Monday, 31 August 2015

Wattle Day - 1 September

Even though there have been wattles out for many weeks September 1 is Wattle Day in Australia.

A time to celebrate one of our most beautiful and evocative native plants. Wear a sprig of wattle or better still, plant a wattle in your garden this spring. Not only will you be introducing a burst of sunlight yellow when the fluffy wattle flowers bloom, you will also be putting in a plant that will provide food for native birds. Wattle trees are also very fast growing and will quickly provide welcome shade and shelter in a newly established or exposed garden. By the same token they do not live long.

The Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is Australia's official floral emblem. This beautiful species was proclaimed as our emblem on 1 September 1988 but it had been the unofficial floral emblem of Australia by popular choice for many years. It has appeared as a floral motif on many official government documents such as an adornment to the Commonwealth Coat of Arms adopted 19 September 1912.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A little Oasis at Lighting Ridge

A good story from a recent Landline episode highlighting what can achieved in a fairly inhospitable environment with hydroponics - was a big amused as it was raining at the time of filming.

Please click ABC Landline story.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Curl Grubs

Curl Grub larvae have a cream body with a light brown head and they vary in size from 4mm to 40mm when fully grown. They are the larvae of several different species of beetle including the African Black Beetle, the blackheaded pasture cockchafer, Christmas beetles and Scarab beetles. They feed on dead plant material and the live roots or stems of a broad range of plants including lawns and can cause severe damage to lawns, gardens and potted plants. It is their habit of curling up into a 'C' shape when disturbed that gives them their common name of curl grub.  They are often incorrectly referred to as 'witchetty grubs'. 

The beetles lay their eggs in areas of soft soil over a three month period at which time you are likely to find both adult beetles and larvae in the soil. It is during warmer weather that new eggs hatch and older larvae move closer to the soil surface feeding more heavily on plant roots. The hotter weather adds to the burden of plants trying to survive with a diminishing root ball. As such Spring and Summer are generally the best times to treat lawns and garden beds. If you notice any in your vegetable garden you will need to turn the soil over and pick them out by hand (we have fun feeding the Butcher birds who are quite clever catching them mid-flight when we throw the grubs into the air). Infestation levels are usually worse after a prolonged period of very dry and hot weather.

As the curl grubs feed, plants and lawns fail to perform well and often appear to be need watering, despite the soil being moist. In really heavy infestations brown patches will appear tin the lawn and the grass will pull away very easily. 

There is really no safe application for control in the vegetable garden, however you can treat lawns with Confidor Hose-on. Optimum application time is from mid-spring to mid-summer when the eggs are hatching and larvae are near the surface of the soil.  Eco-neem can also be used on lawns, garden beds and potted plants as a soil drench using a watering can. 

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Importance of Crop Rotation

If you have a veggie garden, chances are you are growing your favourite veggies year after year. By not rotating veggies (and their close relatives) you are running the risk of depleting the specific nutrients required for each type of vegetable and you are more likely to experience an increase in pests and diseases. A classic example is all Brassica crops (kale, cabbage, broccoli etc) are real nitrogen guzzlers so for good crop rotation it is wise to follow these crops with nitrogen enriching crops or green manure crops.

This large garden in Nana Glen
practices excellent crop rotation.
While the family Solanaceae (potato, eggplant etc) are quite prone to attack by nematodes there are other crops who are not, (beans and peas) so these are best grown following a Solanaceae crop. By rotating crops from one bed to another, you avoid a continuous build up of nematodes in any one bed. Vegetable crops should be rotated according to their family groupings. It is important to know what vegetable belongs to which family group, see the family groups listed:

  • Amaryllidaceae - Garlic, Leeks, Onions
  • Asteraceae - Chicory, Endive, Lettuce
  • Brassicaceae - broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Radish, Rocket, Swede, Turnip
  • Curcurbitaceae - Cucumber, Melon, Pumpkin, Rockmelon, Squash, Watermelon, Zucchini
  • Fabaceae - all legume crops such as Peas and Beans
  • Solanaceae - Capsicum, Chilli, Eggplant, Potato, Tomato

The following layouts are based on two major rotations per year - namely Winter (April - September); and Summer planting (October - March). This timetable works well for the Coffs Coast allowing for progressive planting and harvesting as well as allowing time for crops to mature for seed saving purposes if you are interested in that. A six bed rotation is ideal for our warm climate as it leaves room for a dedicated green manure bed as well as individual beds for peas/beans and brassica crops. Where space is limited this can be reduced to five beds by combining Apiaceae and Asteraceae crops in the one bed. 

