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Pip's Tips

Growing

There are some great Tips for helping you "grow well", in this section including:

Watering

THE BEST METHODS

Water is a precious resource and we need to be careful in our
garden that we use it wisely. Growing your own food actually uses
1/5 of the water used to grow commercial crops, so you are already
doing a great job in reducing your water consumption by growing
your own food.

Check out your local councils website or give them a call for more
information about restrictions and guidelines for watering in your area.

There are a few simple things to remember when watering your garden
which will ensure that the plants get the maximum benefit and a minimum
amount of water is wasted.

  1. Drip hoses are the best and most efficient way of getting the water direct to the roots of the plant with minimum waste. These are available widely at hardware stores and are best used on the surface of the garden with a layer of mulch on top. They can also be attached to grey water.
  2. If you are using a hand held hose, get a trigger spray fitting to allow you to only spray water where you need it.
  3. Don’t water the foliage of the plant, try and get the water as close to the roots of the plant as possible. This is where they need the water.
  4. If possible water underneath the mulch so water isn’t lost on the mulch itself.
  5. With careful observation you can tell when the plant needs some water. They will start to look pale and droopy when they haven’t got enough water. This will happen on very hot days. But plants generally recover well with a bit of water in the late afternoon.
  6. Scrape aside the mulch to see if the soil is moist. If it is, you don’t need to water the plant as there is already enough moisture in the soil.
  7. The best time to water is on dusk or early morning as this gives the water the maximum amount of time to soak into the ground before the sun starts to make it evaporate.
  8. Once plants are well established they won’t need a lot of water. The main time they need water is when they have just been transplanted, or when they are flowering and fruiting, but too much water can encourage disease so be sparing.
  9. The more organic matter and compost there is in your soil, the greater its water holding capacity and therefore the less you have to water your plants.
  10. With a little ingenuity you can catch your household greywater and use it on the garden. This reduces your households waste and the strain on the overall water system. See below for more information.

USING GREY WATER IN THE GARDEN

Greywater is any waste water from the house (other than that out of the toilet or kitchen). Grey water is easy to use on the garden and ensures that you aren’t pouring a valuable garden resource down the plug hole. Whether using your greywater on the garden or sending it via the plug hole to the treatment plant, it is very important that we are careful what detergents and soaps we use as many household products are very harmful to plants and soil life.

When buying detergents, read the side of the pack for information on the environmental benefits of the product. Most of the chemicals that we need to be wary of are used in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. They are found in laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, and other cleaning agents such as bleach and carpet cleaners. Other potentially harmful chemicals that we often forget about include medicines, herbicides, pesticides, paints, motor oil and pool chemicals.

Some of the potentially harmful characteristics of waste water as a result of the products we use include:

  • Phosphorous
  • Nitrogen
  • Boron
  • Salts or Sodium
  • pH levels
  • Greases and oils
  • Bleaches and Chlorine
  • Corrosive chemicals.

When reading the label of a cleaning product try to avoid the above substances and look out for:

  • ‘NP’: Some detergents have the symbol ‘NP’ marked on their packaging. This means that the product contains little or no phosphorous, which is beneficial. Detergents containing phosphorous may be labelled ‘P’.
  • Choose products that have been endorsed by environmental groups or consumer groups for their environmental features such as Planet Ark.
  • Use liquid detergents rather than powders. Powders have about 10-20 times more sodium salts in them than liquid detergents.

When collecting and using your greywater:

  • Always use a strainer on your kitchen sink.
  • Remove food from plates before washing, and use a compost or worm farm to dispose of them.
  • Use detergents sparingly- we often add much more than is necessary.
  • Avoid using greywater that you know contains chemicals such as acid, bleach, drain-cleaner, dye or disinfectant.
  • Filter kitchen water to remove fats and oils before use.
  • Don’t use water that has been used to clean work clothes or equipment that may be covered in harmful chemicals such as paint.
  • Allow water to cool before it’s used in the garden.
  • Use a trough connected to the sewer, instead of the greywater system, to dispose of harmful chemicals.
  • Trial greywater use on a small section of the garden, to see what effect it has on the soil and the plants.
  • Greywater must always be used in the garden via sub surface irrigation. This is a fancy way of saying that the outlet must be covered in mulch or soil. If using a drip hose, the hose must be covered by mulch.
  • Never allow greywater to be stored for more than 24 hours before being used on the garden. If greywater is allowed to sit it can breed nasty bacteria and pathogens and will start to smell. It should be used immediately.

Greywater systems

There are many easy ways of getting greywater from the house to the garden. The simplest being a bucket. If your plumbing pipes can easily be accessed, simple fittings can be added such as the widely available and cheap ‘grey water diverter’. This allows you to choose whether to send your greywater down the pipe or out to the garden. Simply fit the diverter to your outlet pipe and connect it to a hose or drip irrigator running onto the garden. See resources for more links and ideas.

