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Pests, Predators & Prevention

Pests & Predators

Prevention and Control

I got a couple comments in my recent survey about methods to control pests such as snails and grasshoppers. It can be difficult to resist the urge to reach for the pesticides but we must if we want to create an environment that is balanced with pest and predator. Striking this balance can take time so be patient and make the garden inviting to predators.

Pest control in my mind does not mean eradicating pests. This is surely impossible if you really think about it! The pesticides often kill the predators or good bugs. Also if there are no pests, there is no food for the good bugs so your system environment will be unbalanced. In general, prevention is by far the best approach and the best way is protecting garden beds with netting. Especially those more susceptible crops like brassica (Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower etc.) Another important defence is using resilient breeds of seeds and plants. I’m a relatively newbie in gardening myself so have not figured this all out yet but my advise would be to make notes of the variety of seeds, the brand, planting times etc and then make notes of pests and the severity so that you can start selecting the variety of  plants that have the most resilience for your location. This takes time and experimenting and I dont think there are short cuts.

Reference Guide

There are so many pests and prevention, control methods and therefore suggest you get a good reference guide to refer to. I’ve used a few. Check out your local library and web but I’ve found having a resource that I can pick-up when I need to identify an insect is a great tool. Take a photo of the culprit or damage if you can and then start your investigation. My recommendation for Australian gardens is a book called Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs. I’d be grateful if you use my links if you did want to purchase because I make a small commission which helps my costs of running the blog. So head over to Booktopia if you want to purchase. This book has a good range of common pests which I found many other books dont. They structure it with Descriptions, Target plants, Damage, Life Cycle, Prevention, Natural enemies, and control. Also there are many cloud pictures to help identify.

Attracting good bugs (predators)

One blog is to short to cover everything but the best start to getting predators to your garden is not using pesticides as these often kill or deter the good bugs. Having a source of water is very important in the permaculture design. So even the smallest gardens should have at minimum a pond. Include rocks and some logs or branches into the garden so there are hiding places for lizards. Try keep some longer areas of grass such as at the edges off garden beds and incorporate ground covers so that the are places for predators to hide from other predators such as birds, cats and dogs.

Slugs and Snails

In response to some comments I’ll give some tips about grasshoppers, slugs and snails. Theses tips are taken from the book mentioned earlier.

Slugs and snails like the moist conditions and generally hide in the day. Try to find them in the early morning or evening and squish them. Better yet feed them to the chooks. Use gloves. Take note some snails can contain rat lungworm. See article Kids, put down the snails, they could carry rat lungworm.  You can also lay down bait such as a a dish of beer that they will be attracted to and drown in. For young seedlings create a barrier such as a plastic milk containers cut in half and with the bottoms cut off. Again protection with netting helps.

Grasshoppers.

The best advise for grasshoppers and crickets is prevention with netting and catching them. If you have chooks many pests make a great meal for  them. Make your garden attractive to lizards, frogs, magpies and other natural predators. I’m not certain yet but I first thought that locusts were my biggest problem pest.  On closer investigation I’m thinking that cluster caterpillar and other pests may be doing more harm and the locusts are doing more superficial damage. On my brassica I’m finding cluster caterpillar that are not just eating the leaves but burrowing into the heart of the stem where new shorts appear and this is causing a malformed head which is worse than a few leaves with holes that could be cut off.  course a swarm of grasshoppers will devastated your garden but take a closer look at the damage and make sure you have the right culprit identified.

Please like my post and throw a comment in so I know if these blogs are interesting to anyone.

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Chasing the Sun!

In the recent survey I posted, a question was asked about what full sun, part shade etc. means. So here my thoughts on it in terms of Australia and what I’ve read.

Aspect

The aspect of our garden to the sun is often the very first thing most new gardeners consider or are plagued with uncertainty. This is no surprise and worst of all you are often left with little choice (especially in suburban and urban areas) where to put your garden. The are a few things you can do though to help get more or less sun depending on your situation.

Full Sun, Part Shade

Firstly what exactly is full sun or part shade? Well, at a basic level I would say between 6-10 hours is Full Sun and around 3-6 hours is Part Shade.  That gives you a good start but it should not be the last consideration. Secondly, I’d consider when during the day are you getting these hours of sun. Generally speaking, if you have a choice the morning sun is preferable. Mid-day sun is too hot in most of northern half of Australia and less desirable. Mid-afternoon sun is then next preferable. An ideal example for growing most fruit and veg would be full morning sun and then filtered sun during the mid-day to late afternoon. So on the east coast north Eastley aspect is often perfect for both summer and winter.

Plan and Experiment

Getting this ideal example should not put you off and you need to experiment and a lot depends on the many variables of your garden – where your house or other buildings are located, existing trees, height of fences or walls etc. If you have a bit of a blank canvas such as just lawn and trying to decide what to do then try get as close to the ideal. From a permaculture standpoint design is at the core. Planing in the beginning can save you a lot of time, money and energy later on. Having said that, you need to give a go and learn from your mistakes.

