Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Powdery Mildew

A very common fungal disease, powdery mildew attacks a broad range of plants. It looks like a white or grey powder coating leaves of plants and spreads rapidly over foliage. On some plants it will also attach and distort young stems and flower buds - the infected tissue withers and dies.

This is one that demands fast action because of its rapid growth and also to prevent its spread to other plants. If left untreated powdery mildew will kill most annuals and significantly weaken other plants.

Plants that are susceptible include grapes, roses, peas, geraniums, hydrangeas, gerberas, rosemary, mint, zucchini, annuals and crepe myrtles.

The most efficient organic way to curb powdery mildew is to hit it with eco-fungicide or eco-rose (both of which will destroy the fungal growth on contact) and will leave a protective coating against new spores germinating. 

By adding seaweed product to the spray this will also help the plants to recover by strengthening their foliage to fight off further attacks and reduce the stress to the plant. Any affected leaves should be removed and destroyed.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Coffs Harbour Garden Club celebrates 40 years

Allen Taylor's sawmill and Park Beach Plaza at a very early stage of construction,
Coffs Harbour, March 6, 1979. Image John Rotar

Just to help you recall 1979 - Sir Zelman Cowen was the Governor General, Malcolm Fraser Prime Minister, Bill Hayden Opposition Leader and Neville Wran NSW Premier. By the way it was Premier Wran who allowed pubs to open on Sundays in New South Wales in that year too!

On the 19th April 1979 a motion was carried at the Coffs Harbour Horticultural Society meeting to change the name of the Society to Coffs Harbour Garden Club. The Horticultural Society had been established in 1950 for the purposes of tidying up and beautifying the town of Coffs Harbour. It was very successful and well supported, just a mere 18 months after its inauguration the Horticultural Society, was able to boast an attendance of 100 people at its AGM in June 1952!

Mr A. McLauchlan became the first President of Coffs Harbour Garden Club (rather than Chairman as in the Horticultural Society) and subscriptions remained at the princely sum of 20 cents per member.

An AGM was conducted on that day in April 1979 with 19 members present and seven apologies, and all positions were filled - President, two Vice-Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer.

The activities of the club at that time were similar to those carried out by the Garden Club today. There was involvement with the local Agricultural Show, and to raise funds, street stalls were held plus morning teas at members' homes. 

At meetings a plant and flower competition was conducted, along with a question box and raffles. Surplus funds were donated to various worthy causes. Entertainment at the meetings consisted of slides of famous gardens and other gardens, with a guest speaker every second month.

2019 marks the 40th Anniversary of the name change from Coffs Harbour Horticultural Society to Coffs Harbour Garden Club. The contribution since 1950 to the Coffs Harbour area from the Horticultural Society and what is now known as Coffs Harbour Garden Club has been considerable over the past 69 years.

Coffs Harbour Garden Club continues to support the Coffs Harbour community in several ways.  Perhaps most important of these is the annual Spring Garden Competition, which seeks to encourage our residents, businesses and community organisations to do their bit to help beautify our city through their gardens.  Club members also give their time and expertise in looking after the airside gardens at Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, providing a welcoming environment for the many thousands of people who use the airport each year.  And of course our Club continues to provide opportunities for Coffs Harbour people to enjoy the friendship that comes from a shared passion for gardens and gardening.

So 2019 marks the 40th Anniversary of what is known as Coffs Harbour Garden Club - let the party begin!


Spittlebugs are interesting insects, the nymph produces a white frothy substance on stems and leaves which looks just like spittle! Hidden underneath that froth is the juvenile busily sucking out sap from the plant. This froth serves to protect the youngster from adverse weather conditions, reduce the risk of dehydration and to deter parasites and predator attack.

The insect adult (pictured above) has a narrow curved horn on the front of the head. It is brown and can be found here on the Coffs Coast. Even though they are sap suckers they rarely cause significant damage.

