Monday, April 07, 2014

March 2014 Garden News

The first gardening presentation for the month was to the Clairmont Garden Club situated at Park Ridge, and then we had a bus load from the Gold Coast Rose Society and finally a presentation to the Maleny Garden Club.

On our way to Maleny everything was brown, not a blade of green grass anywhere, we start climbing towards Maleny and everything suddenly turns green, wow what a sight for sore eyes.
The presentation went very well, the members were very friendly and said my presentation was the best they have had, which was very nice.
We left Maleny Garden Club and were nearly wiped out by an oncoming vehicle whose back wheels lost traction and headed towards us, fortunately it was a near miss and we escaped unscathed.
We then headed to see Maureen Simons at Mt Towen Tropicals to (yes, you guessed it) to buy some more gingers and Heliconia’s.
What a busy month it has been with lots of new work done in the garden, first job was to dig all the Day Lilys out then remove all the old soil and replace with new, then replant the Day Lilys.

My second major job was to pull apart the ‘Caladium Corner’ and completely start again and making it much bigger and tidier, this involved taking out all the old pavers, rocks and sleepers making the pathway longer and putting pebbles in.

I then replaced some of the rocks and sleepers making the ground level much higher and level, pointed between the rocks and then filling up with soil.

I had just finished replacing all the rocks in the garden pathways (1000s) raising them up and making them straight and building up the soil behind them.

I have now started another project, but that can wait to April’s blog post.

Up to the 25th March we were dry with virtually NO summer rain, well we finally received 100 mills which was most welcome, we finally have some water in our tanks, not full but great anyway. Now we are just hoping for some follow up rain.
It truly amazes me how quickly plants adapt after rain the grass is green and growing and the garden plants are looking healthier than they have done for the past eight months.
I have done quite a bit of replanting in the garden and hopefully with a little rain in the spring the garden will look great for our opening.

The last eight months has been a very stressful time with rain coming only three times.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

February 2014 Garden News

Firstly I would like to say thank you to the 100,000 plus readers from across the world (over 105 countries) for supporting this gardening blog.
Well, summer is over and what a summer it has been.
I have never known gardening times to be so bad, even worse than in the drought.
Summer is supposed to be our wet season where we get all our tanks filled so we can last the dry winter.
Not this year, it has only rained twice in the last three months and even then there was not enough moisture to soak through the mulch.
Our Grandchildren always like to help.
Since last July it rained twice in November, once in January and one spit in February.
All our seven tanks are empty and we are now using town water to keep our plants alive.
Whoever said gardening was a relaxing hobby?
My torch Gingers are looking shocking, someone said they had a borer but on inspection I cannot find any sign of borer, anyway I am spraying them with Crown 225 systemic spray to try and save them. Hopefully it will work.

I gave two gardening presentations during the month, one to ‘Indooroopilly Garden Club’ and one to the ‘Society for growing potted plants’.

With the latter club I was able to call into a fruit shop at New Farm and purchase some ‘Achachas ‘ which is a new fruit from North Queensland and tasted great.
WE have to dig all our Day Lily’s out as the soil we planted them in a couple of years ago was too organic and they have dried up and shrivelled, we have lost quite a few.
I am now in the process of removing the Day Lily’s putting them in temporary pots and digging a trench to replant them in good soil.
Talking about soil, I tested the last load of soil I had brought in and found it had a PH of 9 which is of course alkaline, mind you it looked really nice and smelt good also.
I then went to all the local Landscaping yards and took samples of their soils, they varied in PH from 4 to 9 and most of the employees had no idea of what PH was.
I finally found a soil and sand mix that had a ph of 5.5 so I am going to order that to plant the Day Lily’s in.
WE had a great crop of Mango’s and are picking Carambolas at the moment. Some fruit trees love the dry weather and some hate it especially Lychees and Longans.

No pecan Nuts this year as the few that were on the trees were eaten by the Cockatoos.

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 2014 Garden News

Since my November post things turned really bad, so much heat, I think every day was 30c to even 42 c degrees and no real rain except for one small shower.
I made a decision not to post in December as I was getting too depressed with the rotten weather.
It’s really draining on your morale when you see your garden burning up and the rainwater tanks empty.
I often think what if we opened our garden in February, well if we had decided to do it this year it would have been an unmitigated disaster as everything in the garden is burnt and dry.
The Caladium's have just about finished and I have lost count of the Day Lily’s we have lost.
How lucky we were to get that bit of rain just prior to our November opening.
Since mid July it has rained three times, this seems to be the pattern these days.
The big fish pond was starting to lose some water so drained it and found to my horror that the liner had perished, this was quite a shock as the liner went under the waterfall, rocks and sleepers. I had no idea how to fix it.
I went to a pond shop and they recommended a product made by Sikka, a marine sealant, so $300 for the liner and another $200 for the sealer.
A very fiddly job as I had to stick the liner onto the rocks ect, I used much more sealer than I thought as I had to make it watertight.
Hell of a job but it worked and I was able to put the fish and plants back and the pond is back to normal.
Moral of the story is do not use a vinyl liner, spend the extra of rubber instead.

