Bindii or Jo-jo

Early winter is the time to eradicate this weed pest, although I’ve noticed young growth of this weed in May on the Mid North Coast of NSW. Bindii (Soliva pterosperma), or “Jo-Jo” as it is called in some places, or “onehunga” in New Zealand, is a delicate-looking lawn weed that produces carrot-top or ferny foliage.
In late winter and early spring, each branch produces a rosette of spiky seed heads that detach from the rosette into individual seeds with a sharp spine that attach themselves to the soles of shoes, and make walking barefoot or sitting on grass a painful experience. By the time the plants produce seed heads, the branches will also produce roots from stem joints and removal is difficult. For successful removal this diabolical weed has to be eliminated before the seed heads form. From now until the end of June is a great time for action, in any moon phase if seed heads haven’t formed.
If you don’t have a steam or flame weeder, young plants are easy to dig out in early winter if you only have a light infestation. For more wide-spread infestations, the good news is that several companies have produced certified-organic weed sprays.
Certified-organic weed sprays
Spot-spraying with Yates ‘Nature’s Way Weed Spray’ or Organic Crop Protectant’s ‘Slasher’ will burn off the weeds, while Organix’s ‘Weed Blitz’ works by removing the outer coating of foliage and seeds, causing cells to collapse. A Google search will direct you to a local supplier.
Bindii is more common where lawns are undernourished. Vigorous lawns usually out-compete this weed. To avoid future problems, in late winter, water the lawn and fertilise with organic complete fertiliser and seaweed extract tea, and do not mow the lawn too short as this weakens lawn growth – raise the mower a notch or two. Dynamic Lifter granules are easy to apply to lawns.

Heat wave help

recycled juice bottle


With high temperatures predicted for many areas of mainland Australia this week, I would like to remind you that you can find tips on helping your garden to survive extremely hot temperatures here: Heat wave protection

Aubergine (eggplant)

eggplantwht Have you ever wondered why they were called eggplants? This variety is the reason. The small white fruit, which look like hens’ eggs hanging on a bush, has a delicious flavour but has been very difficult to find in recent years and I was delighted to finally find some seeds. Yates has ‘White Star’ and there is a variety called ‘Easter Egg’ available from an Australian grower on eBay.

Aubergines (Solanum melangena) are a member of the tomato family and require a similar position, soil preparation, and soil pH. However, they require warmer conditions for germination than tomatoes and are usually sown 1 cm deep in small pots in a warm, protected position. The small, white variety produces a compact bush and can be grown in beds or pots. Aubergines need staking because the stems are brittle, and they appreciate a light application of poultry-based, complete fertiliser as buds form. Regular harvesting increases production. Cut fruit from the plant with a 2 cm stem when the skin is firm and shiny.

What to grow in September 2016

Grnpatch Time to get busy for many gardeners. Many commercial seed retailers use hybrid seed (F1) and the seed produced from hybrid variety crops is usually sterile so there is no point in saving it. If you want to grow open-pollinated seed so that you can save seed from your crops to sow next year, these seeds can be obtained by mail order from Greenpatch Organic Seeds, Green Harvest, Eden Seeds or Phoenix Seeds in most states.
Keep a close eye on seedlings as warm weather in September can suddenly turn into a cold snap. Lots of different varieties can be sown this month if you have a warm, sheltered spot where seedlings can get a strong start before planting out when nights are warmer.

The following gardening advice of what to grow in September is an abbreviated list for vegetables, fruit trees and some culinary herbs that can be planted in August in Australia and New Zealand. A comprehensive monthly guide that includes planting times for the entire garden, as well as when to fertilise, prune, weed, take cuttings or divide plants, can be found in my book Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting 2006, 2009, 2012 (Scribe Publications, 2006, 2009 and 2012) – now also available as an e-book.
* For gardeners who do not use moon planting: sow or plant out any of the following list at any time this month, although you may find germination rates are lower when the Moon is in Last Quarter phase..
WARM CLIMATE South of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, suitable grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, silver beet, NZ spinach, tatsoi, nasturtium and sunflower can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of pigeon pea, millet, Japanese millet or mung bean, if water is available.
Cabbage, suitable open-headed Chinese cabbage, parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, pumpkin and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rockmelon, rosella, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot, carrot, potato (Brisbane and areas south), radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, banana passionfruit, passionfruit, pawpaw, and chives can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical and cherry guava, macadamia, passionfruits, marjoram, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme can be planted.

