Sustainable Gardening: 101 Video Series

Reduce waste. Protect nature. Grow food. Save money.

Sustainable Gardening Fundamentals

This four part video series will step you through the key sustainable gardening fundamentals that need to come together for you to create a garden that thrives by working in-step with nature. We will show you that by working with, rather than against nature, you can create systems that are not only the most efficient and cost-effective way to garden, but most importantly protect and encourage our surrounding environment, wildlife and biodiversity.

The video presentations are information rich!  They are the perfect start for the beginner gardener eager to get set-up “right”, while more experienced home gardeners will find the series just what they need to refocus their efforts and enhance their current sustainable gardening knowledge.

Once you have learnt how to implement the fundamentals of sustainable gardening you will have the knowledge to set-up and maintain your self-sufficient systems.  This means less money spent at your garden centre loading up on commercial compost, fertilisers and pest deterrents!

We have created the Sustainable Gardening 101 Video Series exclusively for our Friends of Sustainable Gardening Australia (FOSGA) community. Not a FOSGA member? You don’t have to miss out. Sign up now!

Thank you for supporting SGA by being a FOSGA. We hope you enjoy the series!

PART 1: Composting & Worm Farms

Sustainable gardens need compost! And plenty of it! Composting your kitchen and garden waste into “black gold” will feed your garden and help the environment. Learn how to activate your compost system to increase your output to get it to a level that will keep up with your gardens needs.

PART 2: Soil Farming

What’s the secret to success in the garden? It is all about the soil! We need to concentrate not on feeding our plants, but on feeding the soil! Healthy soil is full of life and fundamental to the health of our gardens. It provides all plants with all the nutrients and water they need to grow. Learn about the science of soil and how to improve it in an environmentally beneficial way that in-turn supports your plants to be productive.

PART 3: Low Impact Pest Management

Gardens are the natural habitat for all types of insects – the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn how to avoid unnecessary chemical use by managing the pests in your garden by using nature and its resources to strengthen the balance towards the beneficial kind.

Information about risks and safety of commercial chemical pesticides is in SGA’s app WiseGardening – Choices to Protect You and the Planet.  Safety of home-made pesticides could not be included in that app due to unavailability of information about their soap, detergent and oil ingredients.  Always use them with caution.

PART 4: Water Smart Gardening

As the climate changes we need to take extra care to design water smart gardens. Australia is the driest habitable continent in the world and there will be periods where water availability will be constrained. Similarly, our gardens will experience more extreme rain events. Whether it is too much or too little, water smart techniques can help keep your garden stay beautiful and productive.


WiseGardening Aims

WiseGardening aims to show the risks of garden chemicals to bees, birds, frogs and other species when we try to control pests, disease and weeds and help you make informed choices.

Why Use WiseGardening?

The broad community which uses chemical garden products has a right to know risks associated with their use.  These products can affect:

  • Users if they come into contact with the product or breathe in vapours – some products are quite toxic.
  • Species that visit or live in our gardens – birds, bees, fish, worms, frogs and a range of mammals, such as pets, especially if the chemicals persist in the soil.
  • Aquatic species as well as fish – if the chemicals can be washed through the soil winding up in streams and other waterways they may harm not only fish, but also other aquatic organisms.

So knowing which product to select, when faced with a plethora of ‘plantastic products’ in the local garden centre, or knowing if we should still use old products with stained labels stored in our garden sheds, can be very daunting. In order to minimise these risks we all need to know what they are.

WiseGardening has been developed to help all of us achieve international sustainable development goals through reducing some of the impacts that our society has had on the planet. This Australia-first guide aims to be rigorous in its ratings so it is based on publicly available evidence-based, scientific information from university and government sourcesSGA has assessed then rated over 850 garden chemical products commercially available in Australia. Because SGA prefers to avoid using chemicals, we also present alternative non-chemical methods which we recommend as the first line of defence for garden problems, but we recognise that there are times when a chemical product is a necessary choice.

Similar guides are available for specific areas overseas, such as Europe or the USA (www.growsmartgrowsafe.org) but these are not tailored for products and formulations used in Australia.

As you might expect, since these products are termed pesticides and weedicides where the suffix “icide” means “kill”, many chemical products, as well as killing their targets, carry risks to users and other species on our amazing planet – even when they are used very carefully.

Manufacturers alert users to these risks on their product labels, instructions for use and Safety Data Sheets.  However, when consumers buy products they may not consult these sources in-store to compare products and may not even read or understand the advice provided before using the products.  WiseGardening provides an easy way of comparing products for their impacts on humans and other species on the planet.

WiseGardening does not:

  • Provide comment on product effectiveness in achieving its purpose, or
  • Endorse, or condemn any product, manufacturer, brand or supplier.

Principles Underpinning WiseGardening

  1. Transparency – We aim to augment the availability of information that manufacturers provide about their garden products. To this end, WiseGardening uses publicly available information from many sources. (See Our Ratings and Assessment Process)
  2. Accuracy – This means that assessments are systematic and based on robust scientific research from reputable sources. However, sometimes this information is unavailable due to commercial considerations and sometimes due to out of date or incomplete information. Where little or no information about a product or ingredient is available this is indicated in WiseGardening.
  3. Independence and objectivity – No preference to any products or for any manufacturer is given.
  4. Comprehensiveness and inclusiveness – We aim to include all chemical garden products available in Australia for non-agricultural use. Products available in other countries are not included since, elsewhere, they mostly differ in names and ingredients. We have also not restricted assessments to commercially manufactured products and have included alternative mostly non-chemical approaches. If a product is missing it is not intentional; we aim to include all relevant products.  We have not considered home-made mixes of household chemicals since it is not possible to obtain any accurate information about ingredients used in these preparations.
  5. Currency – The assessment is routinely updated and products are frequently assessed to determine if their ingredients, or details in the product description, have changed. Information sources for ingredients are also frequently checked to ensure the latest publicly available scientific assessments are used. As products are often discontinued by manufacturers, we retain these products in our database so that assessments can be made of new products against discontinued products across product types. Sometimes, new products have the same name as a discontinued product but have a different composition.  We aim to ensure that assessments of current products are no older than 1 year.
  6. Ease of Use – The rating system should provide users with data that is accessible, able to allow comparison and easy to use. Data entry for WiseGardening has been structured so that assessment is performed automatically, drawing on ingredient information within the database.
  7. Compatible with UN Sustainable Development Goals –
    • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
    • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
    • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
    • Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
  8. Fostering productive change – encouraging the community and industry, through education, to engage with the change required to achieve a safer and more sustainable world.

Who are We?

Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) is a not-for-profit, non-government organization with a strong interest (passion) for enabling gardeners to grow their own food, protect their health and that of the planet and all that is naturally on it.  It has charitable status under the federal government’s Register of Environmental Organisations and is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC).

WiseGardening was initiated over 20 years ago as a collaboration between SGA, Paul Gibson-Roy from Burnley Horticultural College (now part of the University of Melbourne), the garden centre Bulleen Art and Garden and local government.

Since 2016, our SGA team has further developed and refined WiseGardening to make it available as part of our web presence. Development has been supported by a 1 year grant from the Telematics Trust as a project to provide community education.

The Team

Dr. Sharron Pfueller (biochemistry, cell biology, environment, sustainability),  Dr. Colin Allison (chemistry, environment, climate change, database development), Angelo Eliades (horticulture, permaculture, toxicology), Bridey Oliver (horticulture), Jane Rollinson (horticulture, information mapping), Michelle Dyason (natural methods of pest control).

For full details of our methodology please see Our Assessment and Rating Process.

Who Might use WiseGardening?

Intended users of WiseGardening include home gardeners, managers of Parks and Reserves such as local government, those who maintain public green space, community gardeners, those concerned with human health and natural life on the planet.

