water enriched by fish waste is pumped through gravel
beds or floating rafts of vegetables and other food
plants. Plant roots extract nutrients from the water and
use it as a food source. The clean water trickles
(usually by gravity) back to the fish tanks
below. Covering the fish ponds reduces evaporation, so
the only water lost from the system is that which is
actually used to grow plants. Pumps (electric or solar
with battery backup) are required to move water from the
fish tank to the grow beds and to oxygenate the water
and keep the fish alive.
Many home owners will be attracted to the thought of an
endless supply of backyard barramundi, silver perch,
trout or jade perch that an aquaponic system can
provide. But if you do not think you could bring
yourself to harvest and eat fish you have seen grow to
maturity, there is always the gold fish option. While
leafy green are an obvious aquaponics crop, your
potential harvest appears only limited by imagination.
Enthusiasts have demonstrated that tomatoes, capsicum,
onions, peas, beans, parsley, strawberries, sweet corn,
broccoli and even pawpaws can be successfully grown
Earth Garden, arguably Australia’s best known magazine
on sustainable living and organic gardening, has caught
the aquaponics bug. Their latest offering is titled,
Easy Aquaponics – Backyard Fish and Food and can be
purchased on-line through their Good Life Book Club
($19.95 plus postage -www.earthgarden.com.au). This 78
page magazine style publication profiles a number of
inexpensive, do-it-yourself systems. The owners of each
system explain how they got started, mistakes made, and
various modifications. It is all good, practical advice
from people who have learnt what works best through
their own trial and error process.
Queensland based aquaponics enthusiast, Murray Hallam,
provides a comprehensive introduction in his 90 minute
DVD, Aquaponics Made Easy! ($33 plus postage -
The program guides you through the basic principles
behind aquaponics, provides a detailed analysis of each
of the components in a small scale commercial system,
demonstrates techniques for testing and maintaining
water quality and discusses suitable plant and fish
species combinations. For those serious about
sustainability and the economics of this system, he
examines use of solar power and details methods of
reducing input costs by growing your own fish food.
The site also provides information on small scale,
of-the-shelf aquaponics kits specifically designed for
backyard and balcony food and fish culture.
Western Australia gardeners have been quick to adopt
aquaponics and the state is at the forefront of the
aquaponics movement. You can tap into this experience
via Backyard Aquaponics [www.backyardaquaponics.com.au].
Blossom Midge A Bother To Citrus
Gardeners are reporting increased incidence of a little
known citrus pest. Close inspection and timely
intervention may be the key to controlling the citrus
Citrus trees that fail to carry fruit to maturity are a
common source of frustration for gardeners. Young trees
often flower prolifically, but fail to form fruit or
drop the fruit when it reaches the size of a pea. These
trees may simply be too young to carry fruit to
maturity. This fruit shedding is a natural response that
allows the tree to put all its energy into leaf growth.
The problem usually rectifies itself in a year or two
when the tree matures.
A second common cause of fruit drop is a nutrient
imbalance. Use of compost, balanced fertiliser
containing nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, calcium
(in the form of gypsum) and trace elements are vitally
important. They ensure that the tree can set and sustain
fruit development through until harvest. Adequate water
is necessary to allow for the uptake of nutrients, so
regular watering and mulching are also essential.
A number of gardeners have recently alerted me to the
fact that mature, well nurtured and regularly watered
trees have flowered prolifically, but failed to form
fruit. Investigation under a microscope has revealed
infestations of the little known citrus blossom midge.
This tiny fly produces maggot-like larvae that infest
citrus blooms. The lifecycle is very rapid and many
generations of midge flies can be produced in one
flowering season. Lemons appear particularly
susceptible, although gardeners are also reporting
attack on mandarin trees. Unseasonally warm, dry weather
may be responsible for increased incidence of this pest.
Systemic chemical controls used by citrus producers to
keep other pests in check also control citrus blossom
midge, so this pest is not commercially significant.
Most home gardeners rarely spray their fruit, so
infestations appear more problematic in back yard trees.
Examine your citrus blooms closely this weekend and look
for evidence of tiny maggot-like larvae. Look for
unusually large flower buds within a flower cluster as
this tends to be a characteristics of infested blooms.
Remove and dispose of any buds infested with larvae.