Tips

Some tips might be. Simply count the number of hours sun at different parts of the garden during the day. If you finding lower 6 or seven hours you could consider raised beds so that walls for example provide less shade. If you getting too much sun (or too hot) Consider planting some trees that could give filtered light through there canopies. Also consider companion planting plants that are different heights which can provide shade and shelter if needed.

Take consideration when searching the internet to look at blogs and forums from your local area. Also take into account where they are and you are in the world and what there temperatures are like. Many books are European and from the UK so sun is a lot more important than Australia because of colder climates.

Please drop us a comment, ask any questions and I’d be happy to answer, point you in a direction of a good resource or research an answer for you.

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Survey Ughhhhh Why!

Gardening, farming or holistic health needs

I know that a survey is not what most people want to participate in.  But I urge anybody in the Hunter and Port Stephens areas to help me understand your gardening, farming or holistic health needs better for my venture into starting a new business. Below is the survey. Once you’ve answered the questions please remember to click the “Submit” button. It will only take you 5 to 10 min.

If you looking to buy any books head over to Booktopia for great discounts EOFY sales

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Meet the Dome

Dome Pest Net Protection 2017-06-09

Dome shaped crop protection

My strong growing brassicas have been destroyed by an invasion of whiteflies, snails and locusts. Therefore, I made my first attempt at building a frame for netting and providing protection to my new brassica seedlings and spring crops. The arch can also swivel from the floor to the top on each side to provide access. Below is an image.

 

DomePestNetProtectionAccessView2017-06-09

I found snails crawling on the outside of the netting this morning – a delightful bonus! It proved it was working and it was easy to pick them off and feed them to the chooks

I have another bed which has recently had onions planted (direct sowing). I’m afraid that the germination may not be great as all the recent heavy rain has pounded the bed and compacted the soil. I will need to get my second dome up!

Circles and Rectangles

I went with using circle shaped garden beds which was discussed in a previous post. It’s becoming more clear that using circles and domes makes life a lot harder than straight lines and corners. Hopefully, there are more advantages to circles than rectangles that are still to be discovered. So I wouldn’t say the verdict is out but I’ll keep you posted .

This is where I warn you to consider carefully,  when deciding to use circle shaped beds. Design and materials for dome and circular shaped structures may be harder to come by or more expensive and the complexities of using bends can take up precious time.

I used electrical conduit (pvc) for the frame as it is relatively cheap, flexible and reasonably strong. I sourced some steel pipes from the local waste disposal centre slipped neatly over the diameter of the conduit. The pipes are dug at an angle and around 750mm deep into the ground as support to hold the structure. We get some strong winds so I’ll see how it holds up. I sewed two pieces of 4 square metres together and to the frame. One arch goes across the top and stays in one position with a further  arch on either side can be rotated from the top to the ground to provide access.

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The Pain of too much Rain

Rain Splash

Rain alters your best laid plans

There has been so much rain lately and you would think that is a good thing – right? Maybe it’s begging the question but my best laid plans to complete certain tasks were not going to be easy with rain pouring down.  There lies the real problem – just because something is not easy, it’s no good reason for not getting things done.

One of the tasks was fixing the water pump. Instead I opted to pick up a chainsaw which I purchased on Facebook. Another task was to brew some microbes to put in my soil. I was going to make the brewing kit myself but after some research it seemed that it was more costly than just purchasing one.  I’ll be selling this brewing kit soon in my online shop so stay tuned. Anyway, the rain would probably have leached out the goodness of this.

Another task was set up irrigation but without the transfer pump broken and so much rain it was put on hold in favour of setting up some crop protection.

Swales

So all the rain did push me to a realisation. I should be considering more about using the slope and contour of my garden site. All that water and nutrients are draining away with no productive purpose. When I went on a tour of the Limestone Permaculture farm I got some great inspiration to using swales. Now I’m on a rented property and firstly it seems like a lot of hard work to set up and it is a permanent feature. So not sure whether this is a permaculture project I’ll be pursuing. Maybe someone out there can comment on any quick and dirty things that can be done.  I may have to have a chat with the owner of the property….

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My Backyard Permaculture Design

VegGarden_Design 2017-06-12

It’s time to explain a little about my veg garden design. The basis for my design has been solely on Linda Woodrow’s book:

Disclosure:  some of the links in this post are referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.

Permaculture Home Garden: How To Grow Great Tasting Fruit And Vegetables The Organic Way

Linda used a ’mandala’ design which centred around the idea of circles for each garden bed. Whoa what is he on about I here some of you say! This  is what I thought also – not square or rectangular beds. This is crazy talk. Well there were all sorts of reasons for it and Linda detailed it quite nicely in her book which made enough sense so I just went with it. This was the first and only book I’ve read about permaculture. Maybe I should have researched more but I’m one of those people that can research so much and then end up doing nothing. Therefore, I’m trying to break the habit and follow some basic rules which I’m making up as I go. First rule is – More doing and less planning to a point that derails the entire project.

Have a look at this link  https://www.growveg.com.au/garden-plan.aspx?p=839720 which shows my garden plan. It is a great tool from www.growveg.com for designing gardens. I’m still getting to grips with it but it gives you an idea of my design.  I’ve given some photos. Wish I had a drone to do do some arial shots.


