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

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.