Help wanted

Can anyone in the Melbourne area help a reader who needs plants of the weed known as Cobblers Pegs, Farmers’ Friend, or Black Jack, for medicinal purposes?
This common, widespread weed (Bidens pilosa), with its spiky seeds that attach themselves to gardeners’ clothing, has a long history of use in complementary medicine. This lady requires the plants to make tea from the leaves. She does not drive and is having trouble finding them locally.
If you can help, please contact me by email or comment, and I will forward her email address.

SAFER GARDENS – Lesley Corbett

Safer Gardens is an essential resource for those of us who love our garden and want to keep our home safer from more frequent and intense bushfires.
Australian gardener Lesley Corbett has analysed a remarkable collection of expert research from across Australia and around the world to produce this guide, which rates plants’ flammability based on their characteristics, and combined dry and green leaf testing.
The Plant Flammability Table of more than 550 species provides a quick reference for gardeners, with further information on most of these plants provided in the following sections for trees, shrubs, low plants, climbers and succulents.
Corbett also provides helpful information on how to make all parts of your garden less flammable, and keep your property safer.

More information can be found at: SAFER GARDENS: Plant Flammability & Planning for Fire by Lesley Corbett (Australian Scholarly Publishing 2021)

Watering in drought conditions

This week, two readers have asked me about garden problems caused by lack of water. As you know, it is extremely difficult to keep gardens well-watered in drought conditions. However, as plants can only absorb the nutrients they need for healthy growth and ripeness of crops as water-soluble ions, inadequate water is the cause of a wide range of problems, including pest attack.

Bare soil in garden beds and around trees, shrubs and vines allows a lot of soil moisture to be lost to evaporation. A 5 cm layer of organic mulch over beds and around larger plants (keeping it a hand span from the trunk) will prevent water applied to the soil from being wasted. Lawns are greedy and as their roots are close to the soil surface, they take water and nutrients intended for fruit trees and favourite ornamentals. Keep lawns beyond the outer canopy of trees and cover the area under trees with mulch.

wtrbttle.jpg A method that we have found very helpful to water mulched beds is to use plastic soft drink and juice bottles to funnel water through mulch directly to the root area of susceptible plants. This is a quick and very efficient way to hand water during drought, water restrictions, heat waves or windy weather. Limp tomato seedlings will freshen up in about 10 minutes after watering by this method.
Simply cut off the base of each container, remove the lids and bury the necks of the containers about 8 cm deep near outer edge of the foliage of plants. Large shrubs may require several containers. Pour water into the container until it begins to drain slowly – an indication that you have dampened the soil in the root area.

Seedlings and pot plants are usually the first to suffer during heat waves, and you can find advice on how to revive stressed pot plants here: Pot plant stress

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

Growing potatoes update

A reader has asked if potatoes can be grown in the plastic tubs that are sold by Bunnings, Big W, etc., and I will answer it here as the links may be helpful to other readers.
Yes, Rebecca, they would be suitable if you add plenty of drainage holes and put several centimetres of gravel in the base of the tubs so that the potting mix does not block the drainage holes.
Opaque tubs provide similar conditions to small or medium drums (in that the young plants will be more shaded) and you should use those instructions for the tubs in this post. Basically the seed potatoes need at least 15-20 cm of potting mix underneath them and 15 cm of mix above them. Seed potatoes should be sown/planted 30 cm apart and, if they are the tubs I’m thinking of, you would probably only get one plant per tub as there is not really enough room for tubers of 2 plants to form.
The how and why of ‘hilling-up’ potato plants can be found in this post: Growing potatoes.

Advice on suitable soil conditions for the best results from potatoes can be found in Potato beds.
Also see: Other ways to grow potatoes.

Simple living

Down to Earth – a guide to simple living

This very practical and beautifully presented book by Rhonda Hetzel is packed with good advice on all aspects of sustainable living for both home and garden. Chapters include: finances and budgeting; organising and de-cluttering; making your own cleaning products and soap, and growing, preparing and storing food. An excellent reference for homemakers of all ages.

Rhonda also writes regularly for the Australian Women’s Weekly. Down To Earth

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


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.

Almost time to plant garlic

Soils for garlic need plenty of mature compost added, and they should have a a soil pH close to neutral for good growth and a rich supply of antioxidants.
The health benefits of garlic have been known for thousands of years, and this humble herb has been immortalised in carvings in Egyptian pyramids. We grow our own garlic because imported garlic is fumigated or irradiated, and some of it has been bleached.
Garlic is a member of the onion family, but it is more closely related to leeks in that family. In fact, Elephant or Russian Garlic (which can be identified by its large cloves) is not garlic but a leek with a garlic flavour, and it does not have the same health-protecting properties of true garlic.

Garlic for sale

We grow the ‘Italian White’ variety because it has a lovely flavour and suits our local climate. After filling our wholesale orders this year, we have kept a small quantity of certified organic garlic for sale direct to the public. You can buy 400 gram bags from us for a limited time.

Australian organic garlic
Australian certified organic garlic

• We have now sold out of garlic. New stock will be available around December 2010.

Perfect Christmas gift

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for someone who enjoys gardening?

EasyOrganic_cover.inddThe new edition of my book, ‘Easy Organic Gardening and Moon Planting‘ would be an excellent choice. This book is not just about growing food – all your garden will benefit from organic cultivation. It has 500 pages packed with easy-to-follow guides and secrets on how to maintain good health in your whole garden so that all your plants become naturally pest and disease resistant, and more tolerant of climate change while saving water.
The monthly gardening diary of what to do when for all climate zones can be used with or without moon planting, and there are spaces in the diary for you to add personal notes and reminders. For more information about this book, see: Recommended reading.

Cara at WAHMania has a small quantity of stock and, for Australian orders placed before this Friday, books will be sent by Express Post to ensure that they arrive in time for Christmas. To order merely click on the ‘Buy the book’ panel on the right hand side of this page.