Friday, October 3, 2014

Sandstone pathways

Here is an example of a pathway we just compleated in Pymble.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Good bugs and bad bugs. Why we have so many bad bugs in Sydney

An important strategy for organic gardeners is to enhance and maximise the natural biological controls already present in a garden ecosystem. Does your garden provide a nectar source for beneficial, pest-controlling insects? Planting particular flowers and herbs known as insectary plants has been proven to improve the natural balance and reduce pest outbreaks.

The Zeal group provide a Good Bug Mix containing colourful re-seeding annual and perennial flowers including red clover, alyssum, cosmos, marigolds, Queen Anne's Lace, buckwheat, lucerne, dill, caraway, coriander and phacelia (when available), gypsophila. It blooms much of the year, providing nectar, pollen and habitat for wild and introduced beneficial insects, such as predatory mites and tiny micro wasps, ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies, tachnid flies and predatory beetles. These beneficial insects or 'good bugs' are generally small with correspondingly small mouthparts, so they are only able to feed on particular flowers with suitable attributes. By providing a plentiful food supply the 'good bugs' live longer and reproduce more. As well as a good ground cover to keep your weeds down in garden beds.

Sydney has become " tones of Green centric", which is only good forbad bugs. So for the love of God Sydney wake up to color and get good bug friendly in your gardens.


Growing flowers will not only add colour and beauty to your garden, but will have other, more subtle benefits. Flowers are always beautiful but keep in mind that so far, there are few, if any, organic cut flowers being offered and you may unknowingly be introducing chemical contamination to your home. So, always consider growing your own!

Flowers also provide a food source for honey bees. You can find information on growing bee forage here.

Calendula 'Maayan Orange' Organically certified


Calendula officinalis

syn. English Marigold

Calendula 'Maayan Orange'; is a hardy annual flower, to 60 cm high, with bright, glowing blooms of a dark orange hue. It flowers for a long period during winter and spring, particularly if regularly deadheaded. Calendula will tolerate any soil in full sun, although it prefers a moderate to rich loam. It has a long history of use for its medicinal properties and as a yellow dye. The flower petals can be used as a substitute for saffron and may be added to salads. The flowers are also used in skin and cosmetic preparations. Sow late summer and autumn, it takes about 8-10 weeks from sowing to flowering. Suitable for temperate and subtropical areas.


Cornflower 'Blue'



Centaurea cyanus


A hardy, annual flower to 1m high with pretty blue flowers on grey-green foliage. A useful flower for attracting bees and butterflies and as a long-lasting cut flower. A native of Europe, it prefers a well-drained soil in a sunny position, with protection from wind. Suitable for temperate and subtropical areas. Sow seed from March to September.


Cosmos bipinnatus var. cosmicos


'Sea Shells' is a beautiful cosmos, the rolled, tubular petals are unusual and are thought to look like sea shells. It blooms in shades of pink, red and white; a good background plant that grows over a metre tall. Feathery foliage fills plants in from top to bottom creating a bushy look. A native of Mexico, it prefers a sunny position with protection from wind. Also useful in the orchard as a bee forage and nectar source for beneficial insects. Suitable for temperate and subtropical areas.


Larkspur 'Galilee Blue' Organically certified


Consolida ajacis

Larkspurs are tall annuals (1 - 1.5 m) with finely cut feathery foliage and double blue flowers Tall flower spikes are produced in early summer that are excellent for cut flowers or the back of garden beds. Sow seed in autumn, it requires a cool temperature (13°C) to germinate well.


Nigella damascena


'Miss Jekyll Indigo Blue' is a frost-hardy, annual cottage garden plant with rich, indigo blue, starry flowers nestled in fine foliage. It can be used as cut flower and lasts 7 to 10 days in a vase; the seed pods can also be dried. It is upright and fast growing, 40 to 60 cm high with a spread of 20 cm. It is attractive to bees and beneficial insects. The seeds were once stored with clothing and believed to repel insects. It prefers to grow in full sun in a rich, well-drained soil. If seed pods are left to develop, then self-sowing is common the next year. Sow late summer to early autumn in temperate and subtropical areas.


Marigold 'Fiesta' HTagetes patula


'Fiesta' is a French marigold with dark tawny red and lemon bi-coloured flowers that bloom for a long period and will brighten any garden. Use as an edging along garden beds or in pots. Marigold petals are edible and can be used to decorate salads.