WARM CLIMATE North of Rockhampton
Before the Full Moon, suitable cabbage, suitable lettuce, silver beet and NZ spinach can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of pigeon pea, lablab or millet. Parsley, spring onions and sweet basil can be sown or planted out.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, and capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, rosella and watermelon can be sown or planted out.
During Full Moon phase, beetroot, carrot, radish and sweet potato can be sown directly into beds, and banana passionfruit, passionfruit and pawpaw can be sown or planted out. Avocado, banana, citrus, tropical guava, macadamia, passionfruits, lemongrass and mint can be planted. Also plant marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme where they won’t become waterlogged.

Before the Full Moon, suitable Chinese cabbage, grain crops, lettuce, mizuna, rocket, and tatsoi can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of chickpea, clover, barley or millet. Celery, leek, lettuce, silver beet and spring onions can be sown or planted out. Cabbage, parsley and sweet basil can be sown in a cold frame, and NZ spinach, coriander and dill sown direct after frost.
During First Quarter phase, bush and climbing beans, and sweet corn can be sown directly into beds, in frost-free areas. Capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, pumpkin, rockmelon, tomato, summer squash, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds, and asparagus seed, beetroot, sweet potato and chives can be sown in a cold frame. In frost-free areas, banana passionfruit, passionfruit and tropical guava can be planted. After frost, avocado, blueberry, citrus, cherry guava, macadamia, olive, marjoram, oregano, sage, rosemary, French tarragon, thyme and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can also be planted.

Cool climate gardeners may still need a cloche to protect young seedlings.
Before the Full Moon, grain crops, lettuce, radicchio and rocket can be sown directly into beds, as well as a green manure crop of clover, broad beans, field pea, barley, oats, triticale or wheat. Cabbage, celery, bulb fennel, leek, silver beet and spring onions can be sown in a cold frame. In very cold areas, broad beans, peas and spinach can also be sown.
During First Quarter phase, capsicum, cucumber, leek, suitable pumpkin, suitable rockmelon, summer squash, tomato, watermelon and zucchini can be sown in a cold frame, or after frost.
During Full Moon phase, Jerusalem artichoke, carrot, potato and radish can be sown directly into beds. Asparagus seed and globe artichoke can be sown in a cold frame.
After frost, potted grapes and evergreen trees, shrubs and vines can be planted, and turf can be laid.

Gall wasp reminder

gallwasp For gardeners on the east coast – don’t forget that it is a legal requirement in some areas to remove galls from citrus trees by the end of August. Gall wasps lay eggs in main stems or fruit stalks. This forms a swelling and gall wasp larvae weaken trees. As trees may be forming blossoms, delay in pruning may reduce next year’s crop. If you haven’t done so, check citrus trees (especially grapefruit and lemons) this week and prune off any galls before adult wasps emerge to lay eggs in new shoots. Burn affected prunings or dispose of them in a sealed plastic bag. See: Citrus gall wasp

Healthy tomatoes

tmtroots A strong, healthy root system that allows your tomato plants to absorb enough water and nutrients is essential for producing a good crop and allowing your plants to produce their own pest-deterrents. Tomatoes in their natural state, grow along the ground and will form auxiliary roots along their stems, but our method of growing tomatoes tied to stakes prevents this.
However, you can give them a helping hand to produce extra roots before planting out by lying potted seedlings on their side when they are 10-12 cm tall. Leave them like this for a week or so, depending on the growth rate, and remember to stand them upright for watering. As you can see in the photo, the main stem with make a 90-degree turn, and root buds will form on the horizontal part of the stem. Plant them out with the growth tip vertical and the horizontal stem just below the soil surface. Or, you can remove the seed leaves and plant them up to just below the next set of leaves, then hill soil around them slightly as they grow.