If they offend you they can be hosed off or the affected part of the plant can be pruned off. They usually take up residence in natives including wattles, gum trees and casuarinas.

2 Jan 2019 Airport Gardening Cancelled

cordyline australis purple tower

The airport garden maintenance (that was perhaps) scheduled for tomorrow is cancelled. Team leader Peter was unable to contact management to see if there was a supervisor available. So folks, kick back and extend the silly season for another day - Cheers!

Friday, 14 December 2018


Flower of the Month - December & January

KINGDOM:  Plantae
FAMILY:  Rubiaceae
GENUS:  Gardenia

Gardenias are beautiful flowering shrubs in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa,
Asia, Madagascar and Pacific
Islands. They flower from mid spring to mid summer and the joy of gardenias is a toss -up between the soft velvety petals and the magnificent scent. I think the scent wins me over every time.

According to the internet, the petals are edible and taste a little like they smell. I tried them ... and survived. I think the older yellow petals would be a surprising addition to a summer salad - give it a go.   Thanks V/President Sue.

Webmaster's Note: If you would like to know more about growing Gardenia and the many varieties available please visit plantmark.com.au for an excellent fact sheet.

Gardenia are dead easy to propagate too. For the Spring Garden Competition Presentation Night a few years ago we cut a lot of my gardenia for the floral displays as the leaves were so shiny and a lovely addition to the vases. Jeannine Y used these as cuttings and successfully grew enough of them to create a lovely hedge in their beautiful garden.

Plants that are grown from a cutting are the same as the plant they were taken from and are literally clones of the original plant. 

Pruning and taking gardenia cuttings go hand in hand. Start off with a cutting which is at least 15cm long and taken from the tip of the branch (which is basically what you usually prune off after flowering anyway).

Remove all the leaves except for the top two sets.The part of the stem that forms new roots and shoots is called a node. These growing points produce leaves, flowers or shoots when the plant is growing normally but, if these nodes are planted they are the growth points for roots.  Dip in rooting hormone (this encourages encourages the growth of roots) and place in a peat/sand mix, and multiple cuttings may be placed in each pot.

Place your pot(s) in bright, but not direct sun and the ideal temperature would be around 24C. It is essential that your propagating mix is kept moist but not sodden and it is imperative for gardenia to have high humidity however, for us here on the Coffs Coast that comes quite naturally!  You should expect your gardenia to have taken root within 6-8 weeks. 

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Fungus Gnat

Fungus gnats are those really annoying little flies that are commonly found in groups just hanging around our indoor plants and bags of potting mix. They are either black or dark grey and about 3mm long and just thrive in moist potting mix or soil. These critters are not benign - they can transmit diseases like pythium and fusariumYou may also see them hovering around over-ripe fruit in your fruit bowl and mistake them for fruit fly. Adult fungal gnats are attracted to the decomposing organic fruit matter.

The larvae can be fairly hard to see as they are so small - just 4-5mm long, white to translucent and live within the soil or potting mix. They feed on a range of organic material including plant roots, soft seedling stems and the base of cuttings. They can cause wilting and slow growth of plants. If your potting mix is infested with these critters it can make establishing cuttings very difficult as they have fewer roots and can be killed outright by the hungry larvae. 

Larvae can also spread various diseases like phytophthora, rhizoctonia, verticillium and others. 
(all links are to Wikipedia)

Fungus gnats can infest any soil but are most prevalent in potting mixes which are high in organic matter and damp areas outdoors. The soil in which houseplants are potted can also provide an environment in which fungus gnats can flourish, along with seedling punnets, pots with cuttings and in greenhouses. As a general rule allow your indoor plants to dry out before watering - this will kill the larval stages in the soil. In general do not overwater indoor plants, Excess watering leads to algal growth in the potting mix and on saucers which fungus gnats will also feed on.
An organic control method is to apply eco-neem as a soil drench to kill larvae within the soil. A repeat application may be required as adult fungus gnats live for several days and may lay some new eggs into the soil.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Zone Newsletter

Marion Grove Retirement Village - image M Bell

Our Garden Clubs of Australia Zone Coordinator, Marion Watts has forwarded a newsletter with a round up of what is happening within our Zone here on the mid north coast.