Marigolds have long been believed to be a helpful addition to the organic garden. It is now known they have a role in suppressing soil diseases such as Verticillium Wilt and nematodes. This can be achieved by interplanting susceptible crops such as tomatoes with marigolds. It is also useful in nematode control if the plants are chopped up at the end of summer and dug through the soil. Here is information on nematodes. Sow spring and summer, autumn in frost-free areas only. Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.



Marigold 'Sparky' H x


Tagetes patula

'Sparky' is a French marigold mix of tawny red and gold bi-coloured flowers that bloom for a long period and will brighten any garden. Use as an edging along garden beds or in pots. Marigold petals are edible and can be used to decorate salads.

Marigolds have long been believed to be a helpful addition to the organic garden. It is now known they have a role in suppressing soil diseases such as Verticillium Wilt and nematodes. This can be achieved by interplanting susceptible crops such as tomatoes with marigolds. It is also useful in nematode control if the plants are chopped up at the end of summer and dug through the soil. Here is information on nematodes. Sow spring and summer, autumn in frost-free areas only. Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.


Nasturtium 'Jewel Mixed' Organically certified


Tropaeolum majus

'Jewel Mix' has sweetly scented flowers in yellow, orange, salmon and deep red that bloom for a long period. Leaves are lily-pad shaped and bright green. A wide range of uses include: ornamental in hanging baskets; as a hardy groundcover under fruit trees; as a salad leaf with a tangy, watercress-like flavour; as an edible flower or garnish; as an edible seed used as a ‘caper’ substitute. Sow spring and summer, autumn in frost-free areas only. Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.


Nasturtium 'Empress of India'


Tropaeolum majus

A Victorian heirloom flower with vibrant, long spurred, crimson-scarlet flowers that stand out against the dark blue-green foliage. Plants are compact and suitable for containers and hanging baskets. A wide range of other uses includes: as a hardy groundcover under fruit trees; as a salad leaf with a tangy, watercress-like flavour; as an edible flower or garnish; as an edible seed used as a ‘caper’ substitute. Sow spring and summer, autumn in frost-free areas only. Suitable for temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.



Phacelia tanacetifolia


syn. Californian Bluebell

Phacelia is hardy and easy-to-grow with pretty, fragrant, lavender-blue flowers with delicate, fern-like foliage. It has a wide range of uses in the organic garden; as an insectary plant it will improve biological control by attracting hoverflies that control aphids; it smothers weeds and the extensive root system will improve the soil structure; the flowers are excellent bee forage. It is also a good cut flower and has a long vase-life with strong stems. Sow spring in temperate areas; autumn and early winter in subtropical areas. It is unlikely to germinate well in tropical areas.

Queen Anne's Lace Organically certified

Ammi visnaga

Annual cottage garden plant to 1.5m, lacy white flower head; attracts assassin bugs, lacewings, predatory wasps; self-sows; great for orchards and garden edges. Sow spring, autumn (frost tolerant). Suitable for temperate and subtropical areas.


Growing Sunflowers

Helianthus annuus

Sunflowers add joy to a summer garden, attract colourful king parrots and the flower petals are edible and brighten up a salad. The tall plants provide support for climbing beans and are useful as a summer windbreak. Sunflowers are a must for a child's garden, the sheer size of the plants and the way the flowers follow the sun are intriguing for kids. It is a warm season, frost tender annual, usually 2 - 3 m tall. The seeds germinate best at 20 - 25°C; sow spring and summer most areas. The seeds take 10 - 14 days to germinate but are vulnerable to being eaten by birds and rodents. Protect the seed with an upturned pot until the seed has germinated. Sow seed 6 - 10 mm deep in full sun, direct into a garden bed is best. Soil required is fertile, well-drained; with a preferred pH 5.5 - 7.5. Plants do better with consistent moisture. Space rows 60 cm apart with 50 - 60 cm between plants. Protect seedlings from snails, slugs and grasshoppers.

Sunflower 'Evening Sun'

'Evening Sun' has beautiful, large flowers in autumn shades of orange, russet-bronze, mahogany-red and gold with dark centres. The multiple heads provide an extended bloom period. A great variety for cutting; the plants grow 1.8 - 2.4m tall.


Sunflower 'Cosmic Flame'

'Cosmic Flame' is a single head, fast maturing sunflower that makes a great addition to the summer flower garden. The flower head is very striking with rich, deep golden yellow petals with a dark, contrasting centre. The plants grow 1.2m tall. This is an F1 hybrid so is not suitable for seed saving.


Sunflower 'Sunbird' Organically certified

'Sunbird' produces a large, grey-striped sunflower seed which is excellent as human food or poultry forage. Sunbird is both drought tolerant and disease resistant. The plants grow 2 - 2.5m tall.