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For moon planters


Colour-coded Calendars now available

In response to readers’ requests, Aussie Organic Gardening now has easy-to-follow, colour-coded, moon planting calendars for gardeners. Colours indicate suitable moon phases for certain garden activities and the best days within each phase. Weeks begin on a Monday, so that weekend gardeners can see at a glance which activities are suitable for coming weekends.
Our planting by the moon calendars are suitable for all gardeners in Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the southern hemisphere. The practice of sowing and planting by the moon, also known as lunar planting, has been used by farmers and gardeners around the world for many centuries.

Click on the links on the right side of the home page to purchase a planting calendar for the rest of 2016 or a planting calendar for 2017.
For readers not familiar with moon planting or gardening by the moon, information can be found here All about moon planting:

Frost damage

frostonplants Last night was unusually cold, and we had frost where we had not had any for many years. If plants in your garden have been damaged by frost, please resist the temptation to prune back the damaged parts. They may look unattractive, but there are probably more frosty nights to come, and the damaged parts will protect the plants from further damage. Pruning damaged plants is best done in spring after the weather warms.
If you have plants that are frost intolerant, you can protect these with a temporary cover. See: Cold and frost protection.
Seedlings are very sensitive to frost. You can provide protection for these by making a simple cloche. See: Cloche for seedlings.

Compost – bins and tips

Compost Bins

Compost can be made in a variety of containers. The examples below show a double bin made from recycled timber, a double bin made from recycled, heavy gauge bird wire covered with knitted polypropylene shadecloth, and a commercial single bin. Double or triple bins are best as you can turn the compost from one bin into the next, with the third bin used to start a new heap.
dblcompost compostbins2
Compost tumblers (below, right) do the work of aerating the mixture. They are suitable for composting small quantities of fairly soft ingredients quickly, for people who are not able to turn compost easily, but the mixture may not generate enough heat to kill diseases.
Homemade containers don’t require skilled carpentry. What goes into the compost container is more important than how it looks. The main points to remember in deciding on the size and site of your compost container are:

  • When ingredients form one cubic metre (i.e. 1 m. x 1 m. x 1 m.), aerobic bacteria will generate enough heat to kill diseases and weed seeds.
  • Open-base bins that are in contact with soil allow earthworms to enter the mixture (when it has cooled down) and provide worm castings to the mixture while they help complete the composting process.
  • Recommendations to position compost bins in full sun do not apply to many parts of Australia, as too much heat can kill off composting organisms. A shaded spot is ideal.
  • Compost bins need a cover to prevent the ingredients becoming sodden in heavy rain.

Some Composting Tips

If you are new to compost making, don’t be intimidated by statements of the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in compost making. Most recommended ingredients contain a mixture of both. With a little practice, you will quickly learn to identify and correct any imbalances.

  • Chop up tough items using shears, a shredder, or a sharp spade (spread items on soil or grass first to prevent jolting). This assists faster decomposition as bacteria work on the surfaces of organic waste. The more surfaces you can provide – the faster they can work.
  • The secret to making compost quickly to turn it regularly to keep it aerated, and to keep it damp as aerobic bacteria that commence the process require nitrogen, air and moisture to process the carbon.
  • The secret to fast composting is regular turning and mixing of the ingredients. Weekly turning while the ingredients are generating heat will produce mature compost very quickly. As the compost breaks down, the mass is reduced.
  • You don’t have to wait until you have a cubic metre of ingredients – turning and mixing ingredients will get the bacteria working.
  • If the pile looks grey or contains ants – it is too dry. Turn and mix the ingredients, while adding enough water to dampen the mixture.
  • Don’t be concerned about slaters in your compost heap. They feed on semi-decomposed organic matter.
  • If the pile is black with an unpleasant smell – it is over-wet. Air has been forced out, and anaerobic composting has begun. Turn and mix the ingredients, while dusting with agricultural lime every 15 cm, and adding some straw to the mix. Protect pile from rain.
  • If the pile seems inactive – it may need more nitrogen. Turn and mix the ingredients, while adding some manure every 20 cm. If manures are unavailable, you can substitute a generous sprinkling of poultry-based, organic-allowed fertiliser.
  • Your compost is ready when it is dark brown, crumbly, with a pleasant earthy smell and ingredients, apart from pieces of egg shell, are no longer recognisable. A 5 cm layer added to topsoil provides your garden with all the minerals that plants, animals and humans need for good health.