Applying pyrethrum sprays just before dark to flowers of
infested trees may help to minimise damage caused by the
citrus blossom midge and help to boost your potential
Is there a risk of cadmium accumulating in potatoes
grown in tyres? To answer this question, it is necessary
to look at the much broader issue of cadmium
contamination in soil and food crops.
Cadmium enters the environment as by-product of mining
and smelting of zinc, lead and copper and metal
reprocessing. Burning of domestic, hospital and
industrial waste, fossil fuels and exposure to tobacco
smoke are also significant sources. Cadmium is used to
make batteries, metal plating, alloys for soldering,
brazing and electrical contacts, pigments, rubber
(including tyres), paint, ink, stabilisers used in
plastics and cement. Unlined galvanised tanks also
contain impurities of cadmium.
Impurities in commercial fertiliser, particularly those
found in superphosphate are a significant source of
cadmium in soil and crops. Fertilised soils in Australia
contain 2-6 times the level of cadmium when compared
with unfertilised soils due to the use of
superphosphate. Organic certification requires the use
of naturally low-cadmium phosphate rock. There is
currently no viable process for removing cadmium
contamination. Cadmium is a cumulative toxin that
concentrates in the liver and kidneys. The National
Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC)
classifies cadmium as a probable human carcinogen.
While acknowledging that workplace exposure to cadmium
should be minimised, the NOHSC identifies dietary intake
as the main source of exposure for most people.
Fertiliser manufactured in NSW and Victoria and those
sold or manufactured in South Australia must carry a
warning statement if concentrations of cadmium higher
than 1mg per kg. Absence of such a warning is not
a guarantee of low cadmium levels. No such regulations
apply to fertilisers manufactured and sold in other
parts of Australia or those manufactured interstate and
overseas then sold in NSW and Victorian.
While cadmium is generally found in insoluble forms in
the soil, soil acidity, salinity and the type of plants
being grown affect uptake. Potatoes are known to
accumulate cadmium. This is of particular concern
because potatoes form a significant part of most
people’s diet. Cabbages, carrots, radishes, lettuce,
turnips, tobacco, cocoa, chocolate (especially dark
chocolate) and peanuts also accumulate cadmium.
Significant levels are also found in offal (especially
from sheep), shellfish and crabs. Peanuts imported from
China that typically find their way into ‘no-name’
brands commonly fail quarantine tests for acceptable
Finally to the issue of growing potatoes in tyres. I
have been unable to find anyone prepared to put their
name to a scientific research paper that provides
definitive evidence that cadmium leaches from tyres into
the soil. However, given our knowledge of the various
ways that cadmium finds its way into the environment, it
seems most likely that this is a reality. Given that we
know certain edible plants, including potatoes are known
accumulators of cadmium, I can only agree with your
conclusion that no edible crops should be grown in
tyres. In fact, I do not advocate using them at all in
What is crop rotation and why is it important?
If you grow the same vegetables or their close relatives
in the same soil season after season, two things can
happen. Firstly you run the risk of depleting the
specific nutrients required in the greatest quantities
by related crops. For example, all Brassica crops are
very hungry nitrogen feeders, so it is common for them
to be planted in a bed that has previously been planted
with a nitrogen enriching, green manure crop. Secondly,
you are likely to experience an increase in the specific
pest and disease problems commonly associated with that
group of plants. For example, while all members of the
family Solanaceae are very prone to attack by soil
nematodes, many other crops do not support nematode
populations. By rotating crops from one bed to another,
you avoid a continuous build up of nematodes in any one
bed. Vegetable crops should be rotated according to
family groupings. Some examples of the main family
groups are listed below:
Solanaceae – capsicum, chilli, eggplant, potato, tomato
Brassicaceae – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage,
cauliflower, kohlrabi, radish, rocket, swede, turnip
Curcurbitaceae – cucumber, melon, pumpkin, rockmelon,
squash, watermelon, zucchini
Fabaceae – all legume
crops such as peas and beans
Amaryllidaceae – garlic,
Apiaceae – carrot, celery, parsnip
Asteraceae - chicory, endive, lettuce
Where Winters are Warm
The tables below are
based on two major rotations per year namely Winter
planting (April – September) and Summer planting
(October – March). This timetable allows for progressive
planting and harvesting as well as allowing time for
crops to mature for seed saving purposes. A six
bed rotation is ideal for warm climates as it leaves
room for a dedicated green manure bed as well as
individual beds for peas/beans and brassica crops. Where
space is limited this can be reduced to five beds by
combining Apiaceae and Asteraceae crops in the one bed.
