THE GOOD EARTH
An incredible diversity of organisms make up the soil food web.
They range in size from the tiniest one-celled bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa, to the more complex nematodes and micro-arthropods, to the visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants.
These organisms not only benefit our soil but the plants that grow in them.
So how do we feed those organisms or attract them to the soil in our garden?
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, President of Permaculture North and www.mosshouse.com.au
Let’s find out some more…
You probably have never thought about what soil organisms are doing in your garden or even wondered why you garden soil should even have them?
Did you know that by-products from your plants’ growing roots and plant residue feed soil organisms?
That’s good because in turn, soil organisms support plant health as they decompose organic matter, cycle nutrients, enhance soil structure, and control the populations of soil organisms including crop pests.
You can make a weed tea which when poured over your garden will get those micro-organisms working for you.
Weed Tea recipe.
One bucket with lid: Big bunch of garden weeds to about half the bucket: Cover with water.
Your mixture will become frothy and smelly-that's fermentation.
When the smell has dissipated, your weed tea is ready.
Strain off the weed seeds, and dilute in the ratio 1 part weed tea to 10 parts water.
Most watering cans are 9 litres so your weed tea will be 90 ml or if you like, just a bit less than a litre.
If you have any questions about food for your soil, why not email firstname.lastname@example.org or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.
Shelf life of packet seeds.
We gardeners are guilty of buying too many seeds and realise, we just don’t have enough space to grow everything we would like to from seed.
Marketing gurus say that impulse buying is one big factor in seed sales.
That’s why they make the packets so attractive with those lovely photos on the front of the packet to entice your to buy them.
But what about the mail order companies? No photos there, but we still go crazy buying up too many because the seed catalogues are so alluring.
What to do with all those seed packets?
Shall you throw them into the compost or give them a go?
Now’s a good time to get out your seeds and take a look at the dates on the back usually.
You’ve probably got seeds lurking in a drawer, or maybe you’re more organised and they’re in a storage box.
Storing Your Seeds
Firstly let’s deal with how you’re storing your seeds.
If you’re keeping them in the garden shed that gets quite hot in summer, then the shelf life of your seeds is going to drop right down and possibly kill of your seeds.
Never store your seeds in a humid warm or sunny spot.
Seeds need to be kept cool and dry,
ideally the temperature should be around 5°C and 10°C.
Keeping them in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge is good but who’se going to have enough room in the fridge for all those seeds?
A dark place somewhere in the garage or laundry that stays cool in summer is the best place.
When properly stored in a cool, dry place, seed’s shelf life can be extended. -
If you want to be really sure that the seeds you’ve got will germinate and you’ve got quite a few to burn, why not do a simple germination test?
Germination test: Take around 10 of your seeds, and place them in a row on top of a damp paper towel.
Fold over the paper towel and place in a zip-lock plastic bag and seal it; this helps to keep the towel moist and protected.
Then put in a warm location, like a high shelf or on top of the fridge but make sure the spot you’ve picked is away from exposure to direct sunlight.
This can overheat your seeds.
Next, check the seeds often—around once a day—to see if they’ve begun to germinate and to check the moisture of the paper towel.
But don’t keep opening it everyday otherwise your experiment will go mouldy in no time.
Only open the zip lock bag if it needs more water, and carefully mist the towel so it’s only just damp, but not soggy.
Don’t apply too much water.
|Germination after 7 days.|
I’ve recently heard that adding a drop of tea to the water helps with the germination rate.
TIP: Your seeds should begin to germinate in several days up to a couple of weeks, depending on the seed-type. A good rule of thumb is to wait roughly 10 days;
So how long do our veggie seeds last?
We know that the packet comes printed with the expiry date of seeds.
But we want to know can they last longer?
In Australia, seed companies are generally required by law to germination test seeds before they sell them.
The longest lasting seeds that I’ve germinated well past their expiry date, let’s say 3-4 years past, without any problem, are Basil, Kohlrabi, Broccoli and Rocket.
But let’s talk in families of plants such as in the Brassicaceae family.
Longest lasting seeds:
The long lasting seeds here are Beetroot, Silverbeet, Swish chard, Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Cabbage and Kale and Broccoli.
Next are those from the Solanaceae family, including tomato and eggplant.
Lastly, the Cucurbitaceae or Melon family.
