Onion weed and Bindii

Around this time of year, a lot of gardeners seek answers from gardening gurus, books and the internet to their onion weed or bindii problem.
Treating onion weed and oxalis with glyphosate will only kill the parent bulb – not the tiny bulbs that are loosely attached to the base of the main bulb. Onion weed also tends to be resistant to normal strength herbicides and gardeners have said that they have to use undiluted glyphosate. In garden beds, this can create other problems. Glyphosate is not broken down on contact with soil. It binds to certain soil compounds. When soil conditions change, it can become unbound and affect later crops. Soil-borne plant diseases are also more common where herbicides are used.
Get Rid of Onion Weed
For an effective way to rid your garden of onion weed, see Onion weed treatment
Get rid of Bindii
Bindii or Jo-jo needs to be treated in early winter before the vicious spiky seed heads form. It is far more difficult to eradicate this weed later in the season, see Bindii or Jo-jo

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.

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.

A busy time ….

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If it appears to readers that I have been neglecting my blog lately, I apologise. My absence has been due to helping the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA) prepare an organic gardening program for school children.
Although it is a very interesting project to be involved in, we have a deadline to meet, and it is currently taking up virtually all my time. I hope it won’t be too long before things get back to normal. In the meantime, please be patient. I will do my best to answer any gardening problems as quickly as possible.

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.

Sun and heat protection

Some parts of Australia have been enduring extremely hot weather recently and, apparently, there is more to come. Last summer, a period of intense heat caused scorching in many gardens.

shdeclth

To protect our vege patch this summer, we have been busy over the past few weeks putting up arches to support shadecloth canopies over our vegetable beds. Although European-based garden texts recommend full sun for most vegetables, where summers are hot and air pollution is low, full sun can result in sunscald. While Australian natives have evolved to restrict loss of water through leaves in hot, dry conditions, very hot plants, especially those that originated in cooler Northern Hemisphere regions – such as most of our vegetables and fruits, lose a lot of water through their leaves in an effort to keep cool.
Providing some light shade during the hottest part of the day can prevent sunscald and, by keeping the plants cooler, reduces their water consumption, an important consideration where water restrictions apply. Each canopy is positioned to allow morning sun to reach plants, yet not restrict air flow around them. Poor air flow (such as in fully enclosed areas) can produce conditions suitable for some fungal diseases to establish. Light shade can be provided by shade cloth or old netting curtains or sheets.
We use a lightweight, knitted green shadecloth, which probably gives about 30% shade, and has eyelets along the selvedge edges to make it easier to tie to the posts with strong garden twine. This allows us to adjust the canopy as the sun moves to its highest position around December 22nd (Summer Solstice), then moves northwards in the sky through January and February, our hottest months.
We have used ordinary wooden garden stakes to support the canopies. Due to the extremely strong winds this spring, we have had to drive the stakes deeper into the soil for stability – a process easier said than done at our place. We have shale subsoil, and the stakes tended to veer off at strange angles when hitting a lump of shale. No doubt star stakes would be easier to drive home vertically, but we have a roll of 38 mm plastic irrigation pipe that is the right diameter to slip over the ends of wooden garden stakes. Star stakes require a heavy-duty 51 mm polypipe for arches, or the 38 mm polypipe has to be lashed to the star stakes instead of slipping it over the ends.
Once the stakes are positioned, in pairs, 1.5-2 metres apart along beds, the pipe can be cut to size. The formula is half the width of the bed multiplied by ‘pi’, plus twice the length of the pipe to extend onto the stakes. But, cutting each piece of pipe one and a half times the width of the bed plus 70 cm, is a good rough guide for most garden beds.

