Saturday, 9 April 2016

Owls that Bark and Flowers that Torch


Barking Owl. Ninox connivens
In Australia you can basically break down our owl species into two groups.
Barking Owl
The "seeing owls" Ninox genus, and the "hearing owls" Tyto genus. This means that the hearing owls tend to hunt under the cover of darkness later in the night and use their sensitive hearing to locate their prey, and the seeing owls hunt during the dawn and dusk periods relying more so on their excellent vision.
Today we examine one of them that has a most unusual call.
Let’s find out about this very interesting bird. I'm talking with Manager of Birds in Backyards, Dr Holly Parsons.
PLAY: Barking Owl_30th_March 2016
This "seeing owl" group is the one in which the barking owl belongs.
The Barking Owl is a medium-sized hawk-owl.
Hawk-owls don't have that heart-shaped face of the tyto-owls such as you would see in a Barn Owl, Tyto alba.
Barking Owls are found throughout Australia, except for the arid central areas
Barking Owls like savannah woodland, although they also inhabit well-forested hills and riverine woodlands. You're more like to hear rather than see a Barking Owls.
The sad thing is that in Victoria they’re endangered and in NSW they’re listed as vulnerable because of the lack of hollows in trees especially in bushland.


Fungal Problems in the Veggie Patch
So, you’re looking at your spinach and you see holes in the leaves, but they’re all uniform and perfectly formed, right?
  What insect does that?
Or, are the stems or your Silverbeet have an ugly blackish brown stain down the middle of them?
Perhaps the leaves have got that rusty look, and definitely look some-one had a go with a blow torch?
Wait, have your cucumber leaves gone all white and crispy, then start turning brown and collapse in a heap in the veggie bed?
You probably have read or heard the advice that the most important things you can do to prevent fungal problems is to avoid overwatering, overhead watering and excessive fertilizing and keep your garden free of debris.
O.K. what about some of us that had all that rain?
Powdery Mildew starts off small. photo M Cannon
 Or you might’ve heard that you need to mulch well and avoid watering the leaves or splashing soil borne particles on the leaves.
One things for sure, you can water or fertilise away the problem.
 Firstly what is this fungus thing anyway?  Fungus are structures which produce spores. Diseasecausing fungi penetrate the plant for food during their growth stage, then produce spores which can, in turn, produce new fungus.
 The fungus feeds of your plants because not containing chlorophyll, it can’t make it’s own food.
Powdery mildew with fungus eating ladybeetles. photo M Cannon
 There are two main types of spores
Short-lived spores which quickly produce new fungus to grow and spread through plants while there is plenty of food. These spores allow a fungal disease to spread rapidly during the growing season.
Then there’s the  Long-lived spores which are very hardy and allow a disease to carry over during periods of stress, for example when there is no food.
So what does fungus love?
Which fungus shall I start with. How about powdery mildew?
A fungal disease around a lot in spring and autumn when days are warm and nights are cool.
 Powdery mildew is a white or grayish powdery/mouldy growth that you see on the leaves and new shoots. The leaves look deformed, and will always start to collapse, particularly on the cucurbit family, live Pumpkin, and cucumbers.
The leaves are never going to return to a normal appearance, so getting rid of them will help to stop the spreading of fungal spores.
Yes, that includes the ones that have fallen into a crumbled mess in the veggie bed.
The next fungal problem I’m going to mention appeared on my spinach this year. That is Fungal leaf spot. Having said that, I’ve had several good months of harvesting spinach and silverbeet, so I can’t complain.
Leaf spot on beans. photo M Cannon
There are many types of leaf spot diseases that can affect beetroot, broad beans, carrots celery, peas, potatoes (early blight) silverbeet and tomatoes (targetspot).
Sometimes the leaf spots cause only slight damage, but other times they practically destroy the leaves of the plant in question.


Basically, if you’ve already got it, you can’t because as I mentioned, the leaves won’t return to normal, but you can stop the spread to other new leaves and other plants in the garden.
All of these above symptoms signal fungal problems in the garden, a lot of which can be fixed with physical things like improving air circulation around the plants.
You can also dig the problem leaves into the soil since sexual spores of the fungus won’t develop on buried leaves.
In all cases, fungal problems can be treated organically
Spray with a good compost tea
Or secondly, try spraying with bi-carbonate of soda (sodium bicarbonate) because it will also kill powdery mildew.
Facebook-To make mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 ½ tablespoons of vegetable oil with 4 litres of water.
TIP: The sodium in the baking soda will combine with chlorine in your water supply to form table salt (sodium chloride). A better choice is potassium bicarbonate where the potassium becomes a plant nutrient.
This product is available from your garden centre or nursery. I’ll put a link to the name on my website and facebook page.


This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
Pebble paths. photo M Cannon
Today’s garden challenge is for those gardeners that don’t want hard surface garden paths.
Concrete, brick or other types of paving for paths can be a bit harsh in areas where the garden is quite natural.
In this segment, garden designer Peter Nixon explores some softer alternatives.
Let’s find out…
PLAY:  Garden Challenges_Sour sub-soil 5 Peter Nixon_9th  March 2016
Peter is not a fan of pebbles on paths.
Garden paths photo M Cannon
Instead why not try a combo of bark chips and shell grit, or decomposed granite, perhaps lillydale topping and bark or woody mulch.
You would need to run the plate compactor over these surfaces to compact the path.


Kniphophia species

Perennial gardens are a must because they supply flowers that attract bees and butterflies to your garden a lot more than your hedging plants and maybe even your trees.
This perennial is native to Africa where it grows in the high country covering with a blanket of flowers and withstanding hot summers and cold winters.
Sounds like a flower you have to have in your garden.
Kniphophia Echo Rojo

Today, we’re looking at bare rooted Kniphophias or Red Hot Pokers.
Also called, torch lily, knofflers or poker plant, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae, which is the same family as Australia’s native grass trees.

Let’s find out more. 
I'm talking with the Plant Panel -Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal,  and Jeremy Critchley, the owner of the Green Gallery Nursery , which is a wholesale nursery by the way.
PLAY: Kniphophia Limelight_30th_March_20166

Kniphophia Echo Mango
Did you know that the genus Kniphofia is named after the 16th century German professor, J.H.Kniphof?
These Kniphofias are native to Africa. and Jeremy saw fields of them when he lived in Lesotho in Africa.
The new variety of Red Hot Poker is the echo series which has three cultivars: ‘Echo Mango’ with ripe mango-coloured flowers, ‘Echo Rojo’ with deep-orange to red flowers, and ‘Echo Duo’ with two-toned orange and fading-to-white colored inflorescences.
Each of the Echo cultivars are supposed to have good disease resistance, produce vivid-colored flowers at the top of strong stems and are strong rebloomers.
The series name Echo refers to the repeat flowering nature of these plants.

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