The little known Australian blue banded bee, is a bee unlike what we are used to thinking of bees. These bees are solitary, they leave in holes in the ground, or rock fissures. They're of great interest in pollination, because the buzz pollinate, which means the flurry of wings starts the process. Anyone who loves their tomatoes, chillies, eggplants, blueberries and cranberries will love these bees, as they are so good at pollinating these varieties. These bees have no sting, nor do they swarm, so this in itself makes them welcome, especially for those allergic to bee stings. One look and you're hooked on the beauty of these bees, the colour is gorgeous, what a treat to have them in our garden.
Watch the men at work in this youtube video. www.youtube.com/watch?v=kws65tIt5Ps
Helen McKerral writing for Garden Drum says-Avoid pesticides (including organic ones) as much as possible. I personally particularly avoid all of the chemical neonicotinoid insecticides (Confidor, Resolva bug sprays) because of their effects on bees. Because these insecticides are systemic (circulated throughout the plant) and get into the pollen, you can’t avoid poisoning bees by spraying at any particular time of day, or using tablets pushed into the soil. While these insecticides are unlikely to be the sole cause of mass bee deaths in the USA (spurring a pre-emptive 2-year moratorium on their use in Europe and a ban in Oregon), they are definitely implicated. Nor is it surprising that USA corn farmers are eager to continue using this undoubtedly effective chemical regardless of its possible effects on bees, because corn is wind pollinated! However, unlike farmers in broad scale agriculture, home gardeners have plenty of less toxic options available, so it is common sense and easy for us to err on the side of caution even if our own government won’t apply the precautionary principle as the EU has done.
There are so many ideas for recycling plastic in our gardens, the truth is really that we should never have become so dependant on this convenient product. Not all plastics can be recycled, trying to reuse as much as we can, rather than landfilling it, is important.
We can use old plastic bottles as mini greenhouses, over individual seedlings, you can even go so far as to make a PET bottle greenhouse. However, that idea is not so practical here, with our strong winds and hot summers. One idea that does appeal, and to me is practical is a vertical garden. In our region it isn't just about space, but also about being able to keep favourite plants alive during cold months. This picture is from Sao Paulo where a design team created a vertical garden against a wall. The garden features both herbs and flowers, you can grow what you like.
Find a section of wall that's a heat sink, you can track the sun and consider the materials used to make the wall. Brick and stone will retain warmth, metal or wood will cool quickly. A heat sink wall means you can enjoy basil for longer, being a tropical plant it hates the cold. There are probably lots of plants to keep going over winter, or you can have this garden close to the kitchen for easy harvesting.
I prefer the idea of the bottles lying horizontally, as I think it provides a more secure planting medium. good luck and have fun, most of all enjoy the produce. With the bottles not being connected, a hose is needed for watering.
This is not the plan for the garden pictured, but should give lots of good ideas.
One of the most beneficial insects in our garden, eating scale, aphids and munching on pollen. Ladybirds love helping to keep gardens healthy, but they don't like chemicals, nor are they keen on pyrethrum or garlic sprays. These are easily toxic to ladybirds, using sprays will remove them from your garden, and start a cycle where sprays need to be used, rather than nature's cleaners.
We wonder how to keep them in the garden, simple really, we create a ladybird habitat. They need food, water and shelter to thrive, hibernating in the cooler months. You can build a shelter, or leave bark around, dense vegetation and suitable trees. Don't forget they need water, watering in the morning is perfect for ladybirds. If you see ladybirds huddled around plant stems, then you know they love their environment. We've made them comfortable, and now we have to feed them, these lovers of bright colours, big flat flowers filled with pollen, and scaley stems, or big blobs of aphids ripe for the picking. They adore herbs, so lots of dill, fennel or caraway will keep them happy. Another way to provide food is the use of decoy plants like cabbage, nasturtiums or radishes. Feed them well, and they will repay you many times over.
Here in the mid north we have alot of lizards out and about when the weather starts to warm up in spring. One of these, the pygmy blue tongue, is endangered, as its habitat disappears with more land being used for cropping. Creatures of the grasslands, they love to use holes vacated by spiders, they use the doors to cover they hidey holes and keep them safe. They may not be glamorous to some, but play an important role in pest control.
Love Your Lizards and Can the Chemicals! Courtesy of http://www.sgaonline.org.au/lizards/
Not convinced that a lizard or two is the ideal addition to your garden? How about the promise of free, natural pest control in the patch? Many lizards and little grass skinks feed on insects and larvae, while larger lizards such as Blue-tongues and shinglebacks will happily slurp up slugs and snails. While we are talking about lizard lunches, it is important to avoid using chemicals and products in the garden that may harm or prove fatal to your beloved lizards. Wiping out the insect population in your garden with a pesticide may seem like a good idea, but in doing this you are removing the lizards’ food source, and, if they can’t get a feed, they won’t hang around. Avoid using snail and slug pellets, as these can prove deadly to our lovely lizards!
To encourage lizards to your garden, provide the following:
You want to start a garden, but you've no money to spare and no idea where to start. One way is to join a gardening club, details can be obtained through council, library or most have Facebook pages. It's a good way to meet generous, helpful people who are likely to give advice and share plants with you. Next are plant swaps, but when you have no garden, there's nothing to swap, so find a local garden and offer to help in exchange for plant material. This can be a great hands on way to learn about gardening and propagating plants. most gardeners love to propagate, so they've always got some spare plants available.
Starting this way is in itself part of the sustainable garden ideal, pots are reused, new plants are made from old, and the time you'd spend travelling to source plants is reduced. Add to that the social benefits, and you're on a winner, and well on yoyr way to becoming a gardener.
Outside Burra yesterday I visited a garden where recycling is a way of life. The owner has always lived in remote areas, if you don't make it yourself, then you don't get anything. There's no trotting off to the shop when you feel like a bit of retail therapy, self reliance is the way it is. Fossicking is something Gaye loves to do, she then brings home her treasures and stores them until the right project comes along. This means she has some pretty unconventional ideas, one is the garden edging, which I absolutely loved. Using a bag of concrete and a home made form, Gaye does a mix, giving her 13 edging tiles. To these she then a little later adds some of her treasures, to make a totally unique edging. Gardens should be about who you are, and this garden is a reflection of Gaye's journey through life. There are so many more ideas to be seen here, more posts about them later.
What's the key to a good garden? Healthy soil wins hands down as the number one component for growing healthy plants. How do you achieve this? Compost is the answer. Often we just think of digging the soil over, and popping in the plants, we forget, like us, soil needs to be well fed to function properly. How do we make compost? Compost comes from the breakdown of organic matter, to make a rich, nutrient infused compound, we can then dig into the garden. There's more than one way to get the job done, but basically you use what you have to hand. We use horse manure, vegetable scraps grass clippings, even tea bags can go in. This we then keep moist and covered for a few days, depending on the weather, and make sure we regularly turn the pile. Several heaps are better than one, the shear volume of compost can become too heavy. Pretty soon you may find worms wriggling around in the mess, creating wonderfully nutritious castings, to help feed your plants. It takes about 6 weeks for a pile to be useable, feel free to use any manure you can get hold of, sheep and cow are both good. When it's cooked, dig it in and away you go. Remember compost is a must, but sometimes soil needs other help too, don't be afraid to ask for advice.