• Create a Bee habitat garden
Bees are after one thing and that's the food in flowers: pollen and nectar. So the more flowers in your garden, the more bees you'll attract.
But some flowers are more attractive to bees than others. This is because they may have more pollen and nectar, they may flower at a time when there aren't many other plants in flower or the flower structure may simply be better for landing and feasting.
By planting a mix of plants, which flower throughout the year, you're giving bees a regular food supply. This will encourage them to stay, feed, drink, shelter and even reproduce in your garden.
Rather than scattering flowers randomly, plant large patches. This encourages bees to forage and cross pollinate the plants as they move efficiently from flower to flower. Water your flowers deeply and often to ensure flowers produce plenty of nectar and pollen.
• Choose plants that Native bees love
Most native bees have cleverly evolved to collect pollen and nectar from native and non-native flowering plants, making them 'generalist' foragers. But there are around 100 species of native bees that are specialist bees, so it's worth planting a handful of native plants in your garden too.
• Provide shelter
Native bees don't build the structures we associate with honeybees, but they do need places to nest, which vary depending on the species.
Resin and leafcutter bees will nest in large drilled holes in wood, which mimic the natural cavities produced by wood-boring insects. Resin bees also like to shelter in small cavities in rockeries or layers of rolled bark. Hollow stems can be bundled up to attract reed and masked bees.
In Australia, we're encouraged to mulch our plants, but native bees that nest in the ground find it hard to dig through thick layers of mulch. So leave an area of bare ground, at least a metre squared, to encourage ground-nesting bees into your garden.
*The above information was put together with the help of Megan Halcroft of Bees Business.
• Avoid using chemicals in your garden
Unfortunately some garden chemicals are harmful to bees. If you want to attract bees, steer away from products that contain neonicotinoids. Consider only applying chemicals to infested areas, avoid or minimise sprays during flowering and avoid spraying when you can see bees actively foraging in your plants. If you need an insecticide, try eco-oil or eco-neem which are bee safe. If a plant is infested with many pests, it may simply need feeding, pruning or pulling out. There are also many home remedies you can try. Click to discover our list of 13 easy homemade pest controls.
Rooting and growing pineapple tops is easy. Once you bring your pineapple home, cut off the leafy top about half an inch below the leaves. Then remove some of the lowest leaves. Trim off the outer portion of the pineapple top at the bottom of the crown, or stem, until you see root buds. These should resemble small, brown-colored bumps around the stem's perimeter.
Allow the pineapple top to dry for several days to one week prior to planting. This helps the top to heal, discouraging problems with rotting.
Although it's possible to sprout a pineapple in water, most people have better luck rooting them in soil. Use a light soil mix with perlite and sand. Place the pineapple top in the soil up to the base of its leaves. Water thoroughly and place it in bright, indirect light.
Keep it moist until roots develop. It should take about two months (6-8 weeks) for roots to establish. You can check for rooting by gently pulling the top to see the roots. Once significant root growth has occurred, you can start giving the plant additional light.
If desired, move the pineapple plant outdoors in a semi-shaded location throughout late spring and summer. However, be sure to move it back inside for overwintering.
Since pineapples are slow-growing plants, do not expect to see blooms for at least two to three years, if at all. It is possible, however, to encourage the flowering of mature pineapple plants.
There are lots of great reasons to grow peanuts (Arachis hypogaea). They're good for you, they taste great, and are unusual enough to get kids interested in gardening. Plus fresh, raw peanuts are hard to buy. Peanuts are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Eaten regularly, they provide good levels of unsaturated fats and, if you have hypoglycaemia, the slow release of carbohydrates sustains blood sugar levels well.
The cheapest way to buy them is as unprocessed peanuts from health food stores, or try your local seed supplier. To grow them as sprouts, soak peanuts with unbroken skins for half a day. Rinse and place on a damp cloth in an open container. Rinse three times daily, keeping them damp. In 1-3 days seeds swell. Eat before the seedlings emerge, when they're most nutritious.
Peanuts aren't fussy. Just give them well dug soil and all-day sunshine. If soil is slightly acidic and has added compost, all the better. But it must drain freely or the seeds may rot in constant warm conditions. Sow in mid-spring. I drop one or two seeds in a hole made by pushing a stick about 4-6cm deep in the ground, in rows 30cm apart. Handle seeds carefully as the papery skin is very thin. If broken, the seeds break in two and fail to germinate. Thin plants to about 30cm apart and expect a crop in around 100 days. Compact, sprawling plants grow 30-60cm high.
Peanuts need a warm climate. They're best grown as a summer crop in southern Australia, from spring to summer in the subtropics, or as a winter crop in the north. Most varieties are low-growing annuals. In dry conditions water well once or twice weekly. Water in the morning to reduce the risk of disease. Feed monthly with a seaweed tonic. Manures and heavy feeding, particularly with nitrogen-rich fertilisers, encourages soft foliage. Plants become liable to rust disease, especially near harvest time. Mulching with chopped lucerne or sugarcane helps the seeds to develop and conserves water.
