Jul 052014
 
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OrganicsHave you found yourself torn between purchasing conventionally grown or organically produced products? Organic products are becoming increasingly more available to consumers. However, who buys organics and the underlying reasons are not well understood. Researchers at the University of New England are currently studying the predictors of organic consumerism in Australia. If you are over 18 years old & have 10-15 minutes spare, then please take the time to fill out the survey at http://tinyurl.com/organic-predictors.
 
Responses must be received before 15th August.

Jul 012014
 
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When you look outside this time of year the last thing you feel like doing is standing out in the cold, wet and windy weather, especially if you live in the cooler areas. Don’t let this put you off. There is so much to do in the garden and a lot more to do in the garden shed. Get off the couch and put on the thermals, the beanie, a coat and your gumboots and warm yourself up with some winter garden love.

Continue reading »

Jul 012014
 
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bugabodes insect hotels

Supporting Biodiversity?  or just Garden Art?

Ever wondered where all those bugs go in the winter or when it rains? They don’t pack their bags and take a flight to Noosa like some lucky retirees do when the temperature drops below 21 degrees. They seek out a nook or cranny to take five when they need a break, to lay some eggs or find shelter. Given that we have destroyed a lot of their natural habitat, an insect hotel can be just what they need.

The word “insect” conjures up a whole range of images. Children talk to me about lady bugs, butterflies, bees and maybe snails (I haven’t the heart to correct any child under 10 years that snails are not really insects they are molluscs), cute creatures that dot the landscape with bee life cyclebeauty, just like flowers in the garden, fuzzy animals and sunshine. By the time they are adults they might think of flies, stinging wasps and bees, termites, mosquitoes and those annoying critters that might interrupt a perfectly good day or beat us to our home grown vegetables before we get a chance to pick them. But love them or hate them, they are here for a very good reason, and there are billions of them behind the scenes performing tasks that we humans are largely oblivious to. Continue reading »

Jul 012014
 
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whiteArt, or the human creative element, can be an important element of any garden, and can be a contribution to sustainability.

Why have art in a garden?

There are many different reasons to have art in a garden. Art can add some magic and some soul. It can entertain or soothe you and others and help create a place we enjoy being in. It can really change the atmosphere. In your garden, art can also be used to convey an environmental message both for yourself and those who share or visit. But this doesn’t mean you need to forgo enchantment and extra interest.

Art in our gardens can help us express ourselves through creating it and choosing it and through how we display it. Continue reading »

Jul 012014
 
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There is a growing and strong, but quite unscientific ‘feeling’ that the bush must be saved and I believe this feeling should be encouraged to the utmost.”   John Reed,  1971.

The protection of what is left of Australia’s unspoilt native bushland is imperative for the survival of precious and endangered indigenous flora and fauna. Climate change, extreme weather events, bio-invasion by introduced species and inappropriate development are all impacting already stressed and fragile environments. When I was presented with the opportunity to restore a section of the gardens at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in the lower Yarra Valley, I knew I was fulfilling John Reed’s ultimate vision “to preserve and perhaps rehabilitate as much as possible of the Valley.” Continue reading »

Jun 012014
 
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Ok, it’s official, winter is upon us. And while it may seem easier to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book, it is the perfect time to get amongst it in the patch! There is a sense of hibernation for a lot of us but wherever you are in this nation it’s time to don the boots and get to it. Continue reading »

Jun 012014
 
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corianderDo you have brilliant ways of using recycled material in the garden? Or garden material elsewhere?

Are you one of those people who inspects carefully what others have thrown out on their nature strips before hard rubbish collection days for things that can be turned into “treasure”? Have you put them, or your own castoffs, to good use in the garden?

Send us photos of what you have done, along with a description, and we will publish as many contributions as possible in a series of web posts featuring your ideas and achievements.

Photos of your creations will, of course, also appear in our electronic newsletter Cuttings and also on our Facebook page from time to time.

There will be book prizes for the three most innovative. Continue reading »

Jun 012014
 
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IMG_0065Weeds seem to grow anywhere and everywhere. When they turn up in our gardens, competing for nutrients in soil and filling all available gaps, it is tempting to seek an easy way of getting rid of them. But currently, only 2 products that might do that are listed in our Green Up Product Guide as being low impact. This may come as a bit of a surprise when there are so many weed killers on the market.

IMG_0070When trying to live sustainably, we want to reduce the incidence of harm caused by the products we use. And how difficult is this getting!!!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA, there are over 84,000 chemicals in overall commercial use with between 500 and 1000 added each year1. Many of these have some degree of toxicity for humans or the environment. We don’t have statistics on chemicals specifically for garden use.

At SGA, we want to minimise harmful effects. So, together with the Burnley College of Melbourne University, we developed a rating system for commercially available garden products so that we could differentiate between those which had low, medium or high undesirable impacts. This system is based on a number of criteria relating to the product’s effects on aquatic life, insects and other invertebrates, birds, pets and humans. Scores for each criterion are weighted and the combined results lead to an overall rating. There are a few differences in criteria used for products for control of weeds and pests or for fertilisers. Continue reading »

Jun 012014
 
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Principles
Getting started
Your needs, wants and budget
Take your time
The design
Selecting plants
Special elements
Plant selection
Plant placement – plant stacking and hydro-zoning
Site details
Material selection
Know when NOT to DIY
Costs
Water features

Principles

1. To design a landscape that minimises the requirement for energy inputs. These inputs may take the form of petrol to run mowers, leaf blowers and line cutters; chemicals to treat pests; and fertilisers to promote growth, H2O, cleaning agents, stains and finishes to keep hard surfaces clean and well-maintained. Informed plant selection that reduces the need for maintenance inputs – e.g. gardens/landscapes that feature a high proportion of amenity lawn require much higher energy inputs than a mixed herbaceous/shrub planting. On-site treatment of green waste also reduces the need for energy input.sustainabledesigntn

2. To design a landscape that minimizes the requirements for high water inputs, above that which naturally occurs in the particular region. This may be achieved via plant species choices, microclimate design (hydrozoning), mulches, water recycling etc.

3. To design a landscape that maximizes opportunities for biodiversity at all levels. This includes attracting wildlife, maintaining complex ecosystems, companion planting, considering the health of soil biota, recognizing the links between the elements of the garden and the organisms that inhabit it.

4. To design a landscape that maximizes vegetative biomass. This aids in carbon stabilization. For example a landscape that features a high proportion of paved or hard surfaces and/or high proportion of amenity lawn stores much less carbon than a landscape which features higher proportions of vegetative biomass. And we mean permanent vegetation, not material that must be constantly pruned or mown heavily, or seasonally replanted. Continue reading »

May 012014
 
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While the southern parts of Australia have donned winter pyjamas and flannelette sheets, the northern states are still revelling in warm, and mostly sunny autumn days. Regardless of the conditions in your little patch of paradise, there is still loads to do this month. Get set for those produce plants that need the cooler weather to grow. Continue reading »