Example of a Winter layout:
Bed 1: Beans, Peas 
Bed 2: Broccoli, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Swede, Turniip
Bed 3: Green manure crop
Bed 4: Beetroot, Carrot, English spinach, Parsnip, Silverbeet, 
Bed 5: Chicory, Endive, Lettuce, Squash
Bed 6: Capsicum, Chilli, Eggplant, Potatoes, Tomatoes

Followed by a Summer rotation for the same vegetables or family group:
Bed 1: Capsicum, Chilli, Eggplant, Potatoes, Tomatoes
Bed 2: Corn, Snake Bean
Bed 3: Cucumber, Pumpkin, Zucchini
Bed 4: Green manure crop
Bed 5: Beetroot, Ceylon spinach, Silverbeet
Bed 6: Lettuce, Mizuna

In the scenario above the Solanaceous crops grown in bed six during the winter move to bed one during the summer. Beans and peas crown in bed one during winter, join corn in bed two, bed two moves to bed three etc etc. Some crops not suitable for summer planting like brassicas are replaced with more climatically suitable curcurbit species like cucumber, pumpkin and zucchini.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Kungala to Kremnos, from Carnivorous to Australian Natives

We are just so fortunate to live on the Coffs Coast and have such gifted and talented people at our doorsteps. The CHGC August outing was a real ripping example of this.

Garden One

North along the Highway and turning left to Kungala there is a real hidden specialist grower of Carnivorous Plants. Wendy is a well known identity at local markets (she tries to get to them all) to sell her plants and she really knows her 'stuff'. 

Wendy and Gary have a number of igloos where they grow their plants. They left some of the plants un-pruned so we could see them over-wintering.

All carnivorous plants are found in areas where the soil has very little nutrients so they trap insects, produce digestive juices, dissolve the prey and derive some, (or most) of their nutrients from this process. Their roots don't play a big part in nutrient uptake. 

Carnivorous plants have five basic trapping mechanisms - Pitfall traps, Fly Paper traps, Snap traps, Bladder traps and Lobster pot traps.

Carnivorous plants like to have wet feet so Wendy's plants are grown in tubs with water - I'm guessing this also allows the mozzies to breed, only to meet their fate devoured by the plants!

Most of the pots in Wendy's collection have three different types of Carnivorous plants eg Sundews, Venus flytraps and Rainbow plant.

Wendy is seen here giving some information to Andrea while Mary in the background is really checking out the traps.

Gary explained that it is best to view the collection in summer when the plants are actively trapping their prey. It would be interesting for us as well to see them looking their splendiferous best.

Thank you Wendy and Gary for a really interesting visit.

Garden Two

Gwyn & Jeff Clark have owned a bush block of 100 acres since the mid 1980's at Kremnos. It wasn't until some 20 or so years later that they left their home in Canberra and settled on the block, living in a caravan until their new home was complete.

This area in Kremnos is prone to bushfires and there were some fierce ones last year (as can be evidenced by the regrowth on the trees in the background - the RFS did a back-burn to create a barrier between the Clarks and the firefront...... scary stuff). 

I first visited this garden in 2011 and the difference is just astounding! The 'bones' of the foundation garden were evident then, but those bones are now softened by clever native Australia flora plantings. 

Gwyn & Jeff are passionate Australian Native enthusiasts and were very, very active members of the Australian Plants Society in Canberra and did extensive volunteer work at the wonderful Canberra Botanic Gardens, now known as the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Their depth of knowledge is so vast they were integral in the publication of a book 'Australian Plants for Canberra Region Gardens and other cool climate areas'. Jeff mentioned yesterday that this publication has recently been republished with many wonderful colourful images. It has to be said though, that these two not only laid down decent foundations for an excellent educational tool for Canberra and cool climate gardens but the foundation for a wonderful garden at Kremnos.

Gwen said their experience has been with sandstone gardens so it was a 'given' that they would seek such an environment here on the Coffs Coast. 

They had to clear the area atop a sandstone ridgeline for their home and environs, bearing in mind that trees had to be kept 30m distant from their abode due to guidelines set down for bushfire prone areas. This wide expanse has been artfully planted with many of the Clark's much loved Australian native plants. 

An all time favourite, the Flannel Flower has really proliferated in this garden and is just stunning. We may struggle to even get them to grow at all in our clayey soil however, Gwyn & Jeff have them abounding.

Gwyn and Jeff are to be congratulated on their wonderful garden. What pleasure it gave us on our visit! 

We did have the odd self-confessed 'Australian Native Tragic' members on this outing and it was a outing highlight of the year for them.

Thank you Gwyn and Jeff, we really enjoyed our visit.