On the 23 January at last we had 56 mills of most welcome wonderful rain; I was getting sick of forever watering the garden with a hose.
I suppose on a good note that with the dry spring and summer means a great Mango crop and that’s exactly what we have had. Judy is busy freezing the fruit and our Grandchildren absolutely love Mango.

 These lights stop the Flying Foxs eating MY Mango crop.

It’s been too hot and dry for the Longan and Lychee’s and we have had no fruit this year.
The Dragon Fruit are good this year as they are a Cactus and can take the dry weather.

Just because it’s been dry has not meant we have stopped work on the garden, there’s always a lot to do and I have a truckload of soil to shift and gardens to refurbish and a lot of compost to go on the garden.

We intend to open our garden this year through ‘Open Gardens Australia’, dates will be 22 and 23 November 2014.
We feel we did our bit for the Lions Club in 2013 having raised $5500 for charity. The Lions have said they will still do the catering and raffle for this year’s Open Garden.

My Amorphophallus collection is coming along well with some very healthy growth; I find that these plants love the activated ‘NatraKelp’, same as my Orchids.
The tropical plants are flowering and I have a good selection of Beehive Gingers in flower at the moment.

Below are a selection of Tacca's or 'Bat Plants. The cake cover is to collect the seeds off the "Giant Madagascar Bat plant'.

February will see the Garden Club presentations start again, with a few already booked, I am starting to get my fourth presentation ready, entitled ‘A Gardening Journey’, and it will follow the path that led us to what our garden is today.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Garden Tool Advice

At my age, and as an experienced gardener and a man who loves his tools, I think I am reasonably well qualified to give advice on what are the best garden tools to purchase.
I certainly have made mistakes in the past but have learnt from those, some have been expensive failures and some have been terrific purchases.
I do review garden products through my internet site tell anyone that sends me a product that I will be fair and honest. If you go onto my website you can see I have posted a couple of really bad reviews.
The bad reviews are of course for products I have had problems with, but it’s not only the product, sometimes it’s the company that will not exchange or even answer you when you make a complaint.
A good example was a review I did on a Stanley Wheelbarrow. Stanley has been making great tools for a long time and I thought this would be no different, how wrong I was. The wheelbarrow turned out to be a very poorly made Chinese product and when I complained to Stanley Australia they said that they had NO responsibility as they had licensed their name to the company that made the wheelbarrow. Over 2000 people have read that review, wonder how many sales they lost?
I love Fiskars products, most of my garden tools are made by Fiskars. The product I like the best is the Telescopic Tree Pruner, the ergonomic fork and spade are good along with loppers, axes and rakes. A big bonus is that they are made in Finland and are a quality product.

Garden saws, I will only use Japanese made saws. The Japanese have centuries of history making quality swords, saws ect.  I think Silky are the best brand but other Japanese brands are not far behind.
Secateurs, this is a no brainer, I only use Felco number 2, great for all type of pruning, made in Switzerland and spare blades ect are readily available.

With garden sprayers I believe that Hozelock are the best brand, they are made in the UK and are available from most hardware shops and most importantly spare parts are readily available.

Mowers, I use a Honda HR216 self propelled, always starts first time and being Honda very reliable. My ride on mower is a Husqvarna 26 hp with a rear grass catcher, again very reliable, I find the rear grass catcher to be the best as it does not clog up unlike the side chute models.

Brush Cutter, do not buy a cheap one, basically when looking for one just make sure it is made in Japan then you can be assured of quality, mine is a Shingu brand.
Blower, mine is a Hitachi with a purefire engine, a great machine that’s starts first go every time again a Japanese made machine.

Stay away from Chinese cheap imports. I bought a back pack motor sprayer; I thought it would be great for spraying/misting my fruit trees. I found that as soon as the nozzle was brought upwards the machine stopped spraying liquid. After a big fight I received a refund.
 Another cheap Chinese product I bought is a long shaft petrol hedge trimmer, I still have this machine and do use it but, I think it will fall apart very soon as it sounds a bit loose inside the motor, another cheap Chinese copy of a Honda motor.
So overall you only get what you pay for, so my advice is to pay the extra for a quality product that will last you and give you years of good service.