Tag Archives: SE Qld

6a010536a07d60970b0120a661292b970b-800wiOne of the most common complaints and challenges for many gardeners is maintaining consistency. Consistency can be difficult to achieve and maintain in gardens – specifically edible gardens. We may have the greatest intentions of propagating, growing and harvesting a certain amount of food, and certain types of food, but numerous factors can hinder us – the weather, our time and resources, including budgets, the seasons and increasingly, climate change.

While edible gardens do transition constantly, as crops come and go, compared to ornamental gardens, there are some things we can do to maintain more consistency – and these habits can take us from reactionary (my food is getting eaten by pests and diseases, my soil needs greater care or something is wrong with my [whatever plant or tree]) to actionary.

In my professional experience, too many gardeners are reactionaries, not actionaries. They react when something is wrong, when they notice something has been eating their produce, or their plants or fruit have a visible problem, or tastes strange. Being an actionary gardener means a little more planning – pre-empting to a larger degree what things might happen, what pests and diseases might potentially challenge us, stimulated by the weather, the season or certain changing conditions. Perhaps the most important of such habits is fertilizing.

I see a lot of people react only when something is wrong – usually a nutritional problem – with their plants or trees. By reacting only when a challenge presents itself, it’s often harder to correct the problem, or will take some time. Take, for example, feeding fruit trees. Like all plants and trees, fruit trees thrive on consistent, regular feeding, rather than reactionary feeding only when we notice a problem. A lot of people contact me with reports of strange fruit, no fruit or pest problems.

My first question is always, ‘When did you last fertilise them?’ The answer is usually ‘Oh, maybe 6 or 12 months ago’, and sometimes even ‘Never.’

Now I’m not writing here what, when and how to feed your fruit trees. I’m just highlighting the importance of being an actionary – know your plants’ and trees’ nutritional requirements, how often they need feeding (which can be dictated by the seasons, weather and other factors), what type of feed (and soil) is best and so on. One great way to achieve consistency and move us from reactionaries to actionaries is to keep a garden diary, or mark certain required activities on your calendar. For example, feed fruit trees every 3 months, or mulch every 3 months, etc. Keeping a visual reminder will help you become more actionary in your gardening, and help you achieve greater results when growing your own food.Insects-and-Diseases-of-Plants

Watering is also an activity that many gardeners, and not just new ones, are reactionary about – watering suddenly when they see their plants drying out or dying. But I’ll leave that topic for another time. In the meantime, grab yourself a garden diary or calendar (and make sure you keep it in a highly visible, easily accessible place) and make the transition from reactionary to actionary edible gardener. Best of luck!

catsear_hypochaeris-radicata2In recent years, many gardeners and urban farmers have become more acutely aware of the usefulness of weeds. Many herbaceous plants, climbers and shrubs that we have long held as annoying, invasive and downright pesky are now being seen in a whole new light – dare we say useful weeds.

What permaculturists and many traditional and organic gardeners have known for centuries, many gardeners and farmers are just now discovering – that weeds are simply a plant growing in the wrong place. Weeds have been discriminated against for too long, but the weed usefulness revolution is on and it’s a great time to explore more about the ‘weeds’ that many people poison, pull out, mow over and generally dislike.

What is a weed? A weed is simply a plant growing in the wrong place. A weed in a lawn may be unwanted and intrusive, but that same plant in another place may serve a purpose, and indeed may have come to Australia, for example, as a legitimate herb or vegetable from another culture. It may be a staple food for someone else. In fact, a great many of our common weeds in Australia, perhaps over 90%, did actually arrive here as food sources from other countries. Some of them became mainstream food for us today, such as many Asian greens and European herbs. Some of them remained as food sources, while spreading, unrecognized and unwanted, into Australian bushland, parks, verges, lawns and gardens – eventually to be despised by the uninitiated. And still many weeds are making a comeback as food and medicinal plants, such as dandelion, chickweed and purslane, to name only a few.

As we start to shift our awareness of weeds from foe to friend, our mind opens up to whole new possibilities and potential. Weeds suddenly take on new meaning and real purpose – they can be eaten, they can be dug into soil as green manure, they can be fed to animals and pets, they can be removed and converted into nutrients for our gardens, as compost or liquid ‘weed tea’, they can be used medicinally, they can be used as materials for a variety of projects, they can help to form habitat and increase biodiversity, and they can even be great indicators of soil by how and where weeds grow.

But runco caveat emptor! (let the weeder beware), for not all weeds should be welcome in our gardens or landscapes. Some weeds are just too intrusive and run the risk of running rampant. Some weeds, while they may offer some of the uses mentioned above, if allowed into our gardens, can become extremely challenging to remove and manage, especially organically. Nutgrass, paspalum, Singapore daisy, lantana and some runner grasses, for example, are very invasive and persistent weeds that plague the best of gardeners and farmers. For such examples and many others, prevention (don’t allow them onsite at all costs) is better than cure.

9781864471212So, now that we have a new appreciation of the weeds that previously mocked and taunted us, what to do with them when they appear in our gardens? Well, depending on the weed, there’s a few choices. We can eat them, feed them to our animals, compost them, mulch them, use them in creative ways in our gardens and much more. I’ll be exploring the use of many weeds in upcoming posts. In the meantime, get hold of some good books on weeds in Australia and start rethinking their usefulness. Identification is the first step. I recommend The Weed Foragers Handbook, by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland.

We are hosting an Edible Weeds Workshop this coming Sat 15 Oct, 9 - 11am. $25 per person.

Please contact us if you'd like to attend at dean@greendean.com.au