Once again this month we have visited two very diverse destinations. Last month it was Bonsai and a traditional Camellia specialist grower and nursery. This month Carnivorous specialist grower and nursery, plus the garden of all things Australian Native devotees. Thanks very much to Sue and our Program Committee for organising such an interesting, informative and enjoyable outing.

We finished off the day in style with a great lunch at the Golden Dog Hotel in Glenreagh, capped off by a serving of President Geoff's birthday cake.  

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Gardeners' Diary - August 2015

Image Mick Shaw Photography

Feed orchids weekly with high-potassium, full strength fertilizer from August to December and then a high-nitrogen fertiliser for the rest of the year.

Clear gutters and downpipes of leaves and clear firebreaks.

Check that hoses and sprinklers are in good working order—bushfire season is just around the corner!

Regularly check flowers and the last of the winter vegetables for watering and complete mulching before the really windy weather comes upon us in September. Some folk wait until the first really good rain before fertilizing and mulching.

Continue to feed flowers and vegetables fortnightly using either liquid seaweed or a liquid flower and fruit fertilizer.

Control leafminer and over-wintering bronze-orange (stink) bug on citrus by spraying leaves, branches and trunk with white oil.

Assiduously remove fallen leaves from frangipani and dispose of in the
garbage to control frangipani rust disease.

Prune hibiscus and feed with poultry manure, mulch, then water well. Pruning at this time allows new growth to harden before harmful erinose mite eggs hatch and start to ravage the bush.

Prune, feed, mulch and then water camellias once flowering finishes as a thank you for their bountiful blooms.

Complete planting bare-rooted deciduous trees, shrubs and vines before the end of the month.

Plant Asparagus Pea, Beans, Beetroot, Capsicum, Chilli, Chinese
Cabbage (Wong bok), Chives, Cucumber, Daikon, Kohlrabi, Mint, Warrigal Greens, Silverbeet, Spring Onions, Summer squash, Tomatillo, Tomato and Zucchini. All these vegetables should be ready to pick in November.

Abelia and Buddleia—remove old canes from the base and reduce the whole shrub by one-quarter to a half, shorten overlong canes.

Water lilies—overcrowded pots should be divided and replanted in aged cow manure into which a few grains of Osmocote Plus may be embedded.  Wash the roots of the plant in a bucket of water before dividing and separate with a sharp, disinfected knife. Cover the surface with gravel. A good idea at this stage is to ‘grow on’ these divided plants in a 10 ltr bucket of water for about a month. A weight is placed on top of the plant to ensure that the plants do not spring out of their pots when lowered into the bucket. If re-potting is not
required, clean out the pond.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

President's Message - August 2015

At yesterday’s monthly meeting I mentioned the need for people to continue putting up their hand to do one of the many jobs around our Club.

There are plenty of ways in which you can contribute. Most obvious are the executive
positions of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer/Public Officer, but there are also very important roles on the Program Committee, the Spring Garden Competition Committee, the Catering Committee, the Competition Table Judges and Stewards, the Communications Coordinator and the Airport Garden team.

And of course there are other equally important roles around the operation of the Club, like manning the door and setting up and cleaning up at monthly meetings and events, organising and manning fundraising BBQs, organising our Clean-up Australia Day activities and representing the Club on the Coffs Show Committee.

Our AGM will be on us before we know it, so please consider taking on a job for next year. If you would like more information on any of the roles, please just give me a call (my number is on the front page of the newsletter), and I’ll fill you in on the details.

Please remember that any club is only as good as what its members put into it. The greater people’s contribution and commitment, the better and more enjoyable the club will be for everyone.

Finally, please don’t forget to get your own gardens ready for the Spring Garden Competition. There are plenty of categories to choose from so you don’t have to enter your whole garden if you don’t want to. Garden Club members have done very well in the past and I’m sure 2015 will be no exception, so please hop to it and get your entries in—they close at 5:00pm on Friday 4 September 2015. The easiest way to enter is via the Club’s website at, or you can pick up a paper entry from most of the nurseries and landscape suppliers around town.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Gardening Guru Gavin

The Coffs Coast weather was showing off its best to set the scene for the team from Better Homes and Gardens - Cassandra, Kate & West, to visit our resident CHGC sub-tropical plant guru Gavin and his mum and dad, Barbara & Michael.

This segment will be aired on Channel 7 the 9th October and included in the November issue of the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Apparently, Gavin is also be interviewed on the radio, so it is all happening for him!

Well done, and congratulations - you've put in many, many hours creating a wonderful subtropical paradise here on the Coffs Coast which is a real joy.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Rosea' - Fire Sticks

Eye catching bright yellow new spring growth turns bright orange/red in winter. The sculptural branches of Euphorbia 'Fire Sticks' look terrific in pots or in the garden. Colder climates will see a more intense colouring and it is at its best throughout the winter. 

