Sunday, 26 April 2015

Put a Sparkle in Your Garden


Sydney living museums curator Scott Hill
As part of our heritage, historic buildings and gardens offer us an insight into the styles and features of certain periods, reflecting the Australian architecture of the day.
The grounds of some old estates are important not just for their design value but they may also have surviving locally native species such as eucalyptus and turpentine trees.

Ancient Champion trees.

Many historic gardens feature mature trees planted as avenues, border plantings or specimens.
The character of the gardens may even be defined by such trees so it's important to keep them in good health. In heritage English gardens, old trees in excess of 300 years are called 'champion trees."
Historic houses and their gardens also have an aesthetic value and, can be a green oasis in a town or community, providing a space to relax, and hold events.
Let’s find out about one such historic house

Gardens and grounds may be important both in themselves and as settings for heritage buildings.
Because landscape elements alter with the seasons and with the passing years, historians need to allow time to properly assess these landscapes.

Vegetable gardens are also important elements in an historic garden photo M Cannon

This continual change also means that looking after such a garden must be done with caution.
Records of the house and garden are important references to help with this maintenance process..
The Historic Houses Association of Australia Inc. is a registered charity and volunteer organisation that promotes public interest in historic houses and properties. Members are able to visit historic houses and other places - both publicly and privately owned - to meet historians, heritage architects and private owners and to learn about the history of each property and its early occupants and collections.


Not something we’re going to eat but Green Manure Crops. Yum or not?
Do you want to improve your soil structure and at the same time add nitrogen to the soil?
If you do, consider a green manure crop especially in an overworked vegetable patch.
What are the benefits of green manure crops and why is it called green manure?
Green manure crops are called that because you’re not going to eat the crop or plants.
Instead, when they’re nearly mature, and before they set seed, the oats, or wheat or whatever are slashed and then turned into the soil. 
This adds nutrients to the soil especially if you use legume type crops.

As the slashed crops break down they increase organic matter, earthworms and beneficial micro-organisms.
green manure crops increase the soil's available nitrogen and moisture retention as well.
They also stabilise the soil to prevent erosion, particularly handy if you have a sloping block.
Green manure crops also bring deep minerals to the surface and break up hard clods in the soil structure.
But that’s not all:-
These crops provide habitat, nectar and pollen for beneficial insects and reduce populations of pests
Improve water, root and air penetration in the soil and smother weeds.
The crops used for green manure tend to be a combination of
Legumes – These add nitrogen (critical for food crops) to the soil, such as cow pea, mung bean, woolly pod vetch, lablab, broad bean, fenugreek and soybean;
Grains and grasses - These add organic substance to the soil, such as millet, buckwheat and oats.
At this time of year try faba bean, field pea, oats and wheat.
They’ll improve your soil incredibly, and for a bit of forward planning, you’ll find it well worth the effort.
Suppliers include:
At this time of year, it’s called a cool season green manure crop.
What do you need to do or how do you do this I hear you ask?
Well here are the steps.
Rake the garden smooth to prepare the seed bed.
Plant seeds that sprout and grow quickly for your green manure crop.
Use what's popular in your area or choose from alfalfa, white clover or wheat or oats.
Or, recycle any kind of seeds for green manure - leftover flowers, outdated or extra veggies.
You can add any out-of-date vegetable seeds you have left over from last season as well.

Just scatter the seed around your garden bed, about two handfuls per square metre
Then lightly rake it over to get the seeds into the dirt, and water it in well. You may need to cover the bed with a net if the birds discover the free feast you’ve laid out for them.
Fertilize once with organic nitrogen if it seems slow to get growing.
Leave the green manure on the garden until it matures to control erosion and existing weeds in the bed - call it a cover crop. 
Don't let it seed – With legume crops, when the plant begins to seed after flowering, the nitrogen fixing potential of the crop becomes less because  the nitrogen is partly used up in seed the forming process.
With grain/grass crops, they will seed without flowering so if you let them seed, you will have lots of seeds falling into the bed and this will make it hard for you to stop the seeds sprouting of the green manure crop instead o the one you want.
Cutting it down – When it has reached a good height (half a metre) and is not seeding, cut it down to the ground. If it is a small bed, use shears. If it is a large space, use a mower. Place all the green matter back on the bed and it will cover the bed and the roots of all the plants will remain in the soil.
Leave the bed for about a month and don't dig up the crop, let it rot in the bed. It should not grow back because you haven’t let it seed.
What you’ll get is soil which is full of organic substance, life and minerals, ready to use and produce an excellent crop of food.
I find this method easier then digging it in which is what gardeners used to do. That practise has been found to destroy soil structure too much and it’s a lot of hard work anyway. Save your back by doing it this way or you can use a digging fork to turn the plants and their roots completely into the soil.
Cover the newly dug bed with a blanket of organic mulch until planting time. Give the soil and its worms time to reap the benefits of green manure: nitrogen fertilizer and organic matter to nourish your soil.
Use green manure crops in every unplanted vegetable, herb and flower bed. Plant also in compacted areas - such as under trees - and newly graded lots. Allow little roots to break up the soil, which will aerate and renew its structure, before you plant a new lawn.