Gardeners in tropical areas have difficulty growing
vegetable crops during the summer ‘wet season’. The
summer rotation outlined below can be used as a winter
‘dry season’ planting guide in the tropics.
Example of winter layout in warm climates
Sample summer rotation in warm climates
In this example, the Solanaceous crops grown in bed six
during winter move to bed one during summer. Beans grown
in bed one during winter, join corn in bed two, bed two
moves to bed three and so on. Some crops not suitable
for summer planting like brassicas are replaced with
more climatically suitable curcurbit species like
cucumber, pumpkin and zucchini.
Where Winters are Cool
The tables below are
based on two major rotations per year namely Winter
planting (March – October) and Summer planting (November
– February). Gardeners in cool climates often
start off their summer vegetables in seed trays or pots,
planting them at an advanced stage as soon as
continuously warm weather can be guaranteed.
This timetable allows for progressive planting and
harvesting as well as allowing time for crops to mature
for seed saving purposes.
Sample winter rotation in cool climates
Sample summer rotation in cool climates
This sample four bed rotation system includes a winter
green manure crop. Solanaceous crops replace Brassica
crops during summer. Bed two moves to bed three and now
includes corn and cucurbits. Bed three to bed four and
bed four becomes bed one.
When laying out formal vegetable gardens be sure to
leave adequate space between beds. Pathways should be at
least wide enough to freely move a wheelbarrow. To
contain soil and compost within beds and define
pathways, untreated timber, rocks, bricks or other
available materials may be used to surround vegetable
gardens. Sawdust, decomposed granite or other materials
may be used as pathways or living paths of groundcover
plants including clover and pintos peanut may be grown
in between beds.
Vinegar for Weeds
Can vinegar be used
to control weeds?
Vinegar is made from acetic acid. Acetic acid is
registered for use as a non-selective herbicide in
several countries overseas, but I am unaware of any such
registrations in Australia or New Zealand.
The concentration of acetic acid in household vinegar is
typically not more than 5%. While household
vinegar directly applied to plants will kill some weeds,
it is not terribly effective at this strength. You could
experiment yourself to see if direct application of
vinegar works on problem weeds in your garden.
Formulations used as herbicides typically have acetic
acid concentrations of 10-20%. While using these
products poses no long term environmental threat, it
should be noted that concentrated solutions can burn the
skin if mishandled.
The acid breaks down plant cell membranes exposing the
contents of the cell to desiccation. Acetic acid is not
translocated through the plant so will not work its way
down to the root system of aggressive weeds with
underground tubers or rhizomes.
Tips for Growing Instant Plants
in a world of instant gratification. Many people don’t
want to wait for plants to grow from seeds or cuttings.
Purchasing all your plant needs from the local nursery
can be an expensive exercise, especially for those just
starting out. Gardeners are a generous lot and have
traditionally swapped plant material. You do not even
have to be particularly adept at growing plants because
some species grow well despite you. Throw out the rule
book. Many plants can be grown from metre long cuttings,
cut up with a carving knife or literally ripped apart.
Be prepared to be shocked at how easy it is to propagate
some of our most popular garden plants.
Grow these plants from metre long cuttings
Pennisettum (species with
Look for sound sections of stem.
Cut longer stem sections into pieces.
Remove excess foliage – it will fall off anyway.
It is OK to cut individual leaves in half.
Use a flat cut on the bottom of the cutting and a
slanted cut on the top of the stem – you will always
know which way is up when it comes time to plant.
Insert 30cm of stem into the ground to ensure the
cutting stays upright.
Take to these plants with a carving knife
Tulbaghia or society garlic
When dividing grass-like plants, just imagine you
are parting hair!
Be brutal and use a sharp knife to cut cleaning
through the plant - roots & all
Avoid being greedy – don’t cut individual sections
up into tiny pieces
Really rip into these plants
Other bulb forming
Avoid cutting into onion-like bulbs or they will
tend to rot.
Separation carried out during late autumn is less
likely to disrupt flowering.
Plant back at their original depth – hippeastrums
like their necks exposed.
Dealing with Drought
Many gardeners suspect that water restrictions are here
to stay no matter what the weather does. While much of
the focus of waterwise gardening education has revolved
around plant selection, gardening in dry times is
as much about how you garden as it is what you plant.
