Direct Sowing Tomatoes

It’s too hot at my place to plant seeds in pots to grow into seedlings, they get very dry very quickly and never seem to make it. Any place with enough light for them gets up around 40 degrees C, and the potting mix dries out.

Time for some direct seeding!

In the veggie patch I’ve got a large shade cloth cover to stop the leaves on my plants burning, it also helps reduce the amount of water I need to use. I’ve dug over a tomato area, and have created little bowls in the soil to plant seeds in.

The bowls have two functions:

1. They direct the water I apply into the base where the plant is, thus keeping the soil moist (with the help of water crystals) during the plants development.

2. Tomatoes will shoot roots off any stem that is below the ground (more roots = healthier plant). By waiting till the plant grows above the top of the bowl I can backfill the bowl and allow the plant to grow more roots.

I also plan to put chopped up banana skins around the bowls prior to backfilling, banana’s are high in potassium which tomatoes love!

Mealybug Control

In the summer when its nice and warm with an increase in humidity Mealybugs begin to cluster on new shoots of plants.

Mealybug females feed on plant sap. They attach themselves to the plant and secrete a powdery wax layer which is used for protection while they suck the plant juices. This waxy layer protects the bugs from water and pyrethrum based insecticides.

The life cycle of a mealybug is based on the temperature. Most mealybugs have numerous, often overlapping, generations each year. Like all insects, their development is dependent on temperature, if the temperature is too low development can cease totally or is slowed to a greater or lesser degree, as if it gets too warm the reproduction is slowed.

Biological Control can be achieved by releasing parasitic wasps such as Leptomastix dactylopii and Anagyrus fusciventris into the infested area. The wasps lay their eggs into young mealybugs, on hatching, the wasp larvae feed on the internal fluids of the mealybugs.

A dose of White Oil will give good control over mealybugs, the oil breaks down the wax layer and suffocates the bug as it sucks the sap from the plant. Care needs to be taken in warm weather when plants can be affected by heat. It is best to spray with white oil at night, then hose off the oil in the morning.

Imidacloprid is another chemical which will kill mealybugs on contact, it is also a systemic chemical (is absorbed by the plant and kills other sap suckers). While it is not organic, the application does not need to be as thorough to kill off all of the population.

Ants are the number one cause of mealybug spread. The mealybugs excrete a sweet juice which ants love to collect and eat, in the process they collect baby mealybugs and their eggs and move them around your garden. Some form of ant control will reduce the spread of mealybugs.

Happy mealybug hunting!

How to Compost – Videos

Sitting in the airport yesterday while being delayed, there happened to be a free wifi connection available (thanks Qantas Club!). 7 hours of delay gave me plenty of time to browse through some great YouTube videos on my iPod Touch.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVZeVGi_jqs]

This one armed bandit doesn’t let his injury stop him making compost. Using two lawn mowers to break down the leaves and garden waste into compost sized pieces.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgM1mJJbOz0]

Knowing when your compost is finished is very important. Some great tips.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsUmmBaZUvI]

Some great tips for creating a compost pile.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJYzoqOgq4A]

Composting in a plastic bin, down to basics explanation on how to do it, not how it works.

Hopefully these tips will give you and your compost bin a boost in the coming days.

10 free garden boosting activites

While sitting on an aeroplane a couple of days ago, I came up with a list of things that I could do when I got home that will not cost much to do, and will boost my garden.

Collect horse manure – My friend owns two horses, I regularly go and ‘clean up’ her paddock for her, taking home at least one ute load of horse manure to dig into my garden beds.

Rake leaves and compost them – Most compost heaps don’t have enough ‘brown’ matter in them, rake up all of your leaves and run over them with your lawn mower to break them up, then throw them into your compost heap.

Dry leafy prunings, shake leaves off as mulch – Recently I’ve began to leave the branches I prune in the garden beds. Coming back a week later I shake the leaves from the branches back beneath theĀ  plant they came from. Easy mulch!

Burn old wood & spread cold ashes – Having old timber lying around your yard can attract termites, it can promote wood rot and is a haven for snakes to live in. Burn those old logs in a fireplace and spread the cold ashes over your garden. It will raise the pH, provide Potassium for your garden.

Collect sticks from bush and make a climbing frame or tomato frame – No need to spend money on tomato stakes, you can collect as many as you need from the forest or bush around your house.

Start a compost heap – Just in case you haven’t got one, you can build a compost heap to break down all the leaves, lawn clippings and kitchen scraps in your yard.

Make scrooge bottles – These are great for saving water in the garden. I have one beside my lemon tree, one beside my watermelon vine and one beside my passionfruit vine. I fill them up with water every three or four days, they provide water directly to the roots.

Collect rocks from the bush to edge the new garden – My new garden bed requires some edging, there is a small spot way out bush that has some great rocks for edging. Half a ute load should be enough to keep the flowers in.

Use garden fork to aerate lawn – Over time the soil that the lawn grows in gets compacted, by using a garden fork to puncture holes and break up the soil the soil can breathe and the water can penetrate deep into the root zone. Doing this will give you better lawns that require less water.

Collect cuttings from the park to propagate – While walking in my local park I occasionally snap off a small piece of plant to take home and propagate. This is a really cheap way to multiply your plant population.

Make weed tea – Lots of weed seeds can live through the composting process, instead of sending them off to landfill, take a 20 litre bucket and fill it up with weeds and then with water. Leave it sit for two weeks until it turns black and the weeds die. Dilute this brew down and pour on the soil around your plants to give them a boost.

Three bulbs for Summer

It’s not too late to plant out some bulbs to keep your garden in colour through to autumn. Here are six of my all time favorites!

Dahlia?

Dahlia – many forms, colours such as red, pink, yellow, white and purple. They enjoy full sun, plenty of manure and fertilizer.

CannasCanna – growing to two meters tall, cannas are tougher than old boots. With a little tlc they can be beyond stunning! Full sun, moderate water and soil full of organic matter will have them blooming for months.

Pineapple lilly – up to 60cm in height, large green spikes form masses of small white flowers, perched on top is a bunch of leaves representing a pineapple.

PINEAPPLE LILLY