Sunday, 15 April 2018

DIY Critter Sprays

At the meeting yesterday Gill G. gave some handy DIY home remedies for critters. Her suggestions have been added to and perhaps some of these 'recipies' might be the go for you - especially if you're not keen on chemical sprays. If you have a tried and tested home remedy please share it with us in the comments below - there is no need for you to register just make an anonymous comment if you prefer. We at Coffs Garden Club are interested in your experiences.

Grasshoppers - Use a wide container to attract a lot of grasshoppers, in this container (a yellow one is good as they are attracted to that colour) fill 1/3 full with water, add canola oil to prevent mozzies, add maple syrup to attract the grasshoppers. The theory is the grasshoppers are attracted to the maple syrup and drown. 

Tomato Leaf Spray - is effective in killing aphids and mites. It works because the alkaloids in the tomato leaves (and the leaves of all nightshades) are fatal to many insects. Simply chop one or two cups of tomato leaves and soak them in two cups of water. Let it steep overnight. Strain out the leaves using cheesecloth or chux or a fine strainer; then add another one to two cups of water to the liquid and add it to a spray bottle. Use the mixture by spraying the stems and foliage of the infested plant, paying particular attention to the undersides of leaves since that is where aphids most commonly congregate. One word of warning though, whilst this spray is very safe for humans, there are some folk who are allergic to members of the nightshade family - if this is you, give this one a miss.

Hot Pepper Spray - is a terrific solution if you have problems with mites. Simply mix two tablespoons of Tabasco sauce, a few drops of biodegradable dish soap and 4 cups of water and let it sit overnight. Use a spray bottle to apply the spray to infested plants. Hot pepper spray works because of the compound capsaicin (which causes the 'heat' in hot peppers) is just as irritating to insects as it is to us. This mixture also helps repel whiteflies, but it may have to be reapplied if you start to see the mites or whiteflies returning. 

Garlic Oil Spray -  is a great, safe insect repellent. Simply put three to four cloves of minced garlic into two teaspoons of mineral oil. Let this mixture sit overnight, and then strain the garlic out of the oil. Add the oil to 2 cups of water, add a teaspoon of biodegradable dish soap. Store in a bottle or jar and dilute the mixture when you use it by adding two tablespoons of your garlic oil mixture to 2 cups of water.

The garlic spray works because the compounds in garlic (diallyl disulfide and diallyl trisulfide) are irritating or deadly to many insects. The oil and soap help the mixture stick to plant leaves. What insects does garlic oil repel you ask? Whiteflies, aphids and most beetles will avoid plants sprayed with garlic oil. A word of caution - don't apply this spray on a sunny day because the oils can cause foliage burn.

Or another method for Garlic Spray is to place 2 whole bulbs of garlic into 10 cups of water, bring to boil and leave overnight to steep. Strain out the solids and mix 1 part to 3 parts of water.


Simple soap spray - is very useful in taking out a wide variety of garden pests, including aphids, scale, mites and thrips. Just add one tablespoon of dishwashing soap to 16 cups of water and spray the mixture on the pests. Why does this work? The soap dissolves the protective outer coating on the insects.

One from Marg C. - Beer for the snails and slugs - sink a tuna can or pie plate into the ground, add some beer to about 2.5cm from the rim of the container. The slugs will go in for a drink and drown. Beer works because the slugs are attracted to the yeast. It's really important to sink the container into the soil and keep the beer about 2.5cm lower than the soil. This way, the slugs have to go down after the beer and they drown. If the beer is near to the rim and at soil level, the slugs and snails can just have a jolly good time before heading off to munch on your plants!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Roses and Carnivorous Plants

The images for this outing can be seen in the April Newsletter.

Written by Sue:
The April 2018 outing was a pretty exclusive event, only five of us went - you'll be sorry you missed it but because we are nice, we will gladly share what we learnt. We went to Benefield's Rose Farm at Halfway Creek and then on to Wendy's and Gary's Carnivorous Plants at Kungala.

image Benefield's

I did not realize that behind the potted roses there are acres of rose bushes and chrysanthemums and gypsophila (baby's breath) all grown to supply the local fresh flower market. Patrick Benefield gave us the grand tour and it is very impressive to see the rows and rows of roses. It looks as if he has aimed to collect as many different varieties as possible. Patrick originally established an orchard on the site but changed to a rose farm around 1990. He hails from a long line of rose growers and his knowledge of roses is amazing. He generously shared many rose growing secrets.

This is what he told us:

Spray every 10-14 days with a mix of Phosphoric acid (3.8 ml/l), Eco Oil (5 ml/l), Mancozeb (2g/l), Seasol (as per bottle). All can be mixed together. Aim for every 10 days and push out to 14 if it is rainy. If there is a problem pest, increase the frequency of spraying rather than the strength of the mix. In addition to the regular spray routine, lime sulphur for scale at the rate of 20/1 once a year and petroleum pest oil one month later. 

I asked Patrick why petroleum pest oil rather than homemade white oil and he said it is because the petroleum pest oil has ammonia which burns the fungus and the oil part makes it stick.