In response to the restrictions, some home owners have
embarked on their own backyard blitz, filling gardens
with natives, succulents and grasses in the mistaken
belief that banishing exotic flowers and foliage will
save water. Look around and you will notice that deep
rooted trees and well-established shrubs have faired
remarkably well despite the water restrictions.
Avoid water leaving your property
property is a huge catchment area. Take advantage of
this by directing runoff from driveways and paving on to
lawns and gardens. Use porous materials like gravel on
walkways so that water can soak in and become available
to trees and shrubs. Incorporate mulch filled swales
into larger garden beds and on sloping land. They will
serve as infiltration pits when heavy rain falls.
Recycling organic waste so that the soil holds moisture
There are some good commercially available
compost products available from your local nursery.
Unfortunately, most have been pulverised, deodorised and
pasteurised. They contain nutrients and are a source of
organic matter, but much of the life we hope they will
inject into our soil has generally been processed out of
them. There is really no substitute for home made
compost. Resolve to recycle all garden clippings and
kitchen waste back into the garden. Compost bulk garden
waste in a heap. Buy a bin or bury kitchen scraps. Work
your way around the garden digging holes 30cm deep
between existing trees and shrubs and bury kitchen
scraps each day. Other strategies for improving the
moisture holding capacity of soil include incorporating
coir peat into the soil. Avoid gimmicky, synthetic
products. Read the label, if you need to wear gloves and
a mask to use it don’t bother. It cannot be good for the
Use seaweed and other wetting agents
Always water new plants in with liquid seaweed.
It stimulates soil organisms like fungi and bacteria,
which in turn help release nutrients to plant roots.
Seaweed increases the disease resistance and drought
tolerance of plants by thickening cell walls. Seaweed is
also a wetting agent. In other words, it helps the soil
to absorb and retain moisture – but keep in mind that it
takes time to work. For more instant results try one of
the commercially available products available. Organic
Crop Protectants has a product called Eco-Hydrate that
actually helps soil absorb moisture from the atmosphere
(dew and humidity).
Install A Tank
Take advantage of the
government rebate to install a rainwater tank. At least
then you can water the garden when you want and how you
want. But remember, unless you intend to install an
inline pump or a tank stand, the water will only really
be of use if you can store it at the highest point in
the landscape and use gravity to create pressure. A five
thousand litre (1100 gallons) water tank will be empty
in under 3 hours at normal household flow so think big
and install the largest tank you can afford and can
accommodate. Drip irrigation is still the most efficient
way to water your garden, so consider connecting the
tank to a pump and drip irrigation system. Install a
programmable timer and you can basically forget about
water all together.
Recycle Grey Water
water that currently goes down the drain from your
laundry, kitchen and bathroom equates to the average
household outdoor use. Simple diversion values available
from hardware companies and mail order suppliers like
Green Harvest allow water to be temporarily diverted for
garden use. Just remember that diversion valves work on
gravity. The pump in your washing machine is a volume
pump not a pressure pump. If you add an additional
length of hose and expect your washing machine to pump
the water out onto the garden you will burn out the pump
in your washing machine. You also need to be careful
what you put down the sink, especially in the laundry.
Use only no phosphorous and low sodium laundry products
(ref. Lanfax Laboratories) such as:
Overcome potential problems of salinity by avoiding the
use of water softeners when washing clothes. A little
vinegar in the final rinse has a similar effect. The
vinegar will not be detrimental if the water is put on
the garden as it will simply counter-act the alkalinity
associated with the powder or liquid products used to
wash your clothes. If using grey water be sure to add
mulch and compost, use gypsum (displaces sodium ions),
add sulphur if pH rises. Flush with fresh water if
available. (For further reading see ‘Create An Oasis
from Grey Water’ by Art Ludwig).
Using waste water from the bath or shower typically
creates fewer problems in the garden as the products we
use to wash our bodies are generally less caustic that
those used in the laundry. Problems do arise however,
when the bathroom is cleaned. Always ensure that waste
water from the bathroom is not diverted on to the garden
when cleaning, as the bleach and chlorine found in most
bathroom cleaners can kill plants. The same applies if
colouring your hair, using anti-dandruff shampoos and
other potentially soil damaging products. A range of
pure soaps and products based on natural plant extracts
are available from health food stores and chemist
outlets. Bathroom products from party-plan organisations
Tri Nature and pure
soap distributors like
Batphone Australia, are
also typically safe to use on the garden. Very little
information about phosphorous and dissolved salt levels
can be found on bathroom products sold in supermarkets,
so as a guide you should look for pure soaps and
shampoos with as few additives as possible.
