Monday, 20 November 2017

Looking to Give Back to the Coffs Community?

image Rob Cleary
If you have a yen to learn new skills and are interested and passionate about environmental tourism and your local community, this may be just what you are looking for. There are openings for Environmental Ambassadors for the Coffs Region.

There is a public Information Session happening on Monday 27 November 2017 5:30 - 6:00 at the Coffs Community Village, 22 Earl Street, Coffs. There is a need to RSVP - email address can be viewed at this link.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Toughie to Crack - Nutgrass

image Brisbane City Council
This weed will crack you if you don't crack it..... Cyperus rotundas aka nutgrass is the bane of gardeners worldwide. It has various names - Java grass, purple nut sedge, Wintjiekweed or red grass, red nut sedge, Khmer kravanh chruk, Teki and Motha to name a few. This weed is actually referred to as being 'the world's worst weed'. Known for its tenaciousness it can shoot through asphalt as well as pierce through pool liners, so we know we are looking at a biggie of the weed world here. More detail can be seen at wikipedia.

This post was prompted by the overwhelming presence of nutgrass in our garden. A seemingly endless task to attempt to curb its spread - more on this later.

It is a species of sedge believed to be native to Africa, southern and central Europe and southern Asia. It is a perennial plant that may reach a height of up to 20-50cm. The name is derived from its tubers, that somewhat resemble nuts (although botanically they have absolutely nothing to do with nuts). These little nuts can remain dormant (or inactive) in the soil for up to 10 years! So folks looks as though we may be for a long haul.

Identifying Nutgrass 

If spikelets are allowed to form they will be reddish-purple colour but this is really not the best way to make positive identification. Very carefully dig down to the roots and feel for a hair-like stolen which will lead to a nut forming a chain of growth to more plants, if you have this - ta-dah you've got nutgrass!


This is where it gets interesting..... the method of choice for this garden is:  
  1. Pull up the green growth with roots intact - don't worry about the nut at this stage. 
  2. Wait for new growth to appear and while it is still young spray it with Sempra which has a 'fixer' added eg Eco Oil

This method may require a couple of applications, however it has a proven success rate in our vegetable garden when nutgrass took off like a startled rabbit after some dodgy mulch with seeds had been applied (well we think this is how it happened as it was so prolific throughout the garden).

All that is left to do is address this weed in the rest of the garden..... not an easy task as it has established itself quite nicely among closely planted flowers and shrubs.

Further information can be obtained by reading  Brisbane City Council Weed Identification.

Saturday, 11 November 2017


Flower of the Month November 2017 - Daylily

KINGDOM: Plantae

FAMILY: Hemerocallidaceae
(hem err oh kal ahh DAY see eye)

GENUS: Hemerocallis

The daylily's botanical name, Hemerocallis, means 'beauty for a day', and indeed most daylily flowers open in the morning and die by nightfall.

However, each flower stem (also called a scape) typically has at least a dozen flower buds, so the plant stays in bloom for several weeks.

You can even eat them! But don't eat the wrong ones!!

  Thanks Sue

Cultural Notes:

Daylilies are quite easy to grow on the Coffs Coast, they are virtually pest and disease resistant however snails and slugs can be problematic among the plants but the good news is they rarely touch the flowers!

When planting in well-worked soil which has been improved by compost or manure, the crown should be about 2cm below ground level and about 60cm apart. 

Confusion of colours with mixed
cultivar planting
Some people suggest that daylilies be used in general landscaping however this can get very tatty looking if dead leaves and old stalks are not removed, coupled with different heights, colours etc this can make the bed look untidy. It is suggested that drifts of single cultivar works well as it is less 'tizzy' and each cultivar can be appreciated for its own attributes and not overshadowed by another plant which may have a bolder colour and/or taller etc. 

Use a slow release fertiliser at planting time to ensure good early and continued growth. The plants should be well watered until growth starts but will withstand drought and also grow well in our wet conditions - a good all rounder! Once established give your daylilies some organic fertiliser in early spring and water in well.

Flower size, growth and quantity of bloom will depend on time of planting, weather and cultural conditions. Best results seem to be obtained in the second or third year clumps. These clumps are best divided after 4 years or so to maintain optimum flower size, quality and quantity. 

Growing Daylilies as a hobby is exceedingly popular in North America.  We had a Canadian friend who was an absolute daylily tragic - and had well over 400 different cultivars in his garden (and he treated them like babies) which he was very proud of. 

Just a few decades ago daylilies were largely yellow or yellow! Hybridising by enthusiasts like our friend has resulted in a great torrent of the most amazingly varied flowers seemingly as free flowering and hardy as the old-fashioned ones (if not more so).