Now stop … don’t be thinking that looks a bit sad. It’s early days and it will come together at some point.

Let the chickens do the work

I made a dome chicken coop. The ’how to’ for building the coop is all in her book and you can find the instructions easily on the web. I made my own changes borrowing from some other ideas on the web. I used electrical conduit for the frame and bolts rather than wire to hold frame in position. All in all it was a good project but putting the wire mesh on the dome frame was a nightmare. The gauge wire I used was not easy to mould.  The wire bits gave me a few stabs but there was something therapeutic about the blood and sweat in the end.

I like building things. It makes me think of when the kids want to play games and I’m like “no no let’s play lego..” because I secretly prefer that to pretending I’m a cat.  Walking around on my gout ridden knees trying to lick myself and make mowing noises. Just yesterday my youngest walked off after a while into our lego ship build because I was getting too into the design. I was left building on my own. I need to work on my parenting I know but this ship was pretty awesome.

So got side tracked there but the basic idea is that I have my dome chook tractor move on a new area in a cycle. After sometime when they’ve eaten the weeds, grass etc and pooped some fertiliser, while laying eggs, they move on to the next bed. I’m going around in a circle and will eventually have 6 round garden beds in a big circle and a pond in the middle. The cycle will then repeat and once things are established the chickens will have fodder after harvesting.

Grey and lifeless soil

So far this is going ok and all though things are a bit pokey looking at the moment as we start to go into winter. I think that I’ll be spending some time getting my irrigation system better set up and soil up to scratch over the winter ready for spring. I planted some onion and carrot seeds recently straight into my new virgin bed. My beds are at ground level and soil is very sandy with very little organic matter. No earthworm activity. I have done a PH test and it was around 6 so a bit on the acidic side which I expected. I’ve added some dolomite and ash from the wood heater to correct but left one bed without because the potatoes prefer slightly acidic soil.

After the chickens have been there I dig it once to get out any weeds that are left. I intend this to be the only dig and then will follow a no dig or only dig the first 8”. I add some cow or sheep manure and organic fertiliser in a pellet form. I’ve then also dig in some dry pine needles. Seems to be various opinions out there about pine needles. I’m giving them a chance to try build organic matter and to recycle what’s on the land. I finally cover with lucerne hay.

Please share any of your own stories or ideas. You welcome to criticise. I’m experimenting so don’t expect this is going to go perfectly.

That brings me to introduce you to my my next post which will be about my irrigation and I’m doing this all on rented property….

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Getting started – permaculture in the backyard

Intro

So here goes my first post. A good start is an intro into ‘what’ and ‘why’ I’m doing this permaculture blog. Take a look at my about page.

Task 1 was setting up the blog. I set this up on WordPress last night and pretty much used the first guide I found on google search which was https://amylynnandrews.com/. Probably the most noteworthy was I had to set up a domain. Trying to think up something creative which related to my blog was much more arduous than I thought. Seemed like no matter how much I tried I could not find something unique. My discovery was that someone has used that or had a similar thought process in coming up with the words.

Thought Process

So although this first post is not so much about permaculture, I thought I’d share a bit about my thought process because it should set a bit of a scene around my blog.

Some of my attempts was using “moderndayquest.com’ and ‘entergreen.com’. I then thought ‘greenandblue.com’. Because green is synonymous with growth and plants and blue is synonymous with water and technology (at least I think so)! But these domains were taken and then thought I’ll get real smart and and do something with Cyan – you know the colour green and blue makes. But seems this concept was already thought of by other organisations. Long story short it took me about two hours of research and like the blogger Amy from a link I posted earlier said “Dont over think it” which I did and almost derailed me setting the blog up in the first place. So I ended up with ‘greeninbluelife.com’ and I think it sums things up nice enough. I ended up using Crazy Domains as it was by far the cheapest in Australia at the time of the post.

Conclusion

My conclusion is these modern day problems of coming up with something new or unique is very challenging. The web has made most of the world seem like they in your backyard. These kinds of issues were probably not a problem 40 years ago. Using the same name for your company or you had a similar concept was not as big a deal. It was not an issue because you would not even know unless you were in the same state or something. So spent 2 hours trying to be unique and well actually it’s not that important as my goal is to make permaculture – well in a way un-unique!

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What’s down with my potatoes!!

So I planted some potatoes in early Autumn knowing that they may not do so well in Winter but read some posts that they could be grown at this time. Well firstly they took a month before the shoots came through and then seem to go well until… some sudden saggy leaves (first picture). Then I noticed what looks like aphids on the broad beans which are in the same bed. (second picture). So it seems this may be the problem.

Disclosure:  some of the links in this post are referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.

So as Linda Woodrow said in her book – Permaculture Home Garden: How To Grow Great Tasting Fruit And Vegetables The Organic Way

“Remember that no matter how effectively you knock off thousands and thousands of aphids, if you kill one ladybird in the process the net result is more aphids than you started with.”

So now I see a ladybird on a unidentified plant next to the potato bed (third picture). Is my deduction of the problem correct and will the ladybirds seek and destroy in time or before all potato plants are infested and ruined?

Wilted potato leaves
Aphids On Broad Bean
Ladybird on plant