Grey Water Precautions
Always apply grey water
directly to mulched garden beds. Do not store it for
later use as this will result in a dangerous build-up of
e-coli bacteria and an offensive smell. Avoid spraying
grey water directly onto plant foliage. Do not use it on
vegetable gardens or lawns as this has the potential to
bring householders in direct contact with bacteria that
the grey water may contain. Never allow grey water to
pool on the soil surface or run into neighbouring
Avoid Close Planting
Avoid the mistake of
planting at close intervals to create instant
landscapes. Allow each plant sufficient room to develop
a good root system. Use annuals, herbs and short lived
native plants to fill in the spaces until longer term
plants become established. Always add compost whenever
you plant. You will be providing a reservoir of moisture
holding material in the soil around the roots of your
plants. Think about getting the water close to the roots
of new plants with devices such as the Borby Water tube.
Group Plants According To Need
group plants according to their water needs. Put plants
that need more regular watering close to exits,
entrances and areas of activity. You are more likely to
notice that they need a drink and attend to them more
Apply Soil Improving Mulch
Select mulch for its soil improvement qualities not just
its aesthetics. Mulch should break down and require
replacing. Decomposing mulch adds organic matter to the
soil. Lucerne, pea straw, coir peat and finely chopped
cane mulch are some of the best. They will help break up
heavy clay, increase the water holding capacity of sandy
soil, hold on to nutrients and help sustain plants in
Consider Use Of Anti-Transpirant
Commercial anti-transpirant sprays reduce
the water loss from the foliage of plants by up to 50%.
Stressguard and Envy are two brands available. They can
be useful when you are trying to establish new plants
during dry times, when the weather is dry and windy, if
you live by the sea, when you go on holidays and on
plants that dry out quickly like pots and hanging
quantities of organically based fertilisers so as not to
create overly thirsty plants. Boost individual plants
with liquid fertiliser applications. Limit applications
of fertiliser to the lawn.
Water Where And When It
Reduce areas dedicated to grass or
accept brown lawns during long periods without rain.
Learn to water plants on the basis of need and their
ability to recover. Direct the water to the root zone
and really soak each plant. Move the mulch, water by
hand around the roots of plants and replace the mulch.
Water only when plants need a drink, but water deeply at
this time. Apply these strategies and you will
dramatically cut water use and your garden will look
better than ever!
Download PDF File
(27KB) of Nambour Gardening Expo Notes 2006
Save Your Back With No-Dig Gardens
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!
To build a no-dig garden 2m x 3m you will need:
bales of lucerne
One barrow of compost
One bale of straw/cane straw
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.
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.
Watering is such a key
factor in the growth of plants, but so many people still
get it wrong.
Intermittent watering has caused these
bananas to split as they have matured and ripened. They
are still edible, but the problem is common to many
fruit trees subjected to irregular watering during fruit
formation. Our bananas receive no additional watering
and rely solely of rainfall, so our banana splits are a
result of the seasonal rainfall patterns.
Automatic Watering Systems
If you mulch your
garden to save water and have an automatic watering
system installed, drippers are your best option. This is
because you need to leave sprays running for a very long
time if you want the water to soak through the mulch and
finally through to the roots.
Two drippers per plant are best for even root growth.
Rather winding the dripper line around the stem of the
plant as many people do, the drippers should be pegged
to emit water at the perimeter of the roots.
Always select drippers with a variable flow rate. That
way you can vary the amount of water each plant receives
according to its needs, the position, soil type etc.
Check the drippers for blockages regularly and test how
much water plants are actually getting by placing a
bucket under one or more drippers from time to time.
Each plant needs to get at least 10 –15 litres of water
(over a bucketful) to be of real benefit and to
encourage a deeper, more drought resistant root system.
Any less is really a waste of time and water.
Watering Potted Plants
Dribbling a little
water into each pot is not the best way to water. You
should drench pots thoroughly until water pours out of
the drainage holes. If you are worried about the mess,
you may need to reassess where the plants are positioned
or move indoor plants temporarily to the sink or shower.
Do not make the mistake of allowing plants to sit in
saucers filled with water in the hope that they will
require less frequent attention. This is the quickest
way to kill plants from through root rot.
© Copyright Annette McFarlane 2007-2013 All Rights