shdeclth2I then measure the length the arches cover and cut the shadecloth to that length plus a quarter of a metre. I then turn in 11 cm of shadecloth each end and, using a doubled strand of strong fishing line and a bagging needles (although gardening twine is shown here for clarity*), I run a line of stitching across the shadecloth, 8.5 cm from the folded edge. Then we slip the end arches through this ‘hem’ to anchor the shadecloth. *The polypropylene tends to abrade garden twine during periods of very windy weather.
If neatness is very important to you, you can brace the end arches to eliminate any sagging in the shadecloth but, without the braces, it does the job and that’s the important thing. Although the shadecloth can be removed when no longer needed, the arches can be left in position permanently to support netting, when needed, or frost protection, if required.
There are other actions you can take to protect your garden in hot, dry conditions. See Heat wave first aid

shdeclth1As you can see from the last photo (taken as the shade cloth was being installed), the tomato plants have responded beautifully in just three weeks.
Tip: if using wooden garden stakes, pay the little extra and buy the pointed ones. They are easier to keep straight when driving them into soil.

Climate zones

Occasionally, I receive e-mails from readers who are confused about which gardening or climate zone they live in. Australia has been divided into as many as eight different gardening zones because of the huge variations in temperature and rainfall across our continent. Altitude variations or geographical features within each zone will modify temperatures and rainfall patterns, breaking up the eight zones even further.
To complicate the issue, climate change is resulting in evolving milder winter conditions in some areas and longer, harsher winters in others. Last summer, extreme heat or rain events played havoc with a lot of gardens across Australia, and the extent of further changes related to extreme weather events is impossible for anyone to accurately predict.
However, Australia can be divided into three basic gardening or growing zones; Warm, Cool, and Temperate (as indicated in the diagram below). The zone divisions are based on the types of plants that will grow in a moderately irrigated garden in each zone
Within these basic zones, altitudes and geographical features gardens at higher altitudes will be cooler than those at sea level in adjoining areas. Sea breezes can provide a milder climate for coastal areas than those a few kilometres inland. Gardens where cold air can flow downwards will be less damaged by frost than gardens in valleys or where solid walls block the escape of cold air. These variations are known as local microclimates, and gardeners may have to make minor adjustments to what they can grow each month according to local conditions, and evolving microclimates brought about by climate change.
New Zealand has a more constant climate and can be divided into temperate and cool zones. Frosts do occur, and snow falls on the mountains, but New Zealand is not subject to hot winds from a parched inland. New Zealand is a very suitable place for growing an extensive range of species from Europe, North America, and the cooler parts of Asia.

WARM CLIMATE ZONES
These are frost free, or may experience some frosts in inland areas during their short winters, and are not suitable for plants that require a defined period of chilling. Warm zones are suited to warmth-loving Australian natives and plants, including fruits and vegetables, from warmer areas of the world. December, January, and February can be too hot for gardening in a lot of warm zones, and some warm zones experience distinct wet and dry periods requiring conventional vegetables and some annuals to be grown at different times to other zones.
The Tropic of Capricorn runs through the northern states of Australia from Rockhampton and Longreach in Queensland, just above Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, and crosses the West Australia coast between Carnarvon and Exmouth. In areas from Rockhampton northwards, tropical coastal conditions allow an entirely different style of gardening, while in drier areas high temperatures and lower water availability make gardening quite a challenge. Winter temperatures in areas within the Tropic of Capricorn can be higher than summer temperatures in some Cool Zones, and common vegetables from temperate areas can only be grown during winter months. Consequently, I have divided this zone into two sub-sections.
Warm zones:
All of Queensland (except for the southern highlands),
Northern Territory,
North coast of NSW above Coffs Harbour,
Northern West Australia,
Northern South Australia.

COOL CLIMATE ZONES
These are areas where low temperatures occur for long periods. Frosts are common in winter and can continue into spring. Snow occurs in some areas. Cool zones are suitable areas for growing many European, Asian, and North American plants that require a period of winter chilling. Many of the fruits and vegetables we are familiar with come from cooler climates. They, and frost-hardy Australian natives, grow well in Australian cool zones, but frost-tender plants, and plants which require a long period of warmth to flower or fruit are unsuitable for these areas.
Australian cool zones:
All of Tasmania, and the ACT,
Southernmost part of South Australia including Mt Gambier,
Around Albany in Western Australia,
Most of Victoria (except for Melbourne and Benalla areas),
Far south coast of NSW,
NSW tablelands and highlands.
New Zealand cool zones:
The interior of the North Island,
The entire South Island.
(However, within these areas, protected local microclimates along the coast as far south as Christchurch can be regarded as cool temperate areas, extending the planting range.)