Go to WiseGardening ratings

WiseGardening Assessment and Rating Process

The WiseGardening Assessment and Rating Process is dedicated to continuous improvement of methodology to accurately assess risks of chemical garden products and to openly and honestly inform users of them.

What Risks Do We Assess?

Products and their ingredients are assessed for risks to:

  • Humans and other mammals
  • Bees and other beneficial insects
  • Birds
  • Fish and other aquatic organisms
  • Frogs
  • Earthworms

Other properties of the ingredients are assessed for:

  • Mobility i.e. the likelihood that they will be transported into streams or other waterways during irrigation or rainfall
  • Persistence in soil
  • Whether they have been reported as carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors or genotoxic.

What data have we used?

Criteria for use of data

To be used in the rating system, data needed to be:

  • Evidence-based, i.e. scientifically assessed or estimated
  • Publicly available via websites and other documentation
  • Independent and impartial
  • Reputable, i.e. academic research institutions and government instrumentalities whose task it is to ensure registration of products, setting safety standards and protecting public and environmental standards.

Sources

Date is obtained from a wide variety of publicly accessible sources, including (but not limited to):

Assigning Scores

Our assessment of products uses a “point score” system to assess the risks of both overall product features and of ingredients. Higher risk levels yield higher numerical point scores. A final assessment converts these scores into a range of stars starting at one star for the highest numerical score, increasing to six stars for products with the lowest risk scores (see below).

Overall product features

These are assessed from the answers to the questions in table 1.

Table 1

Questions about Product Features Interpretation
What is the Uniform Scheduling of Medicines and Poisons (SUSMP) rating? i.e. Schedule 5, 6 or 7* Higher Schedule ratings indicate more toxic chemicals
Is the product made from non-synthesised materials? Products that contain natural ingredients are given lower risk scores than those that are produced by chemical synthesis, often from fossil fuels.
Is the product pre-mixed and ready to apply? Pre-mixed products minimize the risk of inadvertent spills i.e. less chance of exposure to high concentrations of ingredients and encourage the storage and use of more manageable quantities of chemicals
Is the product an aerosol formulation ? Delivery as an aerosol increases the risk of exposure to toxic material
Is the product a dust formulation? Delivery as a powder increases the risk of exposure to toxic material
Is packaging well designed and robust in relation to its Schedule Heading? An indicator of the capacity of the packaging to prevent inadvertent exposure
Is the product a repellent or deterrent in its action? These have lower risk due to lower toxicity of such chemicals
Is the product a biological control? These are living organisms and do not involve manufacture requiring use of energy possibly of fossil fuels.
  • Poisons with a rating of S7 cannot be sold for domestic use.

Ingredients

The scoring system for ingredients is based on the assessment used in the Pesticide Properties DataBase (PPDB) created by the University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, UK. Each ingredient is assessed as either no or low risk, medium risk or high risk as shown in Table 2 and points are allocated to these risks.

Table 2

Question None or Low Moderate High
What is the level of risk associated with this ingredient? No symbol Open Symbol Solid Symbol

Note: for soil mobility, persistence and if an ingredient has been reported as a human carcinogen, endocrine disruptor or genotoxic compound, it is shown without a quantitative rating, i.e. with a closed symbol.

Risk is assessed for each item shown in table 3 below:

Table 3.   Risks and their Symbols

Risk to Species or Property High Risk Moderate Risk
Humans H h
Other mammals (e.g. pets) A a
Bees & other beneficial insects B b
Worms C c
Birds D d
Fish E e
Frogs F f
Other aquatic species (Invertebrates, Crustaceans, Plants) G g
Other Characteristics
Mobile in soil M
Persistent in soil P
Carcinogenic, an endocrine disruptor, or genotoxic S
Poison S7 Z
Biological Control W
No ingredients were listed for the product  O
No risk information available for ingredients from currently available data sources

The product is discontinued !
Other Choices: A Wise Gardening option Y
The ingredients are still under investigation  ?

If a product contains multiple ingredients that have different levels of risk for any of its properties the score for the ingredient with the highest risk is assigned.  For example, a product with 3 ingredients, one with High impact, one with Low impact and one with no impact, is considered to have High impact. In order to avoid inaccurately assigning a “No risk” score to a product when information about ingredients is not available, both High and Moderate impacts increase the product “score” while Low or No impact do not affect the product score.

Some products with similar ingredient compositions may achieve different ratings because the chemical forms of ingredients may differ and have different associated risks.

Once an overall score is assigned to a product, the score is converted to a simple-to-visualize Star rating where products with a low numerical scores receive a greater number of stars. One star is assigned to products with the highest scores and 6 stars to products with the lowest scores.

Where the product is an S7 poison, 0 (zero) stars are assigned to indicate the product is outside our normal rating system.

If no ingredients are listed for a product (symbol “O”) or no risk information for ingredients is available (symbol “-“), a valid star rating cannot be assigned because of lack of information upon which a rating can be based.  For these products, a star rating is replaced by the symbol for a question mark “?“.  We are working on obtaining this information from manufacturers and chemical databases.

Where a product is discontinued, if we have existing ingredient information from before the product was discontinued, we provide a risk score.

The assessment system, at this stage, does not include Life Cycle Analysis (e.g. detail of how much energy was used in making the product) including product packaging and whether the product is natural or synthesized from chemical ingredients.

Note about the concentration of ingredients

The manufacturer considers the concentrations of ingredients in their assessment of the product, for example in determining the SUSMP (Poison) rating, however in our assessment we do not consider the concentrations because no assumptions can be made about how much of the product is used, how carefully it is used or whether it has become degraded or has been concentrated by evaporation during storage. WiseGardening considers the risk of the pure ingredients and is thus a conservative assessment.

Disputed ingredient risks

The risks associated with some ingredients are disputed by different studies around the world.  Glyphosate is an example of particular interest – see our article on this subject.  In such cases SGA has used the current scientifically accepted data, but is recognizes that as further investigations of these ingredients are done, our ratings may change as we regularly update WiseGardening.

Inclusion of non-chemical approaches

SGA has included a range of non-chemical approaches to address problems with garden pests, disease or weeds – these are included as “products”.  All information on these approaches has been obtained from publicly available sources. We identify these as “Better WiseGardening Choices” for particular product types.

Updating

All products are periodically re-assessed to ensure that any changes to formulations, packaging or active ingredients have been accounted for.  Information about ingredients is updated quarterly through the PPDB database and by literature searches for missing ingredient information as required.

Please remember: the risks documented here and used for rating are important if products are used unwisely.  Always use products strictly according to manufacturers’ instructions on labels and associated documentation. If you have further questions about a specific product you should contact the manufacturer and/or retailer.

SGA does not endorse the use of any particular chemical garden products, whether or not they are included in WiseGardening. This information is provided to you so you can make your decisions wisely.

Go to WiseGardening ratings

WiseGardening

WiseGardening rates garden chemical products for risks to human health, bees, birds, frogs, pets, earthworms, fish, other aquatic species, soil mobility and persistence. Where information is available, final Star Ratings go from 0 to 6.

Data on products and ingredients used to create WiseGardening are the scientifically estimated and publicly reported risks to the health of humans and a range of other living organisms.  Also shown are other important chemical properties.  For details of how ratings are derived see Our Assessment and Rating Process

Remember: these risks are very important if products are used unwisely.  Always use products strictly according to manufacturers’ instructions on labels and associated documentation.

Notes on Using WiseGardening

WiseGardening is sortable using the Search and Filter boxes.  The Search function can show information not visible on this page e.g. particular susceptible pests.  For some searches a full word such as “fungus” may not find many choices, but the beginning “fung” will show more because many entries might be for “fungicide”. Therefore, for some searches fewer letters may be more effective.

Note that the ingredient risks are based on pure ingredients so the risks are independent of the amount of ingredient in the product.