Sweet Alice

Lobularia maritima

syn. Alyssum

Sweet smelling clusters of tiny flowers, ideal as a groundcover, trials in the USA prove this to be an extremely useful insectary plant; no organic garden should be without it! It is frost and drought tolerant. Sow spring, autumn in warmer areas. Suitable for temperate and subtropical areas.


Sweet Alice Benthamii

Lobularia maritima ssp benthamii

‘Subspecies benthamii’ is a hardier, more vigorous form of alyssum used mainly for its ability to attract beneficial insects to cropping systems. It is sown in the inter-row spaces of vineyards and orchards and as a row between crops in vegetable market gardens. It is easy to grow, drought tolerant, and it will self-sow readily and flower over a long period. Use 1g of seed per 2m2 (2500 seeds/g).

Growing Sweetpeas

Lathyrus odoratus

Sweetpeas are a beautiful annual fragrant flower for the cooler times of the year. It is suitable for temperate and subtropical areas. There are both dwarf and climbing types. Usually the climbing types are less prone to mildew and flower over a longer period. Generally if it is the right time to plant peas then same goes for sweetpeas. Sow seed in early temperate and subtropical areas. The best germination soil temperature is between 4.5 - 21°C. Germination will take 6 - 14 days. Seed should be soaked in water 12 - 24 hours before sowing. Sow direct into garden bed to 2 - 2.5 cm deep. Space seeds 8 cm apart along the row. Lightly mulch seed rows to prevent crusting. Choose a position in full sun, sheltered from wind. Soil should be rich, fertile, well drained, with a pH of 6.5 - 7. Lime if necessary several weeks before sowing. Improve the soil before planting by adding compost. Once in flower remove spent flowers and young pods to prolong flowering. Pick early in the morning as a delightful cut flower.

Sweetpea 'Old Spice' Organically certified

An intensely fragrant heirloom variety, dating back to 1699 from England via Sicily. The flowers are smaller than modern strains but make up for it with a wonderful smell and excellent heat resistance. They bloom with a predominantly purple and crimson bicolour but may include other shades of white, pink, crimson, blue, lavender and cream. It is a climbing variety to 1.5m so a trellis is


Sweetpea 'Mammoth Choice' Organically certified

'Mammoth Choice' is an early-flowering, highly productive, climbing sweetpea. Large, fragrant blooms in shades of lavender, blue, rose pink, salmon pink, white and burgundy are borne on strong stems. A beautiful addition to any flower garden and wonderful as a cut flower. It withstands heat and drought unusually well. It is a climbing variety 1.5 to 1.8m so a trellis is required.


Viola 'Sorbet'

Viola cornuta

Viola 'Sorbet' is an annual, low growing flower to 20 - 22 cm high; it is an early, profuse bloomer with 3.5 cm flowers in shades of blackberry, blueberry, vanilla, lemon and lavender. Violas are a delightful cool season flower for edging or containers. It is suitable for temperate and subtropical areas. Sow late autumn to early spring. Our top pick as an edible flower; decorative, tasty and nutritious. Flowers are high in vitamin C, leaves in vitamin A. Use the flowers and young leaves in salads. Pick flowers as soon as they are fully open to use in the kitchen. The best germination soil temperature is between 17 - 20°C. Germination will take 4 - 7 days. Sow seed 3 mm deep in seedling trays for later transplanting. Transplant 15 - 20 cm apart. It is frost resistant but drought tender. Dead-head regularly to prolong flowering. Days to flowering: 60 - 70. This is an F1 hybrid so is not suitable for seed saving.


Zinnia 'Red Beauty' Organically certified

Zinnia elegans

Zinnias are hardy, summer flowering annuals from America. ‘Red Beauty’ has very large, 11 cm across, brilliant, dark red, dahlia-like blooms on strong stems 50 - 60 cm long. It is an excellent cut flower. Flowers are long lasting both in the garden and vase. Disease resistant plants.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How to Grow Chervil

How to Grow Chervil

Grown mainly for its bright green, feathery leaves, chervil is a hardy biennial herb, normally grown as an annual.


The plant looks rather like parsley and its fresh leaves are used in much the same way – it has a delicate, sweet anise flavour with a hint of parsley. A native of southeastern Europe and western Asia, it grows to 30–45 cm tall and bears clusters of white flowers in midsummer. Successional sowing and growing indoors in winter will give you a year-round supply.

Planning the crop

Early- and late-sown plants will thrive in full sun, but those grown in summer benefit from partial shade in hot, dry areas. The herb will do well in any soil provided the drainage is good.