TEMPERATE CLIMATE ZONES
These, strictly speaking, are all areas on earth between the Polar Regions and the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Although winter frosts occur in some temperate zones, soil warms quickly in spring. The areas of Australia not listed above can be considered temperate zones, because an extensive range of Australian and New Zealand natives, and decorative plants, vegetables, and fruits from temperate regions around the world can be grown in these areas. January to late February can be too hot for a lot of gardening activity in some Australian temperate zones, but mild autumn weather usually extends from March through May.
Minimum temperatures within metropolitan areas of Sydney, Adelaide and Perth are similar and tend to be slightly higher than those in surrounding areas. Melbourne’s minimum temperature is only slightly lower, and gardeners in Melbourne may find that they can grow many temperate climate plants in protected gardens.
On the North Island of New Zealand, North and South Auckland areas, Hamilton, most of the west coast to just above Wellington, the Bay of Plenty area, and the east coast to Hastings are temperate zones.
clmtzones3clmtzones4

Why organic?

For gardeners undecided about whether to adopt organic cultivation methods, perhaps reading my article in the May issue of Mindfood magazine may help you to decide.
You can read it here:
http://www.mindfood.com/at-organic-gardening-environment-flavours-garden.seo

Herb garden

Autumn is a good time in most Australian gardening zones for maintenance work in the garden. My kitchen herb garden needed a serious renovation after three of our chooks escaped from their run during summer and made a total mess of everything. As summer was extremely hot and dry this year, I decided not to replant until after the weather cooled and we had some decent rain. Replacement plants were kept in the shade house until weather conditions were less stressful. In the meantime, I added some compost, worm castings, poultry based fertiliser, and seaweed tea to the soil; dug out weeds and errant roots of the mint family that had strayed far beyond their allocated area; and checked the soil pH. As it was barely on the acid side of neutral, I did not need to add any dolomite.
Although we grow some culinary herbs commercially, it is a nuisance to have to wander down to the herb beds when I want a few sprigs of something for a recipe. Consequently, my husband set up the framework for a kitchen herb garden close to the house. The finished garden measures 7 metres by 4 1/4 metres.

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As the ground slopes slightly, the outer border of the garden was made from bricks retrieved from a demolished wall, and second-hand pavers provide pathways for easy access to all the herbs. The bird bath in the centre provides water for birds, bees and wasps that provide pest control and pollination. The garden has a permanent border of French lavender that serves several purposes. Lavender essential oils deter garden pests and, during the cooler months, the flowers are sold to a local florist. The hedge also protects the more delicate herbs from hot winds. There is a break in the hedge on the low side of the garden to allow cold air to drain away. A solid hedge traps cold air and allows frost to form. The herb garden also provides a suitable setting for my sundial.
I like to renovate my herb garden every three or four years as the perennial herbs such as rosemary, sage, thymes and mints don’t make as much strong, tender growth as the plants age. We find we get better production from younger plants that we grow from cuttings of the old stock. When I replant annual and perennial herbs, I always change their position in the garden as these plants also require a proper crop rotation to prevent soil diseases, and my herb garden is never completely full of herbs as I leave spaces for the rotation of annual and biennial herbs each season.
The garden looks quite bare at the moment (but it is easier to see the layout). I have very recently planted chives, rosemary, lemon thyme, marjoram, oregano, spearmint, eau-de-cologne mint, sweet basil, parsley, rose geranium, French tarragon and several more common thyme plants. The lemon grass clumps and the horseradish roots survived the chook attack, as did the soapwort. (Soapwort is not a culinary herb, but I didn’t know where else to put it). Coriander and dill will be sown later this month as they both do better here during the cooler months. After planting, the garden was mulched with finely chopped organic sugar cane residue as this will break down more quickly than other mulches, and add more organic matter to keep soil healthy.