Welcome to spring. I’m still pinching myself. We just had a ‘‘real’ Perth winter, with proper rain and everything! Where we actually got to wear coats, boots and beanies. Put your seatbelts on for spring, folks and prepare for the ride. Flowers are blooming, the citrus trees are groaning and vegies are going crazy. Alternating between sunny days and rain produces sublime growing weather. It really is ACTION STATIONS in the garden, so get out there and get your hands dirty.
Every year, I make a promise to myself that I will grow something I’ve not grown before. This year it was celery. It was a novel and very tasty success, although I did rename it ‘celerini’ due to it’s skeletal nature. (Celery are very greedy feeders and my feeding fortnightly was not quite enough for them).
Last year, the experiment was asparagus. How had I gone so many years without growing this delicious and easy to grow vegetable? For 2 months in spring, you can munch on fresh spears daily and plants last about 20 years.
Being space deprived, I grow mine in a half olive barrel with strawberries and parsley, which incidentally are great companions.
Note – asparagus suits pots as it can be a bit rampant and weedy. There’s nothing quite like picking your own asparagus, and with names like Fat Bastard and Purple Fat Bastard, it really is a no brainer. www.diggers.com.au
THE BUZZ ON…… BIOPHILIC CITIES
Have you been hearing the words ‘biophilia’ or ‘biophilic design’ and wondered what it is all about? Read on!
Biophilic design is all about creating livable cities which embody and embrace nature, utilising trees, plants, views, natural shapes and patterns and light. Involving a collaboration between town planners, architects, policy decision makers, landscape architects, garden designers, horticulturalists and developers; biophilic design is an exciting new human centred approach with numerous health and wellbeing benefits to both us and the planet.
We are often so alienated from nature in our cities and the burbs. Largely this is to do with how our infrastructure is laid out at planning stage. Biophilia, meaning love of nature/life is about making cities more beautiful, more connected, more sense of community and more sustainable. What’s not to like? Singapore is currently leading the world with its pro nature policies which is having an enormous benefit on mental health, productivity, biodiversity, tourism and enjoyment of life. Here in Australia, the movement is also gathering momentum.
Freo is the first town in Australia to sign up to the Biophilic Cities. City of Fremantle has pledged to green up the port city and change how infrastructure is planned. This is exciting stuff, folks! If you are interested in being part of this global movement, I can highly recommend attending one of the many free events held by Biophilic Perth.
Broad beans must surely win the prize for the prettiest and most generous protein croppers in the spring garden, though snow peas perhaps come a close second. They are worth growing for the flowers alone, particularly if you grow the crimson or chocolate ones. Beas love them, as do birds. The trick is to stagger the planting if possible to avoid gluts in Sept/October and pinch them out when they are about 10cm tall so they are less prone to wind damage.
I hear about this brilliant initiative a couple of weeks ago from Costa Georgiadis at the Nannup Garden Festival.
How it works: if you have scraps and no compost bin/heap then you can hook up with a person in your area who has a compost and needs scraps to fill it and vice versa. That's all there is to it and it’s free. No more guilt at putting scraps in the bin and more compost for scrap hungry composters! PS coffee shops are only too happy to give spent coffee grounds to people for their worm farms or composts. www.sharewaste.com. Sign up today, folks!
HOME REMEDIES FOR PESTS IN THE GARDEN.
Mealybug in pots – hose off all the potting mix and bin the mix. Repot into fresh potting mix then spray eco oil weekly for 3 weeks.
If in the ground, jet spray the mealy bug then expose roots for 2 days (not in summer!). Then spray as per for pots.
Caterpillars – 1 tablespoon of molasses to 1 Litre of water plus a drop of detergent to help it stick. Reapply after rain.
Nematodes – 1L organic milk, 1 cup molasses in 8L warm water. Apply on leaves and ground weekly for 3 weeks. This will do 4 square metres.
(Thanks to Jerry Coleby Williams from Gardening Australia for this very effective recipe).
Tip - Avoid nematodes in the first place by using crop rotation and incorporating Charlie charcoal, clay (if your soil is sandy) and plenty of organic matter in the planting hole. I credit Charlie Charcoal with enabling my nematode and bacterial wilt infested tomato vine to keep pumping out tasty fruit throughout autumn and winter. www.charliecharcoal.com.au
LETTUCE TALK ABOUT SALAD GREENS
Would you like to grow salad greens over the warmer months without worrying about them drying out and bolting to seed? Here’s 3 things you can do.