Long lasting seeds in this family include cucumber, squash and watermelon.
Moderately lasting seeds 3 - 5 years.
Then there’s those seeds that aren’t so long lived but usually have a shelf life of 3-5 years like lettuce, and possibly parsley. Parsley is one herb that I don’t need to sow anymore.
By leaving a Parsley plant flower and set seed, you’ll have, like me, a continual supply of Parsley year round.
Until a regular visitor to the garden, a ringtail possum, decides they need something to eat in winter.
Then no Parsley.
There’s also the pea or Fabaceae family.
So yes, peas and beans are on the list.
Short shelf life-1 - 2 years
A few seeds have a relatively short shelf life and are good for one to two years at the most.
These include onions, parsnips, chives, scorzonera and leeks.
That isn’t definitive and depending on who you ask, some will say that they were able to get their 10 year old bean seeds to germinate or some other vegetable.
The "sow by" date is based on the validity of the germination test and is not necessarily an accurate indication of the freshness or shelf-life of the seed.
So, that’s why, when you hear, beans can be viable for up to 10 years shelf life.
That means, 10 years if they were stored in a cool dry and dark place, and that the seed company put fresh seed into the packet in the first place.
Of course flower seeds are another category and I don’t have time to mention those other than to say,
Pansies, Echinaceae, and Nasturtiums have germinated for me well past their use by date.
Before you start buying up seeds in the hope you’ll beat price rises and food shortages.
Seeds are best sown fresh.
Even stored in a fridge or freezer, the germination percentage and vigour will reduce over time.
Just a note on seed provenance.
According to the experts, cucumber mosaic virus is transmitted via the seed.
Also, from those in the know, they say that there are other viruses that are seed born, so that gardeners can’t afford to be complacent.
Buy your seeds from a reputable source and if you’re not happy, let them know.
AND THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT FOR TODAY!
DESIGN ELEMENTStalking with Glenice Buck
Today starts a new 4 part series on re-designing a garden.
The setting is rural on a farm property, but within that property, a garden is created around the house.
|"Berkshire" photo Glenice Buck|
Let’s get started with part 1.
Even though your garden may not be as big, there’s some aspects of this project that you can borrow.
|photo Glenice Buck|
Or maybe it’s just an interesting insight to how your go about developing a 5 acre garden.
Did you know that in colonial times, farmers would plant 2 Bunya pines at the front of their property as "way finders?"
Bunya pines grow very tall, so that looking from a vantage point from a long distance, the stockmen or farmers, could find their way back to their own homestead.
Of course back then, there probably was quite a lot more native vegetation and no roads like we have today.
Or maybe it’s just an interesting insight to how your go about developing a 5 acre garden.
It may be the layout of the front garden or the plants that are selected, or even considerations of what to do with the slope of the land.
PLANT OF THE WEEKTalking about Marguerite daisies with Karen Smith editor of www.hortjournal.com.au and garden nursery owner Jeremy Critchley www.thegreengallery.com.au
In the past, when we’ve planted out daisy bushes, they’ve become straggly or just too big to look tidy.
In steps these new daisy varieties, and who can tell if they’re a Shasta daisy or a Marguerite daisy?
Is there a difference and does it matter?
Because they're so bright and colourful, you just want some in your garden
These particular daisies are colourful, easy to grow, flower a lot and have grayish green, deeply lobed leaves that are ferny and emit a strong fragrance when crushed.
They’ve been around in our Australian gardens for a long time, but what’s new about these plants?
Let’s find out …
Often mistaken for Shasta daisy and other daisies.
Argies can have flower types such as single or semi double and double flower types.
Plants are salt and wind tolerant and will grow in full sun to part shade, although they'll flower less in part-shade.
Those Marguerite daisies where you can see the centre, these are yellow centres and are the disc florets. The outside petals are the ray florets.
Argyranthemum or "Argies" are evergreen woody-based perennials or sub-shrubs, that grow no more than 30cm in height with white, yellow or pink, daisy-like flower-heads from late spring to autumn .
As Jeremy mentioned the new Sassy® Series of Marguerite daisy are compact plants with frilly foliage and many daisy-like flowers.
These rounded plants give off lots of flowers on their stem tips.
They first appear early in the spring and continue for a long flowering season. Each flower opens with a button-like golden yellow eye, and depending on the cultivar, have either lemon yellow, white or pink petals