Seeds are produced underground, enclosed in a fibrous shell. After flowering, the stalk supporting the flower elongates, becoming a 'peg'. Each peg grows down, pushing the flower into the soil where seeds then develop. When growth stops and foliage begins yellowing, they're ready to harvest. Lift with a fork, wash and they can be eaten or dried. Never dry them outdoors unprotected - mice love them.
Birds can be assets in the garden. They assist in pollination, aid in pest control and are generally pleasing to the eye and ears, if you are a fan of birdsong, that is.
1. Add native shrubs
Plant grevilleas, kangaroo paws and banksias in the garden. These natives are favourites with honeyeaters and rainbow lorikeets, as their beaks are perfectly shaped to get nectar from the blooms.
2. Don't feed them
Giving birds food can have a negative impact on their health if it doesn't provide adequate nutrition. Feeding stations can also cause diseases to spread. So stick to native plants and a supply of clean water.
3. Quench their thirst
Birds feel safer if their water source is elevated, with a tree near, so they can escape from predators. Keep a birdbath full of clean, fresh water so they know it's always available and to help reduce the spread of disease.
4. Give them shelter
Areas with dense foliage make birds feel secure, so combine native grasses with shrubs and flowering gum trees. This will provide a safe haven for them to build nests and forage for seeds, fruit and insects.
5. Put up a nest box
Certain birds like nesting in tree hollows, but these are often hard to find. Install nest boxes with entrance holes suitable for the local birds, but ensure they're not too big, as predators can attack the birds or steal the eggs.
1. The most effective way to get rid of Indian Mynas is to reduce attractions that might encourage Indian Mynas to visit an area. Clear away food scraps after eating outdoors, remove uneaten pet food, cover bins, etc.
2. Block holes / areas where Mynas might roost or nest.
3. Install bird netting to block Mynas access to area roosting or nesting areas.
4. Install bird spikes to prevent Mynas from roosting on ledges.
5. Trap Mynas using specially designed Myna Bird Traps. Euthanase trapped birds humanely.
Mynas are a serious threat to the survival of our native wildlife as they are a hollow-nesting bird. During the nesting season they become very aggressive and take over hollows that would have been occupied by lorikeets and rosellas, kookaburras and sugar gliders. If a hollow is already occupied they will evict whoever is in there, even animals as big as possums.
Cover gaps in buildings and eaves with bird proof netting or wire mesh to block them out from nesting.
Resist feeding birds where Mynas are present.
Ensure pet food is removed once the pets have finished with it.
Trap Myna birds using specially designed Myna Magnet Traps.
There's nothing more satisfying than growing your own juicy carrots in your backyard and with the help of some of Tino's carrot tips, they'll grow straight and true every time!
1. Grow from seed
Carrots should always be grown from seed. Transplants are expensive, hard work and they rarely result in success as the roots don't like to be disturbed.
2. Don't spoil them!
Don't use blood and bone or pelletised manure when growing carrots. These fertilisers will promote leafy growth and can cause your carrots to be distorted in shape.
3. Make their bed properly
Prepare the soil by digging the ground over thoroughly and deeply so the long tap root can make its way easily into the soil.
4. Sow sparingly
Make a shallow rill with your finger and sprinkle the seeds sparingly, firming the soil down to ensure it makes contact with the seed.
5. Keep them moist
The most important thing - keep them moist! As they are tiny seeds buried just below the surface, so they can dry out really quickly on a hot day. Tino's grandfathers tip - place an old plank of wood over where you have planted the carrot seeds which traps the moisture in. Remove it in a couple of days or weeks when the carrots have germinated, then remove the plank.
6. They don't like a crowd
They don't like a crowdWhen they get up to about 5cm high, start thinning out the weaker ones - giving the stronger ones enough room to grow.
Pest and insects find your plants by both sight and smell, so creating a diversity of plants can really confuse them and they may go somewhere else to get a quick bite to eat. Masking plants are the best ones to use to repel insects. These are plants that produce strong, volatile oils and scent which actually mask the plants that harmful insects may be looking for. It is almost like there is a "fragrant cloud" that surrounds the masking plant and those nearby, which ideally should deter those unwanted insects. Marigolds, lavender, garlic, basil, sage and rosemary are great examples of masking plants.
Lettuce needs a well-drained soil with loads of organic matter (like crumbly compost), a bit of a seaweed feed and some lovely mulch. New seedlings will benefit when soil is prepared soil about two weeks before planting. Do this by lightly working compost and a little bit of pelletised manure based fertiliser through the soil, followed by mulch, to a depth of about 5-7cm. Walk away, and count the days to planting time. Oh, and don't be afraid to test your pH... 6.5 is just fine!