To see that newsletter please click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

2018 AGM Results

Meeting Competition Table, Vegetables and Fruit
Well done to the outgoing committee and role members who have excellently paved the way for the incoming people to crack on in 2019 and thanks to those who will continue as they have in 2018.

Congratulations go to the following:


President: Jane Durler
Vice President: Sue Young
Treasurer/Public Officer: Tom Ely
Secretary: Maria Bell and Anne-Maree Ely will be the Minute Secretary

Committees deemed necessary to conduct the business of the Club:

Program Committee: 
Outings - Margaret Franks & Carol Harris.
Speakers - Kevin Sheedy

Spring Garden Committee: Pat Roser, Maria Bell, Anne-Maree Ely, Tom Ely and Jane Durler (there will be a need for further people to join in the team closer to the competition)

Other Voluntary Club Roles:

Website & Facebook Coordinator: Maria Bell
Newsletter Editor: Sue Young
Publicity & Media Officer: vacant (this person will be drawn from the Spring Garden Committee)
Coffs Show Flower & Garden Section Chief Steward: Margaret Franks
Catering Committee: Margaret Crawley (Co-ordinator), Anne-Maree Ely, Janny Hoy, Jeannine Young
Raffle & Attendance Book: Peter Kimber
Trade Table Organiser: Jim Baldi
Guest & New Member Welcomer: Barbara Porteous & Maureen Stokes
Airport:  Peter Kimber
Bunnings BBQ Organiser: Simon Young
Competition Table Judges: Margaret Franks, Ruth Reynolds, Simon Young with the help of a CHGC member Guest Judge each month
Competition Table Setup: Janny Hoy, Ruth Reynolds, Jeannine Young

The full Annual Report can be seen here and to see a message from our Patrons see here. 

Trip to Chelsea Flower Show 2019

CHGC Patron Julie Worland is accompanying a tour next year which includes the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Jane had a flyer at the November meeting for members to see more about the tour, however there may be members who missed this meeting, so that information is repeated here. 

The tour departs 12 May 2019 from Coffs Harbour - to see full details see flyer here.

If you want more information there is to be an information night about the tour on Wednesday 21 November 2018, hosted by Trafalgar, with canapes and refreshments from 6pm at the Depot Cafe, Coffs Central Shopping Centre.

RSVP essential to: 
Travel Associates Coffs Harbour, Shop SR38, Coffs Central, Harbour Drive.
Phone: 02 5615 9900
Email: Coffs@travel-associates.com.au

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Hollow Stem

Ever seen hollow stems in your brassicas? Hollow stem is a physiological disorder which affects most brassica crops and often leads to the stem rotting by secondary pathogens.
To identify symptoms of hollow stem you will notice small, elliptical cracks in the inner stem tissue of susceptible crops. These cracks enlarge and merge together as the stem grows, eventually forming a cavity. In severe cases, the cavity can extend the length of the stem and into the head. Often this cavity provides access for secondary pathogens to enter the plant, leading to discoloration and rotting of the inner walls of the cavity. However, having said that though, cavities can become discoloured without pathogens present.

Hollow stem can be caused by a combination of environmental factors and crop susceptibility. In general, larger, faster growing cultivars are more susceptible to this disorder. Wide plant spacing and high nitrogen or potassium levels have been shown to increase incidence of hollow stem. 
It has been suggested that hollow stem can be caused by a Boron deficiency in the soil. If you think this may be the problem with your brassicas, Boron can be added to the soil at the rate of 2 grams per square metre when planting seedlings. Boron is commercially available as Borax. 
What has to be made note of though, is that vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, french beans, celery and other cucurbitaceaes don't like Boron, so avoid growing them in soil that has had Boron added.