Some products with high star ratings still show some ingredient risks or other undesirable product characteristics. These products have received a high star rating because aspects of product packaging or being pre-mixed (i.e. not requiring dilution before use, or having robust packaging) reduce the likelihood of spills which could be harmful.

There are a few products which have ingredient risks about which there is conflicting international opinion.  Examples are those containing glyphosate, chlorpyrifos or dicamba.  Because we have only used data which is scientifically widely agreed on, these products may have achieved a higher star rating than some people might expect, especially if their containers and mode of delivery render the likelihood of inadvertent exposure unlikely.

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WiseGardening Overview

WiseGardening shows risks of garden chemicals to humans, birds, bees, frogs and other species when you use them to control pests, diseases and weeds and helps you choose wisely.

As estimates of the number of synthetic chemicals in the world continues to grow by 2000 each year from around 144,000,  it is worth knowing more about garden chemical products.  Many may cause harm to:

  • Users – if they spill or ingest them or breathe in the aerosols
  • Species that visit or live in our gardens – birds, bees, fish, worms, frogs and a range of mammals such as pets especially if the chemicals persist in the soil
  • Aquatic species – if the chemicals can be washed through soil and windup in streams and other waterways they may harm not only fish, but also other aquatic organisms.

In this Australia-first initiative, WiseGardening assesses and rates commercially available garden chemical products (currently over 850 which together contain 413 ingredients) and alternative non-chemical options to help you make informed choices about dealing with garden problems.

If you would like to see what choices there are, WiseGardening is for you!

Go to WiseGardening ratings

Better WiseGardening Choices

When trying to address problems with garden pests, weeds and diseases in the garden there are other better WiseGardening choices which don’t require the use of chemical products.  We have assembled a range of them below.

 

Pests – Insects, Snails and Slugs

Diseases

Weeds

Pests – Insects, Snails and Slugs

There are many options available to reduce pest numbers apart from using manufactured chemicals that have various risks associated with them. Here are a number of better choices.

Traps

Sticky Insect Traps

Commercial ones are available, but you can make your own following instruction/s on many websites.  Hang in locations with problem pests and monitor or replace when necessary.  However, some of these may trap beneficial insects.

Snail/Slug (Gastropod) Traps

For snails/slugs, place cardboard/wooden/plastic board or flowerpot on ground in damp spot in garden. After 1 or 2 days lift and remove snails/slugs congregated underneath.

For slaters and earwigs as well as snails ad slugs make a container with holes near the top. Place it so that the bottom of holes is level with  the ground – cover to keep rain out. Add beer or sweet liquid and vegetable oil to drown pests. Clear out trap regularly.

Bug Zappers

Plug in to 240v power point to attract and then electrocute insects. Locate these away from food preparation/cooking areas.  Please note that the environmental impacts of these are not clear.  Although they do not involve spraying chemicals, they may kill beneficial insects and they may use carbon-emitting electricity.

Provide Habitat for Predators

Increase Plant Diversity

Grow a large variety of plant species, herbs and ornamentals, especially those with brightly coloured flowers and those that are umbrella-shaped.  This will create an ecosystem of interdependent species which keep each other in balance.

Insect Hotels

These can be home-made and are also available commercially.

Nest Boxes

These can be for birds or bats which use insects as food.

Frog Ponds

If you build a frog pond, the frogs will come and they are voracious insect eaters.

Lizard Sun-bathing Rocks

Smooth rocks in the sun attract lizards which eat insects.

Barriers

Wood Ash

Mounded around the plants you want to protect, wood ash can be an effective barrier. Create a thick layer around plant for protection. Replace when damp or depleted.  But make sure that the ash was a result of an essential wood burning activity, otherwise it could be the result of an unnecessary carbon-polluting activity.

Netting

Use 5mm x 5mm (or smaller) netting pulled taut over a frame/structure around the plant.

Corrugated Cardboard

Wrap a corrugated cardboard collar around base/trunk of tree/plant and secure with tape or string. Replace periodically over pest breeding season.

Fruit Bags

Bag fruit individually or in clusters on trees to exclude pests.

Wobbly Fences

Put wobbly wire around plants you wish to protect from possums.

Corrugated Iron on Paths

This deters deer which don’t like walking on  surfaces that are unstable and make noise when trodden on.  Try to use old recycled iron.

Repellents and Attractants

Companion Planting

This approach aims to use nature to attract, repel, enhance plant health and flavour. For example, planting Winter Cress Barbarea verna effectively attracts beneficial insects and entices the cabbage white butterfly to lay its eggs on the leaves.  But the plant kills emerging caterpillars as they try eating it. Marigolds deter the cabbage white butterfly from laying eggs on brassicas as well as repelling root nematodes.

Decoys

Decoy plants may be planted earlier than the main crop to entice insects.  They can then be removed and the main crop planted. They can also be planted around the outside of a crop as insects usually start from the outside.

Artificial cabbage white butterflies can deter live ones for some time.  They should be moved regularly.

Visual Bird Deterrents

Try hanging moving or reflective materials in trees such as lights, mirrors, reflectors, reflective tape, flags, rags, streamers, lasers, dog/human/scarecrow/large hawk models. These will need to be replaced or alternated since birds quickly become used to them and will resume normal activities such as eating fruit.

Manual

Removal by Hand

Look for pests and use your fingers to squash or remove them.

For snails and slugs pick them up and put in a bucket of water containing soap or detergent.  This kills any eggs inside the snails and they can later be composted.

Water Jet or Hose

Hose pests off affected plants – e.g. Aphids can be easily removed and will not return.

Fly Swat

Use swat to squash insect against a hard surface.

Pruning

If it is possible, remove the heavily infested section of the plant.

Beneficial Agents

Domesticated Birds

Allowing ducks, chicken or geese to browse in areas of the garden infested with pests can help control their numbers. Such birds are effective predators of snails, slugs, insects and spiders.

Introduce Predatory Insects or Parasites

It is possible to purchase insects and other organisms which will attack pest insects in your garden from a number of suppliers.

Diseases

There are many options available to reduce plant diseases in your garden apart from using manufactured chemicals that have various risks associated with them. Here are a number of better choices.

Bacteria

Avoid Using Seed Which might be Diseased

Use either certified disease-free seed or, if saving seed from your garden, make sure that the plant you are taking it from is healthy.

Crop Rotation

Don’t grow plants of the same family in the same bed for at least 3 seasons to avoid a build up of pathogens in the soil.

Hygiene

Bacteria survive in infected plant debris/litter, seeds and in soils. They are spread by contact, rain splash, vectors and infected seeds.  Before and after harvest, dispose of infected plants/plant parts in sealed plastic bags in bins  – do not compost them.

Disinfect gardening equipment (bleach/methylated spirits).

Fungus

Avoid Moisture on Leaves, Especially at Night

Moisture persisting on leaves allows fungal spores to germinate.  Use drip irrigation rather than sprayers or employ overhead watering early in the morning so that moisture will evaporate.

Exclusion

Prevent pathogens from entering the landscape by only purchasing healthy, vigorous, undiseased plant material. Refuse to purchase any plants showing any sign of disease or poor health.

Hygiene

Completely remove any plants that are either heavily infested with untreatable diseases (remove as much of the plant & root system as possible as well as much infested soil as possible).

Solarisation

Fungus and other pathogens in the top layers of soil can be destroyed by covering the soil with thin, clear or black plastic film and leaving in place for a number of weeks in the summer/hottest months before planting crops. Try to use recycled plastic to avoid the extra pollution of plastic production.

Virus

Plants cannot be cured of viral infections, so prevention is required.

Hygiene

Cleaning of tools (especially cutting tools) with bleach or alcohol between uses and between plants will help prevent transmission of virus.

Some pest insects e.g. aphids can transmit viruses , so control of these pests can reduce the chance of viral infection of plants.

Removal and Destruction of Infected Plants

Place infected plants in plastic bags, seal firmly and dispose of in rubbish bins or burn them.