CHGC member Margaret has some really good examples of Fire Sticks growing in her Avocado Heights garden. They are low care, drought tolerant plants and garden designers really love them because of their popping colour and strong architectural lines. 

Prune lightly to keep it compact and colourful. Like all Euphorbias, the sap is toxic and should not come into contact with the skin - wash immediately if it does.

Plant into well drained soil in a sunny to bright light position. Water to establish, then keep just moist, reduce water in winter, so this plant is a good choice for the Coffs Coast. 

Fire Sticks is also known as Aveloz, Firestick Plants, Indian Tree Spurge, Naked Lady, Pencil Tree, Pencil Cactus, Sticks on Fire, Finger Tree or Milk Bush....... how about that for a line up of names!

The name Fire Sticks will do us nicely for this article, is an amazingly interesting plant with its naked green stems resembling coral with vibrant orange/red tinged tips in winter. Margaret says it is very easy to take cuttings from and she has used it to great effect in her garden for that WOW factor! 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Weeds - Blue Billygoat Weed - Ageratum houstonianum

A native to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean this plant appears on the 'Bushland Friendly Nursery Scheme' list of environmental weeds for Coffs Harbour. It is an annual or short-lived perennial herb growing to around 1 metre and is a widespread weed of disturbed areas. Blue billygoat weed has been widely cultivated as a garden ornamental, and in cultivation it is often known as 'floss flower'. There are many different cultivars, which vary in size and flower colour (blue, purple, pink and white flowered).

The leaves and stems are softly hairy. Leaves mostly opposite, but sometimes (upper) alternate leaves. Finely serrated, almost triangular to ovate, with either blunt or pointed tips.

The stems are quite brittle and break off when weeding leaving the root system behind to regenerate. They have a pungent smell when handled and the plant aggressively self seeds with 2mm long black or brown seeds topped with five whitish, hair-like scales.

This weed is problematic for the sugar cane farmers further north and I suspect this is where the seeds came from to germinate in my garden!

If you want to spray this weed use *metsulfuron-methyl at 1g/10L with surfactant.

This plant is toxic to grazing animals, causing liver lesions as it contains pyrrolizine alkoids.

*Metsulfuron-methyl is a selective, translocated herbicide that is mainly absorbed through leaves, though root absorption can occur. Its main use is for broad-leaved weed control. It is of low toxicity to mammals, birds and fish. Metsulfuron acts on the ALS enzyme in plants which is not present in animals and therefore the main reason for its low toxicity. It presents little hazard in the environment because of its low toxicity and quick degradation.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

We Don't Enter the Spring Garden Competition Because....

President Geoff and I are often asked why our garden is not an entry in the Coffs Harbour Spring Garden Competition as we spend so much of our lives with Garden Club activities (some say too much) and spruiking all things gardening! 

We (sort of) know what needs to be done in gardens during the year but knowing what to do in the garden, does not necessarily mean you actually have the time to get around to completing each and every task. It has to be said that we both gain tremendous enjoyment from seeing things flourishing despite our ad hoc approach to gardening. 

When writing for the CHGC website or newsletter about the pests, diseases, significant weeds and problems encountered in the garden, it has to be admitted that this is done with wonderful authority as these problems can clearly be seen in our own garden.

Garden competitions are not all about perfectly trimmed edges and manicured lawns I know, but they do require a modicum of order, with good plant health, design elements and an environment where one would like to be in - not where one should be in, gardening!

It has been said that if you are a slave to your garden and resent the amount of time you have to spend working in it, your garden is either too big or not designed to suit your lifestyle. Perhaps Geoff and I need to readdress what we grow in our garden and 'get stuck into' changing it - when we have the time!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Primula malacoides

Flower of the Month - August

From the primulaceae family native to Yunnan province of China. Primulas are a pretty
winter/spring annual that are easy to grow and will tolerate shade. It is a very determined self-seeder, however not excessively so to become weed-like.

They look so pretty and to great effect in mass displays and as border plants. Each plant can carry between 20 and 30 simple flowers of pinks, white or mauve blooms in tiers, on slender stems above hairy, pale green, scallop-edged leaves.

Primulas also make excellent cutting flowers for the vase which helps encourage more blooms as spent flower stems should be removed after flowering in order to promote new growth. 

Apply liquid fertilizer every two weeks or so during the entire flowering period.

Primulas are perfect for shady areas, although they can tolerate dappled morning sun, it just thrives in the cool, short days of winter and early spring. 

Flowering in July, August, September & October on the Coffs Coast.