Lettuces are a heavier feeder as they grow quite rapidly and produce a lot of leaves per plant. They need to be grown quickly for best flavour and appearance. The best way to ensure this is to make sure you prepare your beds correctly with composts and manures. Using large amounts of commercial liquid fertilisers on lettuce seedlings will encourage growth, but it also encourages hordes of snails who feast on the soft lettuce growth! It's not necessary and it's financially and ecologically more sustainable to use good bed preparation.
If you do feel the need to feed, do it fortnightly, at half strength, using a manure/compost tea. You can also deliver a half strength seaweed solution at planting time, as this is great for encouraging robust root growth.
Water is vital. Lettuces have shallow roots and thus need frequent watering, especially in hot and/or windy weather. Keep the area well mulched and test soil moisture regularly. If soil is left to dry out, lettuce may run to seed creating a wasted plant, taste bitter or unfortunately die. All of which can be avoided.
To sustain flowering or fruiting in trees or shrubs, the general rule of thumb is to prune after flowering or fruiting as this allows maximum time for the plant to produce the next season's flower buds. Remove dead growth and rubbing branches anytime as these invite infection. Malformed shoots can also be pruned as they appear if they are unattractive. Regular trimming can stop plants invading paths or blocking the line of sight for drivers along driveways.
Most plants have a dormant bud hidden on the stem at the base of each leaf stalk. If you prune the stem just above these nodes, the plant will sprout fresh, new shoots.
For more information, please vsit: www.homestolove.com.au
• Companion planting plants near or among brassicas and which repel the butterfly. These include aromatic herbs (lemon balm, sage, oregano, borage, hyssop, dill, rosemary) and/or high blossom flowers (tall marigold, calendula)
• Companion planting plants at a distance and which attract the moths. Nasturtiums are great for this.
• Spraying repellant solutions on the plant. DIY solutions generally include some dishwashing liquid and optionally, one or more of: neem oil (or equivalent), garlic and cayenne. Lots of recipes are offered online.
• Hand cleaning - turning each leaf by hand and removing the cabbage worms. This can be hard to do once the worms get into a developing brussels sprout or cabbage head.
If you think your garden has too much shade to grow vegetables, think again. There are plenty of vegetables and herbs that can be grown in constant dappled shade or in as little as three to six hours of sun.
Here's the general rule for home vegetable growers plagued by what they think may be too much shade from their own trees or shade from those in a neighbour's yard: Vegetables and herbs grown for their stems, leaves or buds will tolerate light shade. Some of these include:
Cooking greens, such as kale, collards, mustard greens and Swiss chard.
Lettuce, specifically the soft, loose-leaf types such as "Oakleaf", "Ruby Red" or "Salad Bowl." Don't pull the plants up after your first harvest. Removing leaves encourages more to appear, which yield repeat harvests. Head lettuce, however, is not the best option for growing in shade.
Salad greens, including sorrel, endive, cress and arugula. These tasty additions to a salad mix will expand your options for flavor and texture.
Spinach, a cold-hardy vegetable that has growing requirements similar to lettuce.
Broccoli, a great choice for growing in the relative coolness of partial shade rather than full sun. After cutting off the large central head, leave the plant in the ground. Smaller heads will form along the stem in the leaf axils.
Cauliflower, which will tolerate partial shade, though it prefers full sun. It also prefers cooler temperatures.
Cabbage, another veggie that thrives in the cooler temperatures of partial-shade.
Herbs, such as mint, chervil, coriander and parsley actually prefer partial shade. Here's a mint hint worth taking to heart: It is an aggressive spreader. Plant it in a container or you may spend years pulling it from places you didn't plant it and don't want it to grow.
Keep in mind that veggies and herbs grown in constant dappled or filtered shade or those grown in partial shade will not be as large as those grown in full sun. The yields won't be as much, either. However, the taste will be every bit as good and so will the satisfaction of having grown your own food.
If you are wondering how to define what kind of shade you have, consider how the American Horticultural Society defines shade. Dappled shade is sunlight that filters in shifting patterns through tree branches all day. This is similar to woodland shade environments and the most common situation in suburban backyards. Partial shade is up to 6 hours of sun with four or more of those being in the morning. Full sun is 4 or more hours of afternoon sun or more than 6 or more hours of direct sun all day.
Asparagus likes deep, friable, rich soil. If you've got heavy, clay soil, you'll need to mound the plants up or dig in plenty of organic matter so that it becomes nice and well drained. They love soil with a pH of about 6.5 to 7. Dig a deep trench, about 75cm, for the long roots - the deeper the better. Then add organic matter. Asparagus is very hungry and needs plenty of organic matter such as cow manure, sheep manure, or old chook poo. Scatter it thickly down the bottom of the trench because they will absolutely lap that up.