How much to grow- The best way to grow chervil is as a short-term crop, making four to six sowings at intervals throughout the year and using only tender young leaves. In this way, you’ll have plenty of leaves if you grow five or six plants at any one time. Chervil will grow well in pots and window boxes.

Growing tips

Sow the seeds 5 mm deep in an open seedbed at any time between spring and late summer. Allow 30 cm between rows if you are sowing more than one row, and thin the seedlings to about 30 cm spacings. Water the plants in dry weather and remove flowering stems as soon as they appear. This will not only encourage the growth of young, tender leaves for a longer period, it will also prevent self-sown seedlings from sprouting like weeds in the surrounding soil. However, if you want to collect seeds for later use, let one of the heads mature and then gather the ripe seeds before they fall.

Herbs for winter- Chervil can be grown outdoors in most districts during winter. Alternatively, plant two or three seeds in a 15 cm pot filled with seed compost. Remove all but the strongest seedling and grow it on the kitchen windowsill for a supply of fresh leaves throughout winter.

Pests and diseases

Chervil is usually trouble-free.

Harvesting and storing

Cut or pick the leaves six to eight weeks after sowing. The leaves are too tender for drying but can be preserved by freezing.

From: Grow Your Own Fruit & Vegetables The Easy Way

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Greenhouse Vegetable Plants: Growing Vegetables In A Hobby Greenhouse

If you’re like most gardeners, you’re probably ready to get your hands on some dirt by the middle of winter. If you install a hobby greenhouse next to your home, you may be able to make that wish come true virtually every day of the year.

Growing vegetables in a hobby greenhouse allows them to extend the season, sometimes by months, giving you a year-round gardening opportunity. While you can’t grow all vegetables in a greenhouse 12 months of the year, you can plant cool-weather vegetables and let them grow through the worst of the winter weather with a simple heating system installed.

How to Grow Vegetables in a Greenhouse

Greenhouse vegetable plants may end up growing faster and stronger than those grown in a traditional garden, because you will be giving them the ideal environment for growth. When it’s below freezing outside, passive solar collectors and small heaters can leave the interior of a greenhouse cool but perfectly liveable for most spring vegetables. In the heat of the summer, fans and other cooling units can protect tender plants from the scorching heat of a southern climate.

You can grow greenhouse vegetable plants directly in the soil inside the enclosure, but container gardening is a more efficient use of space. You can take advantage of all three dimensions by placing planters on shelves, using trellis systems for vine plants and hanging planters for smaller vines, such as cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

Winter Vegetable Growing

Growing winter veggies for greenhouses is possible because most cool-season plants can tolerate temperatures near freezing, as long as their soil isn’t muddy. Container gardening solves that problem by giving the plants a perfect mix of potting soil.

If you’re planning on winter vegetable growing when building your greenhouse, add a passive solar collector such as a wall of black-painted water jugs. This will collect solar heat during the day and reflect it into the greenhouse at night, helping to prevent freezing. Add an additional small heater, either propane or electric, for the coldest days of the year.

Once you have the greenhouse built, experiment with plant placement for the best growing conditions for each variety. Cool season plants such as peas, lettuce, broccoli, carrots and spinach all have slightly different needs, and moving them around in the enclosure is the best way to find what works best with each plant.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lilac care

If you can't plant the lilac right away, soak the roots as described above, then plant the lilac temporarily in a holding bed. Set the lilac at an angle ("heeled") and entirely pack the roots with soil. Add additional soil and keep the soil moist until you are ready to plant.

There are four important areas of lilac care:





Choosing the planting site: Avoid planting lilacs along walls or among large trees (or trees that will grow tall). Use complementary shrubs, plants, or other garden outcroppings to enhance the appearance before and after bloom. Space lilacs no less than 6 to 10 feet apart. Crowding requires more frequent and drastic pruning.

Sunlight: Make good use of available sunlight; try a south or southwest spot out of the way of doors or windows. Lilacs require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily. The amount of sunlight dictates the appearance, color, and quantity of bloom. Too much sunlight is better than not enough.

Drainage: Good drainage is characterized by the soil's ability to retain sufficient moisture to nourish the root system while still being able to drain off excess moisture. Lilacs do not thrive in soggy soil.

Before planting, try digging a hole about 8 inches in diameter by 12 inches deep. Fill the hole with water. If the water has not drained after one hour, improve the drainage or move the plant to another site.

