CCA timber update

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) have placed new restrictions on arsenic-treated timber.

From this Sunday, July 1st 2012, timber treated with copper, chromium and arsenic (CCA timber) will be declared a restricted chemical product, and further restrictions will be placed on its use that will protect children, in particular.

See APVMA’s media release

Frogs like bromeliads, too.

Bromeliads are an interesting group of plants with over 800 varieties. Some bromeliads are epiphytic (grow on trees or other objects for support) while some require soil for their roots – including the most well-known member of the family – the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Bromeliads are very easy to grow in warm and temperate climates, and have an amazing range of foliage and flower shapes and colours. Most bromeliads grow in a rosette form with a central well, and their unusual flowers grow from the central well.

The blade leaves of bromeliads funnel a lot of water into the central well, providing moisture for insects and other small creatures in times of drought, and the insects provide organic matter to fertilise the plants. This regular supply of food and water also attracts frogs.

If you like having frogs in your garden, try growing some bromeliad genera with soft, leathery, broad leaves – for example Aechmea, Neoregalia, Vriesea or Bilbergia, which grow best in part shade around the base of trees. These bromeliads rely mostly on their central well for water and food, and use soil mainly for support. The rosette of leaves also provides a hiding place for frogs.
Plant in autumn in warmer areas or spring where winters are cold. Grey-leaved bromeliads absorb moisture from the atmosphere and do not need soil, and bromeliads with heavily barbed leaves do best in acidic soil in full sun.

Greenpatch Organic Seeds Open Day

If you are in the Taree area this Sunday (23rd October, 2011), Greenpatch Organic Seeds are having an open day from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Activities include a tour of the farm, garden and nursery; demonstrations on saving particular types of seed, and a seed-saving workshop for home gardeners so that you can learn how to save viable seed from your own backyard crops.
Members will receive a 10% discount on purchases.

For directions to Greenpatch, email: enquiries@greenpatchseeds.com.au – or phone 02 6551 4240

Gardening gloves

Just a reminder for parents and teachers involved in school gardening programs that Esidirect have children’s gardening gloves made from all natural materials, and at an excellent price. The leather provides good protection for children’s hands without making hands ‘sweaty’. Gloves made from synthetic materials can leach chemicals onto skin when the gloves get hot. Esidirect gloves can be ordered here.
Esidirect also have a great range of adult gardening and riggers gloves. We use Esidirect’s riggers gloves on the farm because they are hard-wearing, provide a good grip, and are comfortable enough to wear all day.

New concrete near trees

I have received an e-mail from a reader who is concerned about her neighbour’s plan to put a screen fence about 35 cm from the base of her beautiful frangipani tree, because the fence posts must be set in concrete and doesn’t know the size of the tree’s root ball or if it will damage the tree.
As new concrete near gardens is a common problem for gardeners, I am posting my answer on my blog rather than merely giving a private reply.

Generally, the feeder roots of shrubs and trees are located under the outer edge of the plant’s foliage in what is called the drip-line. Nature designed plants this way so that rain (and bird droppings, mineral dust etc.) running off the foliage falls where water and nutrients can be taken up quickly by the feeder roots (see diagram).

There are some exceptions to this rule as roots of umbrella trees, figs, crepe myrtles and liquidambers, for example, can wander all over the place in search of water. Usually, when trees or shrubs are severely pruned back, they will produce new feeder roots below the new drip-line and this can be helpful in preparing to move large shrubs and small trees.
New concrete contains lime that makes it alkaline, and hydrated lime (brickie’s lime) that is used in concrete will burn plant roots and should not be used on gardens that contain plants. If you are unable to avoid using concrete for walls or footings near established trees or shrubs, you can ask the builder to line the hole with strong plastic sheeting to prevent the new concrete coming into contact with plant roots. Plastic degrades in light but not in soil.

Adding plenty of mature compost to topsoil before planting trees and shrubs will help protect plants from the adverse effects of new concrete as one of the functions of compost is to buffer plant roots from unsuitable pH levels in surrounding soil. Where plants are established before concrete is used, adding a 5 cm layer of mature compost to the drip-line area, and covering it with 5 cm of organic mulch will help your plants. Remember to keep compost and mulch well clear of the trunk.
A more serious concern is where the concrete is to support a wall or fence close to established plants and the trees and shrubs need to be pruned on the side closest to the wall, as timing is important. Some plants, including frangipani, bleed a lot of sap if pruned when they are not dormant. The very best time for this type of pruning to reduce “bleeding” sap, is to prune during Last Quarter phase of the moon. For these plants, the wall or fence should be constructed during winter when the affected trees and shrubs are completely dormant. However, if a shrub or small tree requires a lot of sunlight or warmth for good growth, and the proposed structure will prevent this (i.e. the plant will be on the south side of the structure), it may be best to move the plant during winter for deciduous plants, or in autumn for evergreens, to a more suitable spot or into a large tub, if space is limited.
In the case of frangipanis, these lovely trees are often seen growing against north-facing walls of houses. Once concrete has seasoned, it does not seem to bother them, and they love the warmth that is stored in the wall during the day and slowly released at night.