There are singles, doubles, full-sized or miniature, red, white, pink, almost black, rust, pink, gold, orange, spotted and ruffled and fringed varieties, ones with small elegant flowers and ones with blooms that are almost too heavy for their stems. You name it, you can have it with daylilies - a fantastically rewarding plant for our gardens.

Further reading can be seen at Decadent Daylilies. This website has amazing images, fantastic advice on growing daylilies and a 'must read' for anyone who wants to be bitten by the Daylily bug!

CHGC Member Chris' Daylily growing at Raleigh - beautiful

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Lepus europaeus - Hare

Although native to Africa and Southern Europe as far east as central China this pest has been introduced to many countries and has established populations in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Falkland Islands, Finland, Hawaii, Ireland, New Zealand, Siberia, Sweden, Uruguay, USA, West Indies and Australia.  

In Australia, hares were introduced for sport. Coursing (which involves using hunting dogs to chase a hare) was a popular sport in Britain and Ireland and early Australian settlers were keen to establish a population of wild hares for this purpose. 

Tasmania was the first to attempt a colony of European hares in the 1830s however this initial endeavour to establish wild populations failed. It was on Phillip Island in 1863 that a breeding colony of hares was set up by the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria to supply hares for further introductions to mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Unfortunately (in my view) these new introductions were successful and by 1870 hares had been distributed throughout south-eastern Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. Hares were introduced to Western Australia in 1874 and 1902 but did not establish persistent populations.

Unlike rabbits, hares do not burrow and are generally solitary, except during late winter breeding. The female is the larger of the two. They prefer grassland and open woodland habitats. It is likely that agricultural practices, such as clearing of forests, helped in expanding the distribution of hares by increasing the amount of suitable habitat for them (as experienced when virgin mallee country in Victoria was cleared for farming in the 1930s and 1940s).

Within thirty years of their first release in 1870 hares had reached plague proportions and were widely regarded as pests. There was a concerted push to curb their populations using different means - phosphorous poisoned oats, hare drives, commercial use of hare meat and pelts and bounties on hare scalps. Farmers and gun clubs organised shoots where huge numbers were destroyed and the Pastures Protection Board in NSW began paying a bounty on hare scalps. Between 1890 and 1902 at least 300,000-400,000 scalps were taken annually! And 'they' talk about rabbits and their breeding.....

In the latter part of the first decade in the 1900s, hare populations naturally declined (not only due to the persistence of humans). There is some evidence to suggest that it was not only eagles who prey on the hare young (leverets) but the increase in fox and rabbit numbers that curbed the population explosion of hares. They are prone to several different types of parasites and disease which cause a higher proportion of deaths than predators.

Today, hares are NOT protected and are hunted throughout the year. They are regarded as minor agricultural pests, but are also considered a resource by recreational and commercial hunters. The total wholesale value of hare meat and skin industry in Australia is worth $200,000 at most (based on production of 20,000 animals with a value of $10 each). 

My interest in hares? They may be predominantly solitary however they can pack a punch as hares can cause significant damage when gnawing bark off young trees and shrubs. They also chew off the stems of young trees, damaging or killing the plant. In our case they took a liking to roses during the dry of this last winter doing considerable damage to the bushes.  Their shear size standing on their hind legs to sup on the roses was incredible so taller roses also received the attention of the hares. Their range is huge (up to four kilometres) as they don't depend on burrow lodgings like rabbits so can roam freely looking for succulent green growth. Even when they breed the young are not demanding as they are only suckled once every 24 hours, allowing mum (Jill and males are known as Jack and offspring less than a year leverets) plenty of opportunity to roam for her food.

What can we do about hares? Nothing much, just hope they don't ringbark too many trees/shrubs and trust they don't breed up too much!

Further reading can be seen ABC's Rural News and wikipedia.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A Balance between Garden Pests and Beneficial Insects - GardenDrum

The garden maintained by Denis Crawford is perhaps a little different from the norm in that he purposely sets out to attract insects - in his own words the good, bad and benign! You can see his article A balance between garden pests and beneficial insects here at GardenDrum.

About Denis Crawford:

He has studied, photographed and written about insects for more than 35 years. His background includes a decade in entomological research, and many years collaborating with an integrated pest management consultancy.

Denis is author of Garden Pests Diseases & Good Bugs: the ultimate illustrated guide for Australian gardeners and co-author of Backyard insects (soon to be released in an updated edition. More posts can be seen on his blog One Minute Bugs.