Garden Survival while on Holiday

My three week holiday is coming up very quickly, and since I won’t be around to water and tend for my garden I thought I would share with you a few of my plans to keep the garden alive in this warm weather we are experiencing.

  • Mulch: Reducing the amount of water lost to the atmosphere by soil transpiration is the best way stop your plants drying out. A good thick layer of mulch, be it sugar cane, wood bark, shredded paper, gravel, or even lawn clippings will reduce the number of times you need to get your friendly neighbor to water your garden.
  • Scrooge Bottles: I find that installing these when I plant new plants is far easier and better for the plant than installing them later. Putting only 4 or 5 pin holes in the bottle will ensure that the water lasts a long time.
  • Water Spikes: These plastic beauties work well with 2L soft drink bottles, the only problem can be that the water gets fairly warm inside them on a hot day.
  • Water Crystals: Using these when planting helps keep the soil moist for longer periods. You can use a garden fork to carefully poke holes around the root system of existing plants, then tip a quarter of a teaspoon of dry crystals down each hole.
  • Drip Irrigation: These systems use less water than a traditional sprinkler setup, as the water gets delivered right to the root zone of the plant. With a setup cost of less than $50 for a small garden and $100 for a large garden, they make a great investment and work well with a water timer system.
  • Water Wise Drought Shield: I’ve never used this product yet, but it claims to reduce the plants water usage by 50%, and last for 90 days on the plant.

My plan is to mulch heavily with hay. It’s much cheaper than sugar cane mulch, and I’ve never had issues with seeds in the past. Prior to laying the hay down, a good spread of horse manure or Dynamic Lifter to ensure there is no case of Nitrogen Drawdown and a good soak from the sprinkler to get the water into the ground before the mulch goes down.

I’ve organised with my neighbor to come over and turn the water on for a few hours every three days, just to keep things moist. Also a huge weeding campaign will be in order to reduce the competition to my plants.

All in all I hope by the time I return home, the garden will be in good shape. I will probably spend a weekend getting everything back into shape, but that is to be expected with such a long break!

PS. I will be sure to post some photo’s of my holidays!

Fresh Tomatoes

Tomatoes in a bowlWhat a day! It all seemed better when I came home from work to find there were heaps of ripe tomatoes on my bushes.

It has been a battle with the intense heat, lack of heat, lack of water (for a little bit), too much water, mealy bug attack, caterpillar attack… the list goes on, but I got there in the end.

What to do with so many beautiful fruit?

Meet Stephen Ryan – The new host of Gardening Australia

With Peter Cundall retiring from his role as the face of Gardening Australia towards the end of 2008, the show continued on with the other hosts taking turns to introduce the show. It was with great surprise, and was very refreshing, when I watched episode one for 2009 to find Stephen Ryan as the new face of Gardening Australia.

For us Gardening Australia tragics, we have all met Stephen before where he has co-hosted many segments from his garden ‘Tugurium’ in Macedon Victoria with John Patrick.

Stephen has come from a long history of gardening, he began with an apprenticeship in gardening and turf management where he recieved an Award of Merit. Afterwards he was awarded two schollarships, one in New Zealand and the other in the UK. After returning to Australia he worked in his familys nursery before he began his own in 1980.

Stephen brings with him a wealth of knowledge as well as a fresh and dynamic approach to the show, which is sure to impress the younger audience (it’s impressed me!).

I look forward to many more episodes from Stephen!

You can get the Gardening Australia PodCast free from the iTunes Store or from the Gardening Australia website

Caterpillar Mayhem

With record rainfall in January 2009 (524mm) there has been an outbreak of insects. Between the grasshoppers and moths inundating my house and workplace (they smell bad when they die in large numbers), my garden has been getting a flogging.

My 19 Arrowroot plants which were going great guns have been attacked by a plague of caterpillars (from the moths) and grass hoppers. At first the control method was some nice old Pyrethrum spray which worked great for attack waves 1 & 2, but attack wave 3 has caused massive losses. My plants remind me of swiss cheese! I used a dose of… dare I say it… Bifenthrin. Before we all start throwing me out of the semi-organic club, desperate times call for desperate measures and I feel bad now…Caterpillar curve by kavan.

Here are some great measures to prevent you from killing every bug in your yard with Bifenthrin…

  • Pick them off and squish them – I feel that this is very theraputic (should I feel bad for that?)
  • Get a Bug Zapper – Will attract moths and zap them (no eggs, no caterpillars)Biological Control – Bacillus thuringiensis is in the Yates product Dipel, it contains a bacterial stomach poison that kills caterpillars in a couple of days (will not kill any good bugs)
  • Pyrethrum spray – Will kill most bugs but is natural