Crop Rotation

Since viruses can only grow in living organisms for which they are specific, transmission to subsequent plantings can be minimised by practising crop rotation.

Use Virus-Resistant Varieties

Weeds

There are many options available to reduce weed infestations in your garden apart from using manufactured chemicals that have various risks associated with them. Here are a number of better choices.

Heat

Solarisation

Cover soil/garden bed with black or clear plastic film. Leave plastic in place for several weeks during the hottest time of the year. This effectively ‘cooks’ the plants and seeds in the soil underneath. This can also reduce soil-borne pathogens.  Try to use recycled plastic to avoid the extra pollution of plastic production.

Steam

Apply water heated to close to boiling point or beyond boiling in some commercially available saturated steam weeding devices to create steam. When applied to a plant it causes the plant cells to rupture then wilt and die.  This treatment needs to be repeated on weed infestations in order to be effective.  Note that heating water to produce steam also requires use of carbon-polluting electricity unless derived from renewable sources.

Hot Water

Apply boiling/close to boiling point water to a plant. This method causes plant cell rupture, followed by plant death. This treatment needs to be repeated on weed infestations in order to be effective. Note that boiling water requires use of carbon-polluting electricity unless derived from renewable sources.

Direct Flame

Apply a direct flame using a fuel powered flame burner to a plant. The flame passes over the plant, increasing the temperature of the moisture in the plant causing cell rupture, followed by plant death.  This treatment needs to be repeated on weed infestations in order to be effective.  Note that this uses carbon-polluting fuel.

Heavy Mulching

Cover with overlapping layers of thick cardboard, ensuring no light can penetrate to the soil.  Then covered with a thick layer of organic mulch e.g. wood chips or bark.

Prevention

Know Your Weeds

Identify the problem plant in order to ensure the treatment is targeted and effective.

Limit Soil Cultivation

Use no-dig gardening methods.

Competition

Reduce the chance of weeds succeeding by using vigorously growing plants and plant close together to restrict light to soil and, therefore,  chances of germination. These plants can out-compete the weeds.

Mulch

Suppresses weeds by preventing light from reaching seeds. This prevents germination of seeds or causes the seed to use up reserves trying to reach surface. Organic and granular mulch has additional benefits of reducing evaporation from soil and capture of rainfall.

Hygiene

Control existing weeds around the garden regularly to reduce weed seed build up. Prevent weeds from being imported to your site/garden by choosing weed free plants from the nursery. Remove any weed seeds that might germinate in the top layer of the planting media. Keep tools and equipment clean.

Care with Fertilisation

Extra fertiliser can give weeds an advantage as many can grow quickly when there is ample nutrition available. Limit fertiliser use to only when necessary.  Use soil testing if possible to determine nutrient needs.

Manual

Removal by Hand

Remove individual weeds by hand pulling or using hand tools is a useful technique in small gardens or for low numbers of weeds. It is highly selective and is most effective on annual weeds and weeds which do not regrow from underground parts – care must be taken to ensure the entire plant is removed. This method is cheap, free and has little to no impact on surrounding plants and animals.

Girdling or Ringbarking

For large or woody weeds too large for hand removal, girdling (ringbarking) is a suitable option. Cut several centimetres of bark from the circumference of the entire plant. This will cause the plant to die.

Mechanical Cultivation (tillage)

Using powered devices e.g. rotary hoe or tractor.  This approach can have the disadvantage of requiring use of carbon-polluting fossil fuel unless the device is driven by human strength.

Go to WiseGardening ratings

Pests

If your plants have been munched, crunched, chomped, rasped or ripped, the most important thing to do is make sure you have correctly identified the culprit. Knowing what you’re up against is essential to know what you need to do to treat the problem.

SGA is a big fan of non-chemical pest control and prevention, such as monitoring your garden for early outbreaks, ensuring good air circulation between plants and alternative home remedies such as garlic sprays. If you choose to use a chemical, use one of the highest 6 Star-rated products from WiseGardening –  Choices to Protect You and the Planet your garden and the planet will thank you for it.

If you do use any chemical product, please read the label VERY carefully.  And to understand what the chemical terms on labels, it’s worth looking here. 


More information about pests and pest control is found on links below:

Prevent Pests in Your Garden

If you can prevent pests in your garden you will save time, resources and money as well as helping your garden flourish. Effective pest control is…

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Christmas Beetles

Most of us would be familiar with the brightly coloured, glossy and sometimes iridescent Christmas beetles. We often see them dazed and confused,…

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Controlling Mosquitoes Sustainably

Controlling mosquitoes sustainably in gardens is a challenge now that many parts of eastern Australia are experiencing such high rainfall.…

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Low Impact Pest Management 101 Video

Sustainable Gardening 101 Video Series PART 3: Low Impact Pest Management Gardens are the natural habitat for all types of insects – the good, the…

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Cabbage White Butterfly

Hi, my name is: Cabbage White Butterfly Describe yourself: I am quite a striking white butterfly, Pieris rapae, with two lovely grey/black spots on…

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Whitefly

Though they look like tiny white flies or moths theses little sap suckers are a relative of aphids and mealy bugs.   You know whitefly has moved into…

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Thrips

Hi, my name is:  Thrip I infect a wide variety of plants by sucking sap from leaves. There are around 6000 different species of this insect and many…

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Pest Repellent Plants

Every garden is sometimes afflicted with pests - grasshoppers, cabbage white butterfly caterpillars, scale and aphids being very common.  Is it…

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Citrus Gall Wasp

Citrus gall wasp endangers productivity in gardens as well as in commercial orchards, especially in Western1 and South Australia2. So recognizing and…

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Sooty Mould

Hi, my name is: Sooty Mould Describe yourself: I’m definitely one of the most appropriately named pests and diseases going around...I look exactly…

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Pesticides most harmful to bees

Pesticide use is one of the factors which may be affecting bee populations worldwide. Since much of our food production depends on pollination by bees, whether bee populations have been declining globally has been the source of concern – and some confusion.  While there have been reports of declining bee numbers it is now thought that these are the result of local population changes and declining species richness  i.e. of particular species of bee.  As well as pesticide use, the cause of such declines could result from the virus carried by the Varroa mite, climate change or habitat loss, or a combination of all four factors.  In Australia, we now need to pay more attention to the threat of pesticides since, with the detection of Varoa mite in Victoria in 2018, honeybee populations are more threatened.  So here we look at the pesticides most harmful to bees.  We might immediately think “neonics”, but while it is true that these are toxic for bees, there are many others which kill both honeybees and native Australian bees.

In SGA’s app WiseGardening – Choices to Protect You and the Planet where we rate risks of chemical pesticide products, we have included the full range of products in garden use. Five hundred and twenty seven products out of the 869 reviewed so far have either moderate or high risks to bees.  There are 304 with high risk and 223 with moderate risk. Of those 527 products with moderate or high risk to bees, there are still 318 commercially available and 209 have been discontinued.  Of those currently available, 181 are high risk to bees and 131 are of moderate risk.

Neonicotinoids (Neonics)

As the name suggests, these chemicals are similar to nicotine and they react with the same nerve receptors in nerve junctions as nicotine does.  This enables them to cause paralysis and death.  They are more toxic to insects than they are to mammals and birds.

Neonicotinoids in use are:

Acetamiprid

Clothianidin

Dinotefuran

Imidacloprid

Nitenpyram

Thiocloprid

Thiamethoxam

These chemicals have an advantage as insecticides because they are water-soluble and, if sprayed on the soil, plants can easily take them up.  In theory, this reduces the risk of unwanted effects on beneficial insects caused by broadscale spraying and consequent spray-drift.  However, their solubility means that they can enter and be stored in pollen and flower nectar, placing pollinators such as bees at risk. These soluble chemicals are also very toxic to aquatic organisms when excess enters waterways. Searching for these chemical names in WiseGardening reveals products containing them and their risks.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) which regulates pesticide standards states “All neonicotinoids registered for use in Australia have previously been through the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)’s chemical risk assessment process..”   A review of neonicotinoids started in 2019 is still in progress. Neonicotinoids are some of many pesticides which are permitted in Australia but banned overseas e.g. in UK and EU. Although some neonicotinoids are available for farming use, many retailers have withdrawn them for sale for household and garden use.

