Suddenly, a public health crisis has prompted more people than ever before to spend more time growing food than ever. We live in a nation of garden cities, our food gardens are an open invitation to dine – what could possibly go wrong? Keeping pests and diseases firmly in their place involves safer solutions, a little gentle manipulation and gardening together as a family.
Anyone can buy compost in bulk. But these products are often highly variable and sometimes even unsuitable. The traditional alternative is to sow green manures and to make your own compost. If you need bulk compost, consider the sandwich mulching technique. You’ll need a soil pH Test kit and, ideally, get your soil laboratory tested to check for nutrient deficiencies and contaminants.
Following England’s Great Storm of 1987, I was managing an urban forest in London where I was involved in the successful salvaging of many Robinia pseudoacacia trees by applying the technique of crown thinning described. Make sure to engage a competent arborist, this is not a task you can trust a tree lopper with. I suggest contacting Arboriculture Australia to have your tree inspected by someone qualified and take it from there.
If you like discovering new and exciting plants, East Timor and the rich flora of Malesiana is just a short flight from Darwin. You can join me on my tour of East Timor, 15-25th June 2020.
Malesia is a biogeographical region consisting of East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, New Guinea and the Philippines. Its tropical flora is even more diverse than Australia’s. Earlier this year, I found this beautiful but obscure Malesian plant while escorting a gardening tour of Vietnam. How can it be identified?
“Dear Jerry, my cocoa plants are infected with black pod disease. They are cropping OK, but can I do anything to improve their health?”, asks Peter in Townsville, Australia.
Hi Peter, Phytophthora is primarily a root rot disease and it can spread throughout a plant using the vascular system. Some plants are more susceptible than others and there may be multiple host plant species in your garden.
Certain types of Phytophthora can devastate entire landscapes (like Jarrah dieback, P. cinnamomi) and ruin orchards. This disease is recognised by conservationists as a key threatening process, it cannot be eradicated so you manage it.
If you’re watering plants with grey water, the type of detergent you use really makes a difference to both their health and the health of the soil.
How do you approach tree planting? “All life on Earth is now experimental. Thanks to a lack of Australian climate leadership, we grow crops and plant gardens in uncharted climate territory. If this is the future of gardening, then we must embrace experimental tree planting for shade, food, fodder and biodiversity”. Jerry Coleby-Williams, Founder of Bellis, Brisbane’s award-winning, affordable sustainable house and garden; Director, Seed Saver’s Network; Patron, National Toxics Network; Patron, Householder’s Options for Protecting the Environment, 2nd February 2019.
“How did they keep lawns trim in the days before lawnmowers? asks The Guardian newspaper. Animals and scythes were originally used to maintain closely cut turf…and Australia has an indigenous answer”.
Caffeine is a biochemical with the purpose of affecting the germination, growth, survival, and reproduction of other competing plants. Do not add coffee grounds to worm farms.
If you live in south eastern Queensland and grow pawpaw, it’s worth a quick health check right now. Mild, calm, showery, humid winter weather is perfect for observing outbreaks of pawpaw black spot disease. But how best to manage this common problem?
Question: “Hi Jerry, This year I have had the worst infestation of mealybug ever. My garden has never had them in the past, but this year everything including established Gordonia’s five metres high are white with them. I have lost quite a few hibiscus to them. Is this a bad year? Do you have one of your…
Gardens take pride of place in tropical Singapore. It’s never been a more exciting time for an Australian gardener to visit. Singaporeans are obsessed with chlorophyll… They have long talked up the benefits of a city upgrade – from one of the world’s leading garden cities into a 21st century garden utopia. Now, they’re building it. Gardens by the…