1. Grow kang kong in a pond. It tastes a lot like lettuce.
2. Grow Lebanese cress. To me, this tastes like a cross between carrot, celery, lettuce and cucumber. A versatile green, it grows well in a pond in sun or shade or in a pot in semi/shade.
3. Grow sprouts indoors – mung beans and pea sprouts are the easiest and much more appealing fresh than slimy in a plastic carton.
TOUGH CITRUSSY LOVE
Is your old citrus looking a bit long in the tooth? Past its prime? Maybe it’s time to skeletonize and completely rejuvenate your tree.
In October or November, take a deep breath, sharpen up the chainsaw and bravely chop the citrus hard (1m from the ground is fine), leaving a few secondary branches. Cut this on a slight angle so any rain will run off instead of rotting the trunk/branches. It seems brutal and your tree will look sad and leafless but if you crank up the soil with Charlie Charcoal, Soil Solver and compost; treat root zone with a seaweed fertiliser, then mulch, you should see beautiful new growth powering along within a month or so.
SPOTLIGHT ON…. ANTHURIUMS
Anthuriums flower on and off all year and are surprisingly easy to grow. They are particularly good for vertical gardens or in a semi to completely shaded area, as long as the light is good. They must have excellent drainage and prefer to dry out between waterings. Most people kill them by overwatering. Here is a picture of a massed planting in a south facing position at the Windsor
Hotel in South Perth, in the middle of winter.
DID YOU KNOW... that Pink Lady apples only need 270 chilling hours to fruit? This means coastal dwellers can grow an apple which actually tastes good (unlike some of the tropical apple varieties which can be a bit floury). Pollinates with Granny Smith and Fuji. TIP – plant 2 in the same hole if you are space deprived.
If you like blue flowers, why not try growing the gorgeous bee magnet, borage? It’s easy to grow, you can eat the beautiful cucumber tasting flowers/young leaves and, like comfrey, the foliage is a compost activator. Borage is a free loving, self-seeding annual which is about 1x1m and is perfect grown in the vegie patch. It is also a good companion to brassicas – eg bokchoy, tatsoi, kale and broccoli.
PET HERBS – keep your best friends healthy naturally.
The following plants are pretty easy to grow and will surely be appreciated by your pets.
CATGRASS supplies cats, dogs, guinea pigs and chickens with a ready supply of essential vitamins and minerals often missing from their diets and for cats, is a natural aid to hairball removal.
CATNIP can send a cat into a state of euphoria for up to 20 minutes due to a chemical called Nepetalactone that acts as a nerve stimulant when sniffed. Fortunately it isn’t! Use
dried catnip to stuff toys of sprinkle under bedding.
CATMINT is a smaller, more ornamental form than catnip and can be used in much the same way.
GARLIC is said to repel fleas when one clove is added to a dog’s meal every day. Check with your vet if your dog is on blood thinners.
PARSLEY is very high in calcium and iron and a few sprigs thrown into a fishpond aids sick fish. It also helps with flatulence, arthritis and bad breath in dogs (as does coconut oil – my dog adores it!). Parsley hedges are fantastic – a ready source of iron for pets and humans. Plant where you are likely to frequently graze – ie near the washing line or shed.
SNOW PEAS Can one ever have too many snow peas? How much is too much and do snow peas ever make it to the kitchen? My latest snow pea discovery is the wonderful Yakumo Giant from Diggers Club (and farmer’s markets, online). Stunning sweet pea like purple flowers give rise to massive and delicious 10cm long pods. They are easy to grow, kids seem to like snacking on them and they may be planted all through spring and early summer. Snow peas usually take about 40 – 50 days from sowing to eating.
THE OPEN GARDEN SCHEME is a wonderful way to nose around other people’s gardens and get great ideas for your own place.
Three Garden Deva gardens are open this October and November and of course, not that I’m biased, but I thoroughly recommend you visit all of them! www.opengardenswestcoast.org
KINGS PARK GARDEN FESTIVAL
Spring wouldn't be spring without a visit in September to the Kings Park Garden Festival. Bask in your biophilia surrounded by stunning wildflower displays, music and floral art. Take a guided walk, buy some hard to find rare natives at the plant sale and celebrate WA's unique floral biodiversity.
PS Check out Issue 145 of Renew magazine (out late September) for an article on Waterwise gardening by yours truly!