Organophosphates

These chemicals have been widely used in the past because of their effectiveness against a variety of pests.  Because they are extremely toxic neurotoxins and have high persistence in the environment many are now banned. Perhaps best known is DDT used widely against mosquitoes – it is now withdrawn from sale.

Most are now banned overseas, but products containing malathion, chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos and diazinon are commercially available in Australia - mostly as dusts, and powders to control lawn beetles, grubs, slaters, termites and ants. Some are in fruit fly traps or pest strips which don’t carry quite so much risk since they are not sprays which can disperse. However, because of their persistence, residues can be picked up by bees.  Although most products containing organophosphates are now discontinued, some still lurk in garden sheds and garages. When you search WiseGardening. for the chemical ingredient names you will see that they pose high risks to a variety of organisms, including humans.

Pyrethrins

These are a family of products, some natural and others synthetic, and include permethrin, cypermethrin, bifenthrin, phenothrin and deltamethrin.  Many of us think that products containing pyrethrin or something that sounds similar, are natural and, therefore, safe.  But this is not the case.

There is confusion about terminology of pyrethrin (natural) and pyrethroids (synthetic). The latter are particularly toxic to bees. They affect the nervous system by changing activity of nerve sodium channels. They are more effective on insects because they have  greater affinity for insect nerves and are active at the lower temperatures of cold-blooded insects in comparison to warm-blooded mammals.

A search on WiseGardening reveals a large number of commercially available products containing pyrethrins which pose high risks to bees and other organisms.  If using these products, avoid spraying during the day when bees are active and wait until bee-attracting flowers are no longer present. Since pyrethrins are not persistent in the environment, the effects of residues wane after about one week.

Fipronil

Like the above chemicals, fipronil affects nerve systems but by changing the activity of the chloride channels. It was introduced to the market in 1996, predominantly to control indoor insects (e.g. moths and fleas), spiders and rodents.   It can affect mammals and humans, but only at much higher concentrations.

In WiseGardening, 16 commercially available products containing fipronil and one which is discontinued have high risks for bees, birds and mammals and moderate risks for fish and earthworms.

Sulfoxaflor

A relatively new pesticide based on sulfoxaflor was released in the USA in 2013 and subsequently in Australia.  It is one of many pesticides which are permitted in Australia but banned overseas e.g. in UK and EU Currently, it appears to be only available for agricultural and horticultural use and not in gardens.

Other chemical ingredients toxic to bees in pesticides in Australia

Apart from those chemicals discussed above, there are many other pesticides available for use in horticultural and agricultural industries which contain ingredients which are toxic for bees. A list of those known in 2014 is here.

What you should do

Many of us try to avoid chemical pesticides altogether.  But that is not always possible when a whole crop of lovingly-grown fruit or vegetables is being attacked.  So consult SGA’s WiseGardening app and, as we point out, PLEASE READ PRODUCT LABELS with respect to guidelines for use.  But don’t just rely on the product label because those labels do not show toxicities to the full range of organisms covered in WiseGardening.


Christmas Beetles

Most of us would be familiar with the brightly coloured, glossy and sometimes iridescent Christmas beetles. We often see them dazed and confused, crawling around on the ground or in the house in the morning after a big night out (they are attracted to bright lights!).

As their name suggests, the adult beetle is most active during the Christmas season and warmer months of December and January. Adult Christmas beetles aren't much of a pest in most home gardens, although they do feed on eucalypt leaves and can cause severe defoliation in large numbers.

Christmas beetles are about 20 millimetres in length and belong to the Scarab beetle Family (Scarabaeidae) in the Order Celeoptera. The image shown here is courtesy of CSIRO.  Scarab beetles are the second largest family of beetles in Australia. (Weevils are the largest Family).  There are around 35 species of Christmas beetle with the most common being Anoplognathus chloropyrus and Anoplognathus montanus.  They are occur across most of Australia, except for deserts, with the highest density in eastern regions.

However, from around 2013, a decline in numbers has been noticed with a citizen science project being launched ini November 2022 by scientists at the University of Sydney to report on sightings.  Since their natural habitat is grassy plains and woodland, increased clearing of forests and urban expansion may be involved in their disappearance.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a Christmas beetle is from one to two years. The larvae of Christmas beetles, often called curl grubs, live and develop in the soil for about a year, eating decaying organic matter and plant roots of mainly native grasses and other vegetation. In agricultural land larvae can feed on the roots of crops and pasture. In urban areas larvae often feed on the roots of turf. This feeding can cause plants to turn yellow and wither.

Toward the end of winter the larvae move closer to the soil surface and pupate. The adults emerge several weeks later and dig their way out of the soil. They then fly to the nearest food plant to feed. And of course their other main duty at this stage is to mate. They then lay eggs in the soil close to their food source.

There are many other Anoplognathus species, in fact there are 35 species of Christmas beetle across Australia, and many are brightly coloured, such as the bright green tropical Christmas beetle shown here, courtesy of www.wildwatch.com.au. Eight species alone occur in Sydney. All are attracted to bright lights at night.

Are They a Pest?

Thought a pest in early days, control is seldom needed now with the decline in numbers.

Geoff Monteith, curator of the insect collection at the Queensland Museum said that Christmas beetles have a bad reputation for causing dieback of trees, which they don't entirely deserve.

In the home garden, Christmas beetles are seldom a problem. In fact, they are usually controlled naturally by native animals such as possums, currawongs, magpies and predatory wasps.

Christmas beetles are an ideal insect to introduce to children as they are quite placid (especially after a big night out).

References
www.abc.net.au
D. Jones & R. Elliot, Pests Diseases and Ailments of Australian Plants, Lothian Publishing.
Australian Geographic 2016. November 16, Where have all the Christmas beetles gone?


Controlling Mosquitoes Sustainably

Controlling mosquitoes sustainably in gardens is a challenge now that many parts of eastern Australia are experiencing such high rainfall.  Conditions for mosquitoes to breed are ideal with so many pools of water, large and small, in mild to warm weather conditions1 and climate change is causing an extension of their range from the tropics to sub-tropical and temperate areas2. Controlling mosquitoes with chemical sprays pollutes the environment and is not the way to go since, in the long run, this only leads to them evolving to resist those chemicals.

Why are Mosquitoes a Problem?

Mosquitoes bite and feed on the blood of animal species such as humans, horses and cattle, as well as birds. Not only are mosquitoes annoying because of the itching resulting from their bites, but they spread disease.  Some diseases such as Barmah Forest virus, Murray Valley encephalitis, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and Ross River virus are currently found in Australia3,4.  Of concern is that these diseases might occur further south than their current ranges due to the combination of increased rainfall and rising temperatures.

How to Protect Yourself and Others

Remove standing water

Any persistent water can act as a breeding ground and harbour the larvae (wrigglers).  So either empty these reservoirs or remove them from where they can collect water.  They include, watering cans, jars, bottles, tanks, buckets, jerry cans, bird baths and saucers under pots1.

Ponds and puddles cannot be easily removed, so other methods are needed (read on).

 

Repellents

Scented plants

Many scented plants act as repellents e.g. lavender, marigold, lemon grass (citronella), catmint, rosemary, basil, scented geranium (citronella), bee balm, mint, floss flower (Ageratum), sage, alliums (garlic, onions etc), yarrow and fennel.  Growing those in your garden would be helpful.