An economical way to grow Asparagus is by seed, or with seedlings. If you do grow them that way then after planting leave for about two or three years for a strong root system to develop. Don't pick any of the crop, just let it grow naturally. Another way to grow them is by using the Asparagus crown, with its long, fleshy roots. The crown of the Asparagus is where the spears will grow.
To plant the crown, make a little mound, like an anthill, at the bottom of the trench. Sit the roots of the crown nicely on top of the mound. Plant about 40cm apart. If the roots are damaged cut them back because they are quite fleshy and will come again easily. Dig one hole and plant an Asparagus into that or plant a couple of Asparagus crowns into a big pot. Water well, once planted, so the air pockets get away from the roots. Then in spring, little shoots will appear. Side and top dress with blood and bone.
Apart from slugs and snails in spring there are few pests and diseases that trouble this plant. When Asparagus is about four years old the fronds will have produced good, thick, strong roots and a good plant. They will then go yellow in autumn and that's the time to cut them back to ground level. The Asparagus bed will be bare until spring, and then spears of Asparagus will pop up all over the place.
Asparagus is high in potassium, great for fibre, low in salt, and a terrific, healthy vegetable to grow. There is nothing nicer than growing your own crop and taking it fresh to the table.
Onions are ready to harvest as soon as they reach a useable size. However, for storage, your cue to start the harvesting process is when the leaves begin to flop over or turn brown at the edges. After a week like this carefully dig them out of the ground using a fork. Lay the bulbs on the soil surface, or on a wire rack for better ventilation, to dry in the sun for a further week.
If the weather is wet dry them under cover instead, for instance in a well-ventilated greenhouse or tunnel. Always handle onions carefully to prevent bruising.
Cats dislike the smell of rue, lavender and pennyroyal, Coleus canina and lemon thyme. Plant a few of these throughout the garden. (Interplanting can attract pollinators and other beneficial insects too.)
Cats steer clear of strong citrus scents. Throw peels directly onto garden soil.
Sprinkling brewed coffee grounds over the soil may also help. Get free big bags (two kilograms) from most local coffee shops!
The scent of human hair is said to deters cats. Empty your brushes onto the garden and reclaim your territory! (Avoid mothballs; they're toxic to cats and humans.)
Commercial cat repellents copy the smells of predator urine. It's advertised as non-toxic and organic, said not to harm plants. Do your research.
Banana trees, which aren't true trees but large herbs whose leaves wrap around and create what looks like a trunk, grow as tall as 3 metres and as wide as 1 metre. While bananas can lend a tropical vibe to your home's surrounding landscape, the plants also produce dozens of suckers at the bottom of the pseudo-trunk. To contain your banana tree and keep it from spreading into areas of your yard that you want to keep clear, you must control these suckers and remove them as soon as they appear.
Pull on protective clothing, such as closed-toe shoes, pants and gloves. The banana tree's brown sap, which is high in minerals like potassium, can stain your clothing and hands.
Cut the banana tree's suckers as soon as they push above the soil surface from the banana tree's underlying rhizome system, cutting the sucker down to soil level. Use pruning shears for a cleaner, controlled cut, as a hand saw may be hard to handle when working this close to the ground.
Pierce and dig out the middle of the now-exposed underground section of the sucker using a metal bar, such as a rebar. Stab and dig at the fleshy interior to remove as much of it as possible. This kills the sucker, otherwise it simply will regenerate.
Curious children like to learn by doing, and love to play in the dirt. Working in a garden, a child can experience the satisfaction that comes from caring for something over time, while observing the cycle of life firsthand.
Gardening gives children a chance to learn an important life skill, one that is overlooked in standard school curriculums. Gardening is also a great way to teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.
More reading: learn.eartheasy.com
Mix fat-free milk with water in a 1:1 ratio and apply it using a spray bottle. Spray the solution directly onto the clean leaves of your roses. The milk-and-water solution coats the leaves and leads to the growth of an invisible fungus that frightens off black spot!
To four litres of water, add 3 level teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and a couple of good splashes of fish emulsion. Give it a good mix and spray it on weekly. Don't apply when it's hot. The Fish emulsion is very useful because it helps to make it stick. It also contains beneficial bacteria that have antifungal properties. And that's not all - the oils in fish emulsion will help to suffocate pests like mites/aphids/scale. You must use it weekly for it to be most effective.
A deficiency of potassium makes roses more vulnerable to this disease so regularly add sulphate of potash in spring, summer and autumn.
Seaweed sprayed onto the leaves changes the pH of the leaf surface making it less attractive to the fungal spores. It also strengthens the cell walls making it more difficult for the invading fungi.
Lime sulphur can be used as a preventative fungicide on leafless roses in winter.