We see them on the roadsides: vigorous, long-flowering, hardy and a splash of colour against the grey-green foliage of the native species. They are weeds and it is their hardiness that makes them such a threat to endemic species. Environmental weeds invade native ecosystems and adversely affect indigenous flora and fauna. There are now more foreign plants in Australia than native ones: about 27,500 introduced plant species have made their way into the country, compared with 24,000 native species. Around ten per cent of the ‘invaders’ have become ‘naturalised’.
Environmental weeds were introduced as ornamental species for domestic gardens. They are survivors as they have relatively few natural diseases, insects or pests to control their populations, and can out-compete native species. Disturbed sites are havens for weed species as many thrive in poor soils and then smother existing native species. They can have significant health, economic, environmental and social impacts (Ragweed, Gorse, Rubber Vine and Salvinia, respectively). They also have larger environmental impacts such as degradation of water quality and increased risk of fire, loss of ecotourism opportunities, the costs associated with control, impacts on recreational activities and the landscape, and the reduction of biodiversity.
Each spring and early summer it is amazing how fast grass, weeds and lawns can grow. The combination of longer, warmer days and the occasional shower makes for ideal growing conditions, and there is always something to do in the garden.
For most of us, there will be the need to mow our lawns (if we have them) fortnightly, if not weekly, and if things have been a bit out of hand, we may even need to use a trimmer to cut back the weeds. You might begin to wonder if there is anything we can do to improve the situation?
“My garden is chock-a-block with rescued plants, rescued pots & garden furniture, mirrors, birdcages, wheelbarrows, barrel hoops, ladders and all sorts of other bits and pieces. Not only do I collect treasures from the hard rubbish and Op shops. My friends and work colleagues donate things too. Some are used ‘as is’, others are tweaked, tarted up, assembled or arranged to make them more useful or display-worth.” So says Tine Grimston, from Rowville, Victoria.
As well as using recycled treasures, Tine tries to be sustainable in other ways. She is a participant in the local council’s Garden’s for Wildlife program and has fruit and nut trees, a veggie garden, water tanks, solar panels, indigenous and native plants and a pond.
Our recycling photo competition has produced an inspiring collection of ideas for giving old materials a second life in the garden! For some entrants, foraging local hard rubbish collections has become a very productive obsession. Several entrants have concentrated on creating works of art for both indoors and outdoors. Others have seen the potential of discarded materials to build structures for the garden and others have found another use for household items without needing to reconstruct them.
Making a decision about an absolute prize winner was impossible because of the fabulous creativity of all our entrants. So we have chosen winners in three categories i.e. art, constructions and repurposing. Even then, it was not easy to separate these categories from each other, so there was a tiny bit of overlap in some cases. So congratulations to all entrants and especially to the winners!
The winning entry for artistic creation goes to Carolyn Noel for some amazing flowers made from old dishes. At left, some enliven a dead tree. At right, are some “planted” in the ground.
What a joy it must be to roam the garden in winter when these glass creations are happily blooming! Carolyn sent us many examples of her work saying “For many years I have been passionate about using what I have around the house and other people’s rubbish to improve my environment. I have recently retired from my work as a creative arts therapist and now spend much of my time in my shed making more adventurous works from roadside rubbish.” She hopes that our “readers are inspired to see rubbish in a whole new light”.
There were many beautiful pieces of work submitted to us by Carolyn and others, so we will feature a range of those in other web posts later in the year.
The most interesting repurposing endeavor was turning the barbie into a potting bench. It is almost as though this style of BBQ was designed for exactly that purpose in the first place. Congratulations to Kelly Wooster!
The prize for construction goes to Deborah Cantrill and Quentin Jones of Nirvana Organic Produce who have turned a freezer and cold room from a supermarket refit into several separate significant items. Along with panels from the walls there were racks and sliding Perspex lids.
The freezer panels were used for the walls of a series of 5 compost bays. Their inbuilt insulation keeps the compost warm and moist. The other materials used for this construction included used polypipe and timber from old pallets cut into thirds for the front removable panels.
Covers for cold frames and a mini-glass house were created from the sliding lids.
Wire racks were transformed to become plant protectors in the orchard, various barricades in the poultry pens, a sprouting bench for the chook yard, potting benches for the veggie garden, a tunnel house and, as in the picture at right, gates.
A big “thank you” to all the other avid recyclers for sending us their innovative work!
More photos of recycling in the garden will be featured in other web posts later on and also on our Facebook page.
The hairy, dark green, finely toothed leaves are a real sign of winter. Although it is regarded as a weed by many and needs to be prevented from becoming invasive, I love this much maligned plant. It feeds the soil, plants, compost, hens and the humans in this household. It is an important component of my garden, and as Judith Collins says, it is valuable in any organic garden. This is because nettle is so nutritious, and beneficial to plant and human health.
Can what we do in our gardens affect our ecological footprint? You bet it does, and we explore here just how.
Do you know what Australia’s ecological footprint is? It’s certainly bigger than that of India, Egypt, Finland or even the United Kingdom, but not greater than that of Canada or the USA. I’m sure you don’t need a reminder, but just in case, the ecological footprint is a measure of the area of land and water it takes to provide a person or population with the resources it uses. It includes productive land and water, that used for roads, cities and other infrastructure and the ecosytems that are required to deal with waste. So it is a measure of human demand on nature’s capacity – a measure of how the natural environment is affected by human impact.
The worldwide footprint is 1.7 of the earth, based on the most recent calculations by the Global Footprint Network, in 2010. That means that the world is consuming 1.7 times the earth’s capacity. Australia’s was 6.8 with the biggest component coming from grazing. So if the whole world was having the treating the environment in the same way as Australia, we’d need 6.8 earths to support us!
Rachel Reef writes: Have you ever noticed that somehow, the temperature seems to be lower on the outskirts and in the countryside? Yeah, so have I. But when you think of it, it absolutely makes sense with all that concrete downtown. Although the thought of more balmy summer days doesn’t seem like such a bad thing (hello, beach!), the decreasing amount of greenery in our cities means that city microclimates are forming and the heat rise could be affecting our health and bank balances – as well as our planet.
Cities are getting bigger, more polluted and less green, while climate change is becoming increasingly unavoidable. As more and more people are choosing the city-living lifestyle, what does this mean for our dear planet Earth?