Personal repellents

There are a number of commercially available chemical repellents that can be placed on your skin.  They are available as creams, wipes, sprays, aerosols and in wearable devices such as wrist bands. The most effective contain diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin (odourless) or oil of lemon eucalyptus.  Care is recommended with DEET since some people are sensitive to it, reacting with skin irritations, nausea or headaches. Tea tree oil is also useful.

Others

Vapour dispensing units can be used inside dwellings. Outdoors, mosquito candles or colls which burn natural oils such as lemongrass, citronella, peppermint and other oils  mentioned above, can be used.  These are, however, not specific for mosquitoes and may harm other species.

Barriers

Clothing

Wear long, loose fitting and light-coloured clothing when outside.  Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours and shady areas. Shoes should be closed - don't wear sandals..

Screens

Cover all windows, doors, vents, and other entrances with insect screens.  Where commercial screens cannot be obtained, netting fixed firmly over the apertures is effective.

If sleeping outdoors, bed nets are helpful.

Behaviour

Since mosquitoes are less active in daylight, avoid being outdoors during hours between dawn and dusk.

Predators

Fish which eat mosquito larvae are very useful if added to ponds or dams.  Australian native fish suitable for garden ponds are the Murray rainbowfish Melanotaenia fluviatis  the crimson spotted rainbowfish Melanotaenia duboulayi and the Southern Blue-eye Pseudomugil signifer (also known as the Pacific blue-eye).  They survive best north of the Goulbourn river in Victoria.  For areas further south, the Australian smelt Retropinna semoni do well in ponds and do not pose a threat to frogs or tadpoles. Other fish like the pygmy perch or galaxias are available sometimes, but the pygmy perch can attack tadpoles5.Do NOT ADD NON-NATIVE FISH such as Gold fish, Guppies, Koi, Tilapias to water bodies since, although they also eat mosquitoes, they are invasive species which can deplete native fish numbers by either predation or depleting food sources

Do NOT ADD NON-NATIVE FISH such as Gold fish, Guppies, Koi, Tilapias to water bodies since, although they also eat mosquitoes, they are invasive species which can deplete native fish numbers by either predation or depleting food sources6Aquatic Invaders

Destruction by Other Methods

Pyrethrins derived from the natural sources can be sprayed to kill mosquitoes.  However, pyrethrins are toxic to other insects as well so they need to be used carefully, preferably after dark when other insects are not so active.  See our WiseGardening app and search for “pyrethrin” to see the risks to humans and other species of sprays containing pyrethrin.

Mosquito larvae can be killed or prevented from maturing by some commercially available products. There are liquid drops which coat water surfaces and can be applied to bodies of standing water.  Another is BTi (a variety of Bacillus thuringiensis) which contains bacteria that infect and kill larvae.  It is currently only available in large packs.  Both products appear to be safe to humans and other species.

Methods NOT Recommended

Devices such as zappers or traps which attract mosquitoes with light and/or carbon dioxide will kill mosquitoes, but also kill other insects.  General chemical insecticides have a similar disadvantage. When you search our app WiseGardening for “mosquitoes” you will see that even those listed specifically for mosquitoes carry moderate risks for other species.

The Future?

Given current climate and weather predictions, we will be facing more instances of long term changes in the natural environment resulting in threats to animal and human health due to disease vectors like mosquitoes moving south.  More and more we need to recognise how interlinked humans are to the world around us and how we need to take care of it.References

  1. Forsyth JE, Mutuku FM, Kibe L, Mwashee L, Bongo J, Egemba C, et al. 2020 Source reduction with a purpose: Mosquito ecology and community perspectives offer insights for improving household mosquito management in coastal Kenya. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 14(5): e0008239. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008239
  2. Reiter P. 2021. Climate Change and Mosquito-Borne Disease.. 2001. Environmental Health Perspectives•VOLUME109 |SUPPLEMENT1. Pp. 141 – 161.
  3. Takken W, Verhuls NO..Host Preferences of Blood-Feeding Mosquitoes.  Annu. Rev. Entomol.. 58:433–53.
  4. Mosquito-borne disease. 2022. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mosquito-borne-diseases
  5. Native Fish Australia 2022.https://www.nativefish.asn.au/
  6. Aquatic Invaders Identification Guide. 2012. https://www.fish.wa.gov.au/Documents/biosecurity/introduced-pests-guide-freshwater.pdf

Low Impact Pest Management 101 Video

Sustainable Gardening 101 Video Series

PART 3: Low Impact Pest Management

Gardens are the natural habitat for all types of insects – the good, the bad and the ugly. Learn how to avoid unnecessary chemical use by managing the pests in your garden by using nature and its resources to strengthen the balance towards the beneficial kind.

Topics Covered

  • Being a detective – identifying the culprits
  • Beneficial insects vs pests
  • Using barriers and cultural strategies

Information about risks and safety of commercial chemical pesticides is in SGA’s app WiseGardening – Choices to Protect You and the Planet.  Safety of home-made pesticides could not be included in that app due to unavailability of information about their soap, detergent and oil ingredients.  Always use them with caution.


August In Your Patch

Days are getting longer, but not yet much warmer.  Plants sense the changes in day length so, in temperate regions they are waking up, but further north the dramatic changes of the south do not occur.  In southern Australia, cool, clear nights, frosty mornings and plenty of rain can only mean one thing, it is August and the beginning of bud burst.   Regardless of where you live, here are some top gardening tips for your place in the month of August.

Warm Areas

Frost free or occasional light frosts (North from about Coffs Harbour and all the way across to the west to Geraldton)

Stick these into your veggie patch: rocket, silverbeet, spring onions, Chinese cabbage, mizuna, lettuce, parsley, zucchini, pumpkin, leeks and parsnip.

Why not try some lovely flowering plants in your patch as well, like: nasturtium, petunias, marigolds (French) and celosia. These are great at attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to your patch. If planning on putting in some tomatoes next month, prepare a bed now (your toms will thank you for it). Do this by popping in some organic compost, pelletised chook poo, a wee bit of water, and applying a straw mulch. This bed will be awesome come September… and you will have the greatest tomatoes in the street!

Consider a green manure crop to add some life and love to an overworked patch. At this time of year, try wheat, lablab or chickpea. Just like the tomato bed above, this will improve your soil incredibly, and, for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort!

Pruning and weeding is a must job to do at this time of year.

Top up mulch on your veggie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds. Choose sustainable, low environmental impact mulch, one that will enrich your soil as it breaks down.

Cool to Cold Areas

Low temperatures for extended periods of time (all of Tasmania, most of Victoria, the southern highlands of NSW, the ACT and a tiny southern bit of SA)

It’s your very last chance to put bare rooted trees in! Race down to the nursery now, and grab some fruit trees, including apples, pears, plums, peaches, and nectarines. Deciduous exotic trees can be planted in now also.

There’s a bit happening in the veggie patch, so you could try spinach, broad beans, Jerusalem artichokes (put them in a pot or they can take over!!), potatoes, peas, onions, parsley, cabbage, broccoli, rocket, silverbeet, cauliflower, lettuce, leek, Asian greens, radish, beetroot and parsnip.

Pruning and weeding is a top job to do at this time of year. Deciduous fruit trees love a big old haircut now, except your apricot!

Get spraying! To prevent peach leaf curl (which also effects Nectarines)

Top up mulch on your veggie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds. Choose sustainable, low environmental impact mulch, one that will enrich your soil as it breaks down.

Green manure crops (like faba beans or field peas) are good to go now…..improve that dormant veggie patch!

On really cold days, why not head out to the shed, and sharpen, clean, oil and maintain your garden tools. Sounds tedious, but it’s really rewarding, and will save you cash and plant illness in the long run.

Temperate Zones

Occasional winter frosts (pretty much the rest of Australia, most of the inland, some areas of Victoria, most of SA and the southern area of WA)

It’s time to get planting! There is some great plants you can put in now, once the frosts have gone. Try beetroot, lettuce, parsnip, peas, radish, celery (in a milk carton), leek, lettuce, onions, mizuna, mitsuba, seed potatoes, rocket, silverbeet, and spinach.