He also said that in Coffs, prune in July because there is not really a winter and if you prune too early the plant will try to grow before it is really warm enough.  He recommends poultry manure once a year and says it is best because it contains calcium.  Don't dig in, leave on top of the mulch.  Roses need humus, so always mulch, mulch, mulch.   

image M. Bell
After the rose farm we moved down the road to Wendy & Gary's Carnivorous Plants.  Again there were surprises.  I found out that there are some  carnivorous plants that will live happily in the sun so long as it's pot is sitting in water.  Perfect for the pond!  Wendy & Gary won a first prize at the Royal Easter Show for their amazing Pitcher plant.  

If you would like to buy one of their plants they regularly attend Bellingen markets on the 3rd Saturday of the month. 

Webmaster's note: Garry Stewart & Wendy must have been stoked at their success at the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show. These were their placings:

1st Nepenthes, single species, with a minimum of 3 pitchers in a pot not exceeding 350mm

3rd Nepenthes, single hybrid plant, with a minimum of 3 pitchers in a pot not exceeding 350mm

Highly Commended, Sarracenia, multiple crown single hybrid plant, with a minimum of 3 pitchers in a pot not exceeding 200mm

Well done team Wendy & Garry!


Flower of the Month - April 2018

KINGDOM:  Plantae

FAMILY:  Asteraceae

GENUS:  Dahlia

SPECIES:  around 40 but many cultivars

Plants related to dahlia include the sunflower, daisy, chrysanthemum and zinnia.

There are 42 species of Dahlia, with hybrids commonly grown as garden plants. Tesselars (renowned bulb producers/sellers from Victoria) recommend Dahlias as brilliant garden plants. They are long flowering, with lush foliage, come in a huge array of colours shapes and sizes, and are easy to care for. Dahlia tubers don't really need to be lifted, if the soil is well drained and you don't live in areas where the soil will freeze. But they should be dug and divided every couple of years to keep them flowering at their best.

Dahlias were discovered in Mexico in the 1700's. They were named after the Swedish botanist, Anders Dahl.

Bring along your Dahlias for the Competition table on Saturday.

There is a further post on this site which has some good tips on how to grow Dahlia, details of the different types and also some cracking images. That article can be seen here.

ABC Garden Australia has a wonderful segment on growing Dahlias.

Saturday, 7 April 2018


image GardenDrum
This annual herbaceous trailing plant with large, dark green leaves, hollow stems, bright yellow blooms and elongated cylindrical fruit is an all time favourite with the backyard gardener.

Zucchini here on the Coffs Coast can be grown in the dry season too, that is April through to August. Although some people still like to plant some from October (especially the yellow or gold variety which is more resistant to mould) as the humid conditions here are an open invitation for powdery mildew on other varieties.

Seed can be sown directly in the ground but a good veggie gardener I know likes to start them off in small pots and transplant them about a month after germination. 

Companion plant near corn, beans, nasturtiums, parsley, silverbeet and tomatoes but avoid growing near potatoes. Plant in small mounds of free-draining soil enriched with compost and blood and bone. 

Plants spread to about 1.5m wide, so they do need their space. Two or three plants are adequate for most folk (even having enough for yummy pickles, cakes, slices and stuffed flowers). Keep the plants moist and apply a pelletised organic fertiliser monthly - although according to the Guiness World Records, the longest recorded zucchini is 2.52m and this plant was given heaps of water but no fertiliser!

If powdery mildew appears on the leaves or stems, remove and bin affected material and spray remaining foliage with a registered organic fungicide.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

CHGC Member Simon's Garden in April

Tall Salvia looking stunning

This pergola and garden beds are the latest
projects to be completed this year

A hidden corner with striking burst of colour

Simon is a details man and this gravel and timber accent
is perfect. Fellow CHGC member gifted the Canna in
the background, nothing like sharing the gift of plants!

Intense blue salvia

Salvia - sorry I can't name it....

Completed pergola with citrus, blueberry and salvia. The mandevillia is almost to the top of the pergola -  Simon hopes it will flower for some time yet.
This manevillia is the newest plant acquisition.

Princess Lily - always generous in growth here on the Coffs Coast.

Daisy mounds in front garden with borrowed structural
elements from next door.

A collection of giant and small salvias

Gardenia hedge doing really well

Thank you so much Simon for sharing your garden with us - it is a very beautiful place.

Snail Siesta?

Recently a magazine article intrigued me....... apparently during extended dry periods there are some critters who shut themselves down to survive. This is called aestivation and is a state of dormancy, similar to hibernation characterized by inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate, which is in response to high temperatures and arid conditions.

The common snail is just one who goes into an aestivational state. The snail seals up its shell with a parchment-like barrier (epiphragm) to survive dry conditions. This coating protects the snail from drying out (while still allowing it to breathe) and dissolves when there is rain or very humid conditions. 

Earthworms also aestivate by creating a cavity, lining it with a slime that dries to prevent evaporation from the inside. When it rains this substance dissolves and the worm moves on.

In outback Australia when creek beds and dams dry up the frogs go deep and remain there until a rain event - amazingly these frogs can aestivate for years. You may notice yourself that frog activity really increases when the wet finally arrives after our dry winters here on the Coffs Coast.

All very interesting - well I think so!