Occasionally, a nation has an opportunity to improve the regulation of pesticides. The Australian government gave itself that opportunity and the result will put profit and easier access to chemicals before human, animal and environmental health. What is at stake, and why is this such a lost opportunity?
In the late 1970’s, I had the great fortune of working at Avery Hill Nursery and Winter Garden. My first full time job was at the premier horticultural estate in south east London. To my knowledge, Avery Hill Winter Garden was the last place in SE London where school children could taste fresh sugarcane, pineapple or bananas, or smell the fragrant blossom of frangipani.
Every gardener is familiar with some members of the Zingiberales, you’re likely to find examples of six of these families in every street and garden centre in Queensland. You may even know their families are related. Plant a few and your garden can have its own source of attractively shaped, delightfully coloured and sometimes fragrant cut flowers and foliage.
Weed mat avoids the need for weed control amongst a pineapple crop. It also helps cool soil and conserve moisture. Cook Islands. Letter to Graham Readfearn, a Brisbane-based journalist at The Guardian Australia concerning his recent article about glyphosate, the world’s favourite herbicide.
I’ve been surprised to get messages from gardeners in far northern Queensland saying “we can’t grow many crops in summer,” and “summer isn’t a good time for leafy crops,” and “the best season for growing food here is winter.” Why so? The tropics are incredibly productive all year round and their abundant produce is in such demand. There’s at least fifty different leaf crops, so let’s have a look at what you could be growing.
Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) excels in a tropical or subtropical climate. It’s food security on a stick. They produce edible, protein-rich seed and fruit which can be used and stored in many ways and at different stages of ripeness. This year, my seven year old tree is carrying 150 fruit, which is about average. Don’t ask…
In the last week of July, my garden was behaving as if it was already spring. Five weeks early. Four chilly blasts, each lasting for two or three days, seems to be all we need to anticipate in a 21st century Brisbane subtropical winter. Of course, there are winners and losers. Fruit fly is a winner; my first tomato to be damaged by their maggots was on 1.8.20, almost eight weeks earlier than anticipated. Alleged subtropical apples are losers; while these cultivars may tolerate less winter chilling than other apple cultivars, their needs are not being met and the return is poor. But corn is a different story – it is a climate change winner.
It’s always a special moment when something new flowers for the first time and it’s something every gardener should enjoy. I’m quite chuffed to produce a flowering specimen of the Mount Delaikoro hibiscus, Hibiscus bennettii, from a cutting in under ten months and to have it first flower in a Brisbane winter.
The Mary River freshwater turtle (Elusor macrurus) is one of the most uniquely Australian and critically endangered turtles, living only in south east Queensland’s Mary River. Forty years ago, Mary River turtles were sold as ‘penny turtles’ through the pet trade, hatching just in time for Christmas. Twenty six years ago, this turtle was finally scientifically described. Ten years ago, the Australian government ruled against the Queensland government proposal to dam the river, which would have exterminated this species. Now, Queensland’s Tiaro and District Landcare volunteers monitor Mary River turtle nest sites, protecting them from extreme weather and predation, while the Mary River catchment group look after the health of the river system, the only home that this endangered turtle has, giving it a better chance of survival.
This blog looks at ways to convert expanded polystyrene foam boxes, a single use plastic used for packing vegetables, into a useful gardening asset. Most Australians call expanded polystyrene foam styrofoam, but this is a trademark name, owned by Dow Chemicals, who claim to have ‘discovered’ this product which was first made in Sweden. If you endorse the reuse of waste, visit your local fruit shop and get some polystyrene vegetable packing boxes. Retailers are happy to sell them for a couple of dollars and you’ll find them suitable for a range of gardening jobs whether your climate is hot, cold, wet or dry.
Sheila wanted a natural burial, and tomorrow my cousins have organised for her to be laid to rest in an eco-coffin under a forest tree in the grounds of the Sustainability Centre within Hampshire’s South Downs National Park.
If Vireya rhododendrons have started blooming, it’s winter in the subtropics. Vireyas are a subgenus of rhododendron, they are tropical shrubs originating from SE Asia to Australia. Many hybrids have been produced, some are very fragrant, and most are ideal for container growing on a balcony, on (or under) a tree, or in a shadehouse. In my experience, treating Vireyas as you would an epiphytic orchid really helps. Vireyas make good cut flowers and buttonholes (remember them?). If you start a collection, you can have them blooming over many months.