Top up mulch on your veggie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds. Choose sustainable, low environmental impact mulch, one that will enrich your soil as it breaks down.

If planning on putting in some tomatoes next month, prepare a bed now (your toms will thank you for it). Do this by popping in some organic compost, pelletised chook poo, a wee bit of water, and applying a straw mulch. This bed will be awesome come September… and you will have the greatest tomatoes in the street!

Pruning and weeding is a top job to do at this time of year. Deciduous fruit trees love a big old haircut now, except your apricot!

Green manure crops (like clover, barley, wheat or field peas) are good to go now… improve that dormant veggie patch!

On really cold days, why not head out to the shed, and sharpen, clean, oil and maintain your garden tools. Sounds tedious, but it’s really rewarding, and will save you cash and plant illness in the long run.

Of course, this is just a rough guide, and many of you will find your situation varies from the above listing due to microclimates created in your garden, location in relation to your nearest major city, extremes of weather (Mother Nature does like to keep us on our toes) and garden type. But the one thing that remains the same for all zones and regions is this: no matter the season, we can all garden more sustainably all year round

Happy gardening, see you next month!


September In Your Patch

September is fantastic for gardeners! So much to plant in most regions of the country.  In southern parts, the chill is almost gone from the mornings, and the afternoons are getting longer. Blossoms are bursting and you can smell spring in the air wherever you go. If you have been hibernating through winter now is the time to get out and into it.  Read on for some fabulous September gardening advice for your area.

Improve Your Soil
Prepare your Yummy Yard for spring planting by improving your soil. Lightly dig over the soil popping in plenty of organic matter including top-notch compost and well rotted manure. Don't forget to mulch the beds with a straw mulch. This bed will be awesome come planting time... and you will have the greatest Yummy Yard in the street!

Try some colour
Why not try some lovely colour in your patch as well like nasturtium, snapdragons, phlox, petunias, marigolds (French) and celosia. They are great at attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to your patch, and they look fantastic as well. Now is the time to plant some sunflower seeds. Find a sunny spot where you would like to see some happy sunflowers later in the year and plant the seeds to double the depth of the seed. Cover lightly with dirt and wait... they'll be popping their heads up in no time!

Citrus Gall Wasp
Check your citrus trees for gall wasp and remove affected sections by pruning well below the gall. Don't compost this or put it in the green waste bin.  It's a good idea to cut through the gall to expose the larvae to air - which they hate - before putting it in a bag and popping in the rubbish bin.  Or you could soak the galls in water for a week or two - or burn them (if your local Council permits).

Other things you can do are to hang sticky yellow traps on the tree in mid-August as they attract and trap the emerging adults, but make sure you take the traps down by November as they also kill beneficial insects.

Do not use a fertiliser that is high in nitrogen, as this promotes soft growth which provides ideal conditions for the wasp.  Use a balanced fertiliser or compost.

A biological form of control - introducing wasps that prey on citrus gall wasp - is used in orchards and home gardens. Megastigmus brevivalvus and Megastigmus trisulcus are natural enemies of citrus gall wasp. They lay their eggs inside the eggs of the citrus gall wasp and when their eggs hatch they destroy the host.

Megastigus brevivalvus is sold to home gardeners in some states, but it is only available for a two-week window around October/November. If you are able to get some of the parasitic wasps, they must be released soon after the citrus gall wasps have emerged.

This is your absolute last chance to do something about gall wasp before they hatch out and take over the world, so don't put action off!

Mulch Now!
Top up mulch on your veggie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds. Choose a sustainable, low environmental impact mulch, one that will enrich your soil as it breaks down.

Look after your tools
On really cold days, why not head out to the shed and sharpen, clean, oil and maintain your garden tools. Sounds tedious, but it's really rewarding, and will save you cash and plant illness in the long run.

Indoor Plants
Now is a great time to re-pot your Indoor Plants. Give them a bit of a feed with a seaweed tonic afterwards to keep them happy.

Below you will find more information that is specific to different regions and climates in Australia.

Warm Areas

Frost free or occasional light frosts (North from about Coffs Harbour and all the way across to the west to Geraldton)

  • Spring into it! There is so much ready to go, so why not plant some rocket, silverbeet, spring onions, Chinese cabbage, mizuna, lettuce, tatsoi, zucchini, pumpkin, leeks, capsicum, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes and watermelon.
  • In the herb patch, pop in some parsley, sweet basil, chamomile, dill, coriander, marjoram, oregano, catnip and thyme. Also try mint, but keep it in a pot, as it has a tendency to take over.
  • Feeling fruity? It's time to plant passionfruit, paw paw, avocados, banana, citrus and macadamias. If your tastes are a little more exotic, try putting in a guava... they're tough plants and the fruit is sensational!
  • Consider a green manure crop to add some life and love to an overworked patch. At this time of year, try millet, lablab, amaranth or mung bean. This will improve your soil incredibly and you'll find it well worth the effort! Green manure crops like faba beans, barley, lupin, wheat or field peas are also good to go now.

Cool to Cold Areas

Low temperatures for extended periods of time (all of Tasmania, most of Victoria, the southern highlands of NSW, the ACT and a tiny southern bit of SA)

  • There's a bit happening in the veggie patch so you could try leeks, onions, parsley, parsnips, cauliflower, peas, radish, silverbeet, lettuce, swedes and turnips. Don't you just love the start of spring?
  • Don't get over excited... it's too early for tomatoes just yet!
  • In the herb patch pop in some chamomile, dill, coriander, echinacea, catnip and thyme. Also try lemon balm but keep it in a pot, as it has a tendency to take over! Plant these after the frost risk has passed.
  • Green manure crops like faba beans, barley, lupin, wheat or field peas are good to go now... improve that dormant veggie patch!

Temperate Zones

Occasional winter frosts (pretty much the rest of Australia, most of the inland, some areas of Victoria, most of SA and the southern area of WA)

  • Leap into springtime gardening, especially in your veggie patch! Try celery, silverbeet, lettuces, leeks, spring onions, climbing beans, cucumber, sweet corn, tomato, carrot, Jeruslaum artichokes and radishes. Wait until the frosts have finished.
  • Get into herbs in the 'burbs with parsley, chives, catnip, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme and marjoram.
  • Feeling fruity? It's time to plant blueberries, passionfruit, paw paw, avocados, banana, citrus trees, olives (non-weedy varieties). If your tastes are a little more exotic, try putting in a guava... they're tough plants and the fruit is sensational!
  • Green manure crops like chick pea and barley are good to go now... improve that dormant veggie patch!

Of course, this is just a rough guide, and many of you will find your situation varies from the above due to microclimates created in your garden, location in relation to your nearest major city, extremes of weather and garden type.

Happy springtime gardening, see you next month!

Information source:
Bagnall, Lyn, Easy organic gardening and moon planting, published by Scribe Publications, VIC.

Photos:

Peach Blossom - Tracey Martin
Garde in Girl - Elaine Shallue

 


October In Your Patch

With the weather warming up nicely, there’s no better place to be than the backyard. October is a huge month in the patch. With so many varieties to plant, you’ll be struggling to get it all done. So, welcome to October, a fine time to be in any sort of garden. Remember to use all your senses in the garden. Watch for pest issues, feel for soil moisture, smell your soil, and... most importantly... taste the fruits (or vegetables) of your labours. Let’s get into it...

Weeding
Weeding is a great job to do at this time of year. Cut down the competition between your tasty treats and these space invaders, and tidy up your patch. It may sound tedious, but it’s incredibly rewarding. While the kids are on school holidays, why not give them a "buck a bucket" for each bucket of weeds they remove? It gets them out in the sun, having fun and learning about nature.