Organic garlic for sale

SOLD OUT

New stock will be available around December 2011.

Once again, we have a small quantity of our own certified-organic ‘Italian White’ garlic for sale direct to the public. This variety has a lovely flavour and has been grown under strict organic conditions on Australia’s east coast*. Organic garlic is rich in antioxidants and the health benefits of garlic have been known for thousands of years.
Organic garlic can be used in food preparation or you can separate the cloves and grow your own garlic in autumn for next year. You can order 400 gram bags of garlic knobs to be sent by mail in a padded bag.
Ridgie-didge Organics Manning River – OGA Producer 371A

* Imported garlic is fumigated or irradiated, and some of it has been bleached. By the way, Elephant Garlic (that has huge cloves) is not garlic but a leek with a garlic flavour, and it does not have the same health-protecting properties of true garlic which is why we don’t grow it.

Australian organic garlic

Bag size: 400g

Price: $20.00

Postage: $7.50


Spring equinox 2010

What is an equinox? It is a time when day and night are of equal length, and tomorrow (23rd of September) is the Spring Equinox in the southern hemisphere. Our equinoxes are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere.
There are two equinoxes each year – one around the 23rd or 24th of September and the other on 21st of March – our Fall Equinox. After the Spring Equinox the days get longer until around our Summer Solstice on, or around the 22nd of December, then days become gradually shorter.
Some cultures think that the Spring Equinox has a special significance for planting. However, at least a third of the time the spring equinox occurs when the Moon is in a ‘barren sign’, or at New or Full Moon, which are not good times for sowing seeds.
Tomorrow’s equinox occurs on a Full Moon, so wait until after 7:20 am AEST on 24th before you sow root crops or plant perennials.

Organic school gardens

gloves As some readers know, I have been kept very busy this year writing the Organic School Gardens program for the Biological Farmers of Australia to teach children how to garden for a sustainable future.

This program is unique, as it is provided free to all schools across Australia – it is non-commercial – it features practical and easy-to-use online resources and lesson plans suitable for Australian schools, plus a separate set of lesson notes for teachers, and
it is the only Australian school garden program written in line with organic standards.
BFA’s program is designed to be adaptable to all schools, including children with special needs and schools with very limited resources, and it is designed to integrate with other subjects in the curriculum, making learning fun and more meaningful for students.
Gardening expertise is not necessary to conduct this program. In going through the lessons and supervisor notes, teachers and volunteers will learn how to garden organically themselves.

BFA’s Organic School Gardens Program can be accessed and downloaded simply by going to:
www.organicschools.com.au

The last three lessons in the program will be available to schools at the beginning of October in time for the next school term, and from later this month I will be able to spend more time writing posts for my blog. I’d like to thank all of you for your patience while I have been working on this project.

Posting Comments

Due to some sad people (with nothing better to do) cluttering up my blog with very childish comments, we have had to make some changes to this blog. One of the changes, unfortunately, is requiring readers to now register before being able to post any comments.
I welcome genuine comments on this blog and I am happy to answer any gardening questions you might have, whether they are posted as comments or sent to me directly as e-mails. –
Happy organic gardening – Lyn

Children’s gloves

As you may know, I am involved in producing the Organic School Garden program for the Biological Farmers of Australia. One of our problems has been finding a source for gardening gloves made from natural materials that are available in sizes to suit primary school children.
However, a company called Esidirect is prepared to supply gloves provided that Esidirect receives enough orders within the next 4 weeks to warrant production, as these gloves will be an entirely new product.
Esidirect accepts orders from schools and is prepared to offer schools a 10% discount for gloves and anything else ordered from their website at the same time for the next 4 weeks only*.
Gloves will be available in two sizes at $3.60 per pair
Childglove5 – that will suit most 8–10 year old students and
Childglove7– that will suit 11–13 year old students. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Esidirect gloves
Esidirect gloves

The gloves are made from natural cowhide leather with denim fabric backs and cuffs – exactly like adult work gloves, but in smaller sizes.
Schools can order from Esidirect by calling: 1300 446 707
Esidirect supplies a wide range of gloves and safety equipment. We use their Rigger gloves when digging, weeding etc. in the garden and we find that they provide good grip control, are very comfortable to wear, and good value. For work that needs a more delicate touch, such as repotting seedlings, Esidirect also supply Ninja gloves and disposable latex gloves. You can see their full range at: Esidirect
*Esidirect have a fixed delivery charge of $9.95 for all orders.