For a cheap alternative to buying the manure crops online, I’ve found this tip to be quite useful. This is the absolute simplest, cheapest and best thing is do. Just buy a bag of organic bird seed. Read the back of the packet and find one with the mix you want.
The last lot I planted contained millet, sorghum, wheat, oats, barley, rye, corn and sunflowers.
Bird seed will be chemical-free and fresh (since they don’t want to kill your pets!), and very cheap. It’s available at any supermarket.
 Go on, give it a try, the whole thing should only take up about 6-8 weeks and it’s the best way to improve your garden soil.


with Glenice Buck
The design process series with Glenice Buck, landscape designer, was thought of to lead you, the gardener through the steps that a professional landscape designer would take you.
We started off with how’s and whys of a landscape designer; explained the reasons for having a professional design: outlined the analysis and concept stage and now we’ve hit the final stage.
Established gardens also need a plant for the future
Let’s find out about the final stage of the design process.

Advantage of having a Landscape plan –
You will save time, money and wastage in the future.  A landscape Plan is an investment into the future of your outdoor space.

The designer will look at a landscape plan as being a master plan for your garden.
Develop in Stages - It means that the garden can develop in stages especially if your budget is limited. It gives you a connection between all spaces, the areas will still flow and not be disjointed as you have a total plan for the entire site.  It will be your guide as you rejuvenate, replant and restore the garden. 
Beautiful gardens are planned

Save Time and Cost- By having this document you will also eliminate wasting time in areas which won’t be needed until a later stage in the garden’s development.  For example you may pull up paving in one area but you eventually may like those pavers laid in another area.  Re using and recycling of as many materials and plants onsite as possible will reduce the overall cost to you. 
NO backtracking -  This plan should reduce the amount of back tracking you do in creating the garden and reduce the amount of waste you have to remove. 
THINKs about Future - A master plan will also consider how you want the garden to look in the years to come.  The use of the garden over time will change especially if you have children.  Gardens can always be modified accordingly.
By having a plan of your garden your garden will develop to a plan far into the future rather than being planted out haphazardly.

As Glenice mentioned in the early part of the series, you don’t have to do it all at once, but it can be a plan that you work through gradually.


with Jeremy Critchley
and Karen Smith
Some of you may know Euphorbias in the perennial border.
Did you know that the variation within this genus is amazing, some people might even say awesome?
From low-growing garden weeds called petty spurge to giant, cactus-like succulents.
Segue to an annual called Gypsophila or baby’s breath. What do they have in common with several newish cultivars of Euphorbia for your garden
Euphorbia Diamond Frost
Let’s find out …
The petals are actually small and dainty like baby’s breath, but there are so many of them that the leaves are scarcely visible.
These new delicate looking but tough, high impact Euphorbia plants flower every day of the year in warmer climates.
Pink sparkle
Star Dust White Sparkle’ and Stardust ‘Pink Sparkle are more compact than Diamond Frost and are ideal for patio pots and garden borders in full sun positions.
They grow to a maximum of 60cm x 60cm and can be pruned back quite hard should they get leggy.
Heat and drought tolerant, a truly low maintenance plant.
Note:Euphorbias all produce a mostly white latex which they oozes out of the stems when cut, and this sap is often toxic.
CULTIVATION TIPS-Euphorbias are easy plants to grow.
Most are summer growers and require a little watering and feeding during the warmer months.
Euphorbia Diamond Frost and the other new cultivars are not frost hardy, unless kept under cover in the colder months.
All of these Euphorbias are extremely tolerant of hot dry weather and perform in hot sun all day.
Keep them almost completely dry in winter.
To maintain their characteristics shapes they need sun or partial sun. Well drained soil and good ventilation are important.


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