To improve drainage:

Remove the topsoil from the actual planting site (an area equal to 2 to 3 times the lilac's root system) and reserve.

Mix sand and/or fine gravel 6 to 10 inches deep into the subsoil (not the topsoil)

Mix the reserved topsoil with peat, vermiculite or other porous amendment to cover the root system when the lilac is planted.


The planting hole should be deep and wide enough to accommodate the plant's root system. We recommend adding compost, bonemeal or an all-purpose fertilizer to the planting hole. If your soil is acidic, add some garden lime.

When planting, place the top of the root ball level with the surface of the hole. If the lilac is bareroot, the top layer of roots should be a few inches below the surface. When filling in with soil, it is important to water well, but do not flood, and avoid compacting the soil around the root system. The idea is to remove air pockets, yet keep the soil porous.

Remember to water your lilacs regularly throughout the summer. During the dry season, water more frequently to keep the leaves robust, not limp.


Fertilizer should be applied at the base of the plant early each spring to help provide the plant with nutrients for the coming year. Buds are set the previous year so the fertilizer will feed this year's leaves and next year's bloom. We recommend our Organic Flower Fertilizer.

Lilacs love a sweet soil. If your soil is acidic, adding garden lime in the fall will help the soil stay alkaline.


Using mulch will help hold water in the soil and reduce heat stress. If you see the leaves getting limp during summer it is a sign that the plant needs to be watered.


If you have a repeat-blooming variety, such as Josée, deadheading will will stimulate the production of new flower and leaf buds. All lilac varieties benefit from annual deadheading.


Lilacs do not require annual pruning, but cutting off blooms from main stems within a week after blooms have faded will help the plant concentrate on preparing more flower buds and not seeds. If your lilacs become too tall, and the number of blooms declines, you can rejuvenate the plant by cutting one-third of all main stems that have a diameter of at least 1.5 inches.

Cut these main stems down to 12 to 15 inches from the soil. This will stimulate the growth of new shoots. Pruning in this way over a three-year period will refresh the plant while it still continues to flower.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Growing Almond Trees

– Information On The Care Of Almond Trees


Cultivated as early as 4,000 B.C., almonds are native to central and southwest Asia and were introduced to California in the 1840’s. Almonds (Prunus dolcis) are prized for use in candies, baked goods, and confections and for the oil processed from the nut. These stone fruits from growing almond trees are also reputed to aid in a number of physical ills and are used in folk remedies for everything from cancer treatment to corns to ulcers.


How to Grow an Almond Tree


When growing almond trees, it is helpful to know that the trees do not tolerate wet soil and are extremely susceptible to spring frost. They thrive in mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers in full sun. If your region does not fall within these parameters, it is unlikely an almond tree will set fruit for you.

Additionally, very few varieties of almond tree are self fertile and, therefore, need cross pollination for fruit production. So, you will need to plant at least two trees. If space is at a premium, you can even plant two in the same hole, wherein the trees will grow together and intertwine, allowing the flowers to cross pollinate.



Almond trees are deep rooted and should be planted in deep, fertile and well draining sandy loam. Almond trees should be planted 19-26 feet apart and irrigated despite the fact that the trees are drought tolerant. An application of nitrogen and organic fertilizer will aid in growth. These trees have high nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) requirements.

To plant the almond tree, dig a hole wider than deep and make sure the roots fit easily into the depth of the hole, then water in deeply. You may need to stake the little tree if you live in a windy area, but remove the stakes after a year or so to allow the tree proper growth.


Care of Almond Trees


Almond tree care varies according to the season. In the winter or dormant season, the growing almond trees should be pruned (December/January) to promote growth, allow light, and remove any dead or diseased limbs or suckers. Clean the area of debris around the tree to eliminate overwintering navel orange worms and spray with dormant oil to kill peach twig borer, San Jose scale and mite eggs.

During the spring bloom season, care of almond trees should include fertilization of mature trees with urea or manure, watered in or small doses of nitrogen for young trees. Drip irrigation should be initiated daily with the trees needing 2-3 inches of water. If the tree is planted in shallow or sandy soil, it will need more water.

During the summer, continue to irrigate and fertilize at the same rate as the spring application up until harvest.


Harvesting Almond Tree Fruit


The harvesting of almond tree fruit occurs after the hulls split and the shell becomes dry and brown in color. Almonds need 180-240 days for nuts to mature wherein the nut (embryo and shell) has dried to minimum moisture content.

To harvest the almonds, shake the tree, then separate the hulls from the nut. Freeze your almond nuts for 1-2 weeks to kill any residual worms and then store in plastic bags.