Tomatoes
It’s time to plant everyone’s favourite – tomatoes. By now your soil should be good and ready, so head to the local garden centre, pick a few varieties, and get going. This is the moment we have all be waiting for. Don’t forget their mates Basil and French Marigolds. They are great companions, and no tomato patch is complete without them.

Sunflowers
Now is the time to plant some sunflower seeds. Find a sunny spot where you would like to see some happy sunflowers later in the year, and plant the seeds to double the depth of the seed. Cover lightly with dirt and wait... they’ll be popping their heads up in no time!

Remember to mulch

Top up mulch on your veggie patches, herb gardens and ornamental beds. Choose a sustainable, low environmental impact mulch that will enrich your soil as it breaks down.

Tools
On non gardening days head out to the shed, and sharpen, clean, oil and maintain your garden tools. It’s really rewarding and will save you money and plant problems in the long run.

Green Manure
Consider a green manure crop to add some life and love to an overworked garden. At this time of year, try clover, pigeon pea or soybean. This will improve your soil incredibly and you'll find it well worth the effort. Young wheat is great too, it is used to make wheat grass... an incredibly vile tasting but very beneficial health tonic. Green manure crops, including clover, barley, millet and wheat are good to go now to improve that dormant veggie patch and get ready for next season’s heavy feeding plants.

Warm Areas

Frost free or occasional light frosts (North from about Coffs Harbour and all the way across to the west to Geraldton)

Why not give these a try: capsicum, spring onions, cucumber, pumpkins, squash, zucchini, rosella, sweet corn, eggplant and watermelon.

For some super herbs try basil (both sweet and purple), parsley, sage, pyrethrum, lemongrass, oregano, rue and marjoram. Mint is ready to go, but you might want to keep it in a nice sized pot to prevent a serious mint invasion.

Feeling fruity? There is still time to plant passionfruit, paw paw, avocados, banana, citrus, and macadamias. If your tastes are a little more exotic try putting in a guava.

Why not try some flowering plants as well. Try nasturtium, dianthus, Livingstone daisies, verbena, snapdragons, petunias, chrysanthemums, Shasta daisies, marigolds (French) or celosia. These are all great at attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to your garden.

Cool to Cold Areas

Low temperatures for extended periods of time (all of Tasmania, most of Victoria, the southern highlands of NSW, the ACT and a tiny southern bit of SA)

Get planting these tasty treats: cabbage, celery, leeks, lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions, Brussels sprouts, capsicums, chillies, eggplants, and beetroot. For big patches, why not try a globe artichoke? Tough and tasty... what a combo.

Go crazy with climbing beans. Why not build a trellis or archway in your patch, and grow these green machines over the top. It looks awesome, doesn’t take up much space, and makes it easier to pick the beans.

In the herb patch, try some parsley, calendula, chamomile, marigolds, oregano, pyrethrum, rue, sage, rosemary, thyme, and Echinacea. Also try lemon balm and mint, but keep them in a pot, as they have a tendency to take over.

Why not try some aurora and Livingstone daisies, pansies, violas, snapdragons, verbena, marigolds, cornflowers, petunias and phlox. These guys are great at attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to your garden.

Temperate Zones

Occasional winter frosts (pretty much the rest of Australia, most of the inland, some areas of Victoria, most of SA and the southern area of WA)

Try artichoke, beetroots, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, chillies, eggplants, French beans, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuce, parsnip, potatoes, sweet corn and watermelon!

For some herbs try basil (both sweet and purple), parsley, sage, pyrethrum, lemongrass, oregano, rue and marjoram. Mint is ready to go, but you might want to keep it in a nice sized pot, just to prevent serious mint invasion!

Why not try some nasturtium, dianthus, Livingstone daisies, verbena, snapdragons, petunias, chrysanthemums, Shasta daisies, marigolds (French) and celosia. These guys are great at attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to your patch.

Of course, this is just a rough guide, and many of you will find your situation varies from the above listing, due to microclimates created in your garden, location in relation to your nearest major city, extremes of weather and garden type. But the one thing that remains the same for all zones and regions is this: sustainable gardening doesn’t mean no maintenance gardening… so spend some time, pull some weeds, and enjoy your patch of paradise!

Happy October gardeners, see you next month!

Information sources:
Bagnall, Lyn, Easy organic gardening and moon planting, published by Scribe Publications, VIC.
McFarlane, Annette, Organic Vegetable Gardening, published by ABC Books, Sydney, NSW.

Pictures
Tomato pic: Mary Trigger (SGA)
Sunflower pic: Elaine Shallue (SGA)
Pomegranate pic: Elaine Shallue (SGA)


Cabbage White Butterfly

Hi, my name is: Cabbage White Butterfly

Describe yourself: I am quite a striking white butterfly, Pieris rapae, with two lovely grey/black spots on my wings. Don't confuse me with Pieris brassicae which is a little smaller and has a slightly different black pattern on its wings or with other unrelated moths with similar appearance.  I'm probably the most common butterfly in your home garden. In my youthful (but destructive) days, I am a silky, blue-green colour... very attractive, if I say so myself!

Hobbies: I love laying eggs all over your plants and watching my beautiful larvae destroy your garden!

Likes: Cabbages, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chinese cabbages, cauliflower, celery, beetroot, rocket and watercress.

Dislikes: Really smelly herbs, like dill, sage and coriander. I can't stand other Cabbage White Butterflies on my turf! My larvae hate birds, being handpicked off plants, Assassin Bugs, Green Mantids, Paper Wasps, Lacewings and Ladybirds. I hate insecticidal soaps (like home made chilli soap), or store bought stuff. I can't stand Bacillius thuringiensis bacteria (Dipel) ... this stuff makes me sick!


You'll know you've met me when: My larvae munch through the leaves of your favourite cabbage (and related) plants. They leave massive holes in the outer leaves, and heaps of delightful green poo around the place!

If you want to dump me, you could try to:

  • Spray your plants' leaves with water and knock me and my mates right off our perch!
  • Pay your neighbours' kids to come round and wipe me off with a stick!
  • Collect me in a bucket and feed me to the chooks!
  • Encourage or release some of my well known enemies like Assassin Bugs, Lady Birds and Lacewings.
  • Release some Bacillius thuringiensis bacteria to kill me and all members of my family. (It hurts no others!) You can buy this pre-packaged in your local nursery
  • Cover your edible crops with fine mesh or similar. Then my beautiful mum can't land and lay her eggs.
  • Scatter eggshells around the garden... I get confused and lay my eggs on them!
  • Cut up some old with plastic bags, and tie small "bow ties" to the top of thin bamboo stakes. A few of these around the garden look just like Cabbage White Butterflies, and will scare us off!
  • Plant smelly herbs to confuse me such as sage, dill and coriander.
  • Plant land cress Barbarea verna (it has a lot of common names like "early yellow rocket" 1 and sometimes confused with Barbarea vulgaris) somewhere else in the garden.  This plant attracts the butterflies to lay their eggs.  When the caterpillars hatch, they can die from being parasitised by some insects, particularly a wasp, Cotesia rubecola which was introduced into Australia in 1960 and New Zealand in 1993 to control cabbage whites 2,3.  Or when you see caterpillars on the plants you could pull them out, bag and bin them.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbarea_verna
  2. Cameron PJ. Walker GP. Field Evaluation of Cotesia rubecula (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), an Introduced Parasitoid of Pieris rapae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae) in New Zealand. 2002. Environmental Entomology, Volume 31 (2): 367–374,   https://doi.org/10.1603/0046-225X-31.2.367
  3. Dempster, JP. 1967. The Control of Pieris rapae with DDT. I. The Natural Mortality of the Young Stages of Pieris. Journal of Applied Ecology 4 (2): 485–500. doi:2307/2401350

 

Banner image:  By John Tann from Sydney, Australia - Cabbage white butterfly, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38233633