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Feeding your plants

As your plants grow they will need regular feeding, particularly if your soil is old or doesn’t have a lot of organic matter in it. There are many ways of feeding your plants naturally without chemical fertilisers that harm the soil (and you) and this can be done with many things that are commonly seen as wastes around the house and garden.

WEED TEAS

This is an easy method of turning any of the garden weeds into a useful liquid fertiliser.

  1. Collect a variety of weeds and other plants such as comfrey, yarrow, dandelions and dock, enough to fill a 10 litre bucket about 1/3 full. Remember the greater the diversity of plants you use the greater the diversity of nutrients you will end up with in your weed tea.
  2. Add a couple of handfuls of animal manure or compost if its available otherwise just weeds is fine.
  3. Fill the bucket with water and put a lid on it to keep flies out and smell in, and leave in a shady place for 1- 3weeks.
  4. After 1-3 weeks your weed tea is ready to be used. By this time the nutrients in the plants will have seeped into the water and the weeds will be dead.
  5. Dilute the weed tea 1:10 (or until the colour of weak tea) with water and water under mulch around plants.
  6. Left over plant material in the bucket can be thrown on a compost pile or in a worm bin.

COMPOST

Compost can be made in a variety of ways. Once the compost is made however, it can be used by putting it in a hole where you are about to plant a seedling to provide food direct to the seedlings roots. It can also be sifted and used as part of a potting mix for raising your seeds. Compost can also be used to feed plants directly by spreading it out around the plants stem (but not touching it) and then mulching on top to protect soil micro organisms and prevent moisture loss from the compost.

WORM JUICE

Worm juice is the liquid product of worm farms. It is rich in nutrients in a form which plants can readily digest. It is very potent however and needs to be diluted with water (1:10 or until the colour of weak tea) before being used. Pour the diluted mixture under the mulch around the plants to ensure moisture, micro organisms and nutrient isn’t lost.

SEASOL

This is a commercially available product made in Australia by extracting micronutrients from bull kelp (seaweed). It also needs to be diluted to the colour of weak tea before being used like the weed tea or worm juice. It is great because it contains many micro nutrients which are typically hard to come by in Australian soils. It can be used once every two weeks on veggie gardens. Your own version of sea sol can be made by applying the weed tea instructions to a bucket 1/3 full of chopped sea weed. Again be careful where you collect the sea weed from as it is illegal to remove sea weed from many Australian beaches.

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Pests and diseases

We are constantly exposed to viruses and disease causing pathogens. In fact viruses and other nasties are present in our very own body. But when we are healthy, well balanced and strong those viruses and germs don’t affect us. It is only when we are tired, eating poorly or stressed that we get sick. Plants are the same. Pests and diseases are always present in the garden but it is only when the plant is stressed to begin with that they get sick. So how can we ensure that our plants are happy, well fed and strong so they can resist these garden goblins?

  1. The most important thing is having good, healthy, soil with lots of organic matter, compost and micro organisms. Healthy soil = happy healthy, strong plants.
  2. Making sure the plant is well fed. See feeding your plants for more information
  3. Making sure the plant gets enough water. See watering for more information.
  4. Using companion planting to prevent, deter and confuse garden pests and diseases. See Companion Planting for more information
  5. Rotate your plantings. That is don’t plant the same crop in the same place two seasons in a row. This prevents pests and diseases building up in the soil and also prevents nutrient deficiencies as each plant has specific needs and can quickly use up the nutrients they need in the soil.
  6. Be willing to sacrifice some of your plants to garden pests. Plant something you don’t particularly like or more of something than you need so that if a pest does take up residency you have plenty to spare.
  7. Planting shrubs, trees and vines, particularly ones which flower, around your garden will attract birds and predatory insects to the garden which will happily feast on your garden pests.
  8. Remember: not all insects in the garden are ‘pests’. Many of them are actually eating the real pests. Lady bugs, lacewings, ants, bees, praying mantis, hoverflies, parasitic wasps, damsel bugs and tachinid flies are just a few of these garden buddies.
  9. Provide some water in your garden in the form of a shallow dish with water or small pond to also encourage birds, frogs and reptiles that will eat your pests.
  10. Don’t spray the leaves of your plants in the evening or at night as damp leaves over night can encourage mould and bad fungi.
  11. Don’t use badly diseased plants as mulch or in compost as this may spread to other plants. Instead dry them out and burn them.
  12. Remove fallen or rotten fruit and feed to the chooks or add to the compost.
  13. Make a spray out of garlic and chilli. This involves chopping up a few good cloves of garlic and a hot chilli, simmering in a few cups of water until the aroma is strong, then let cool, dilute and spray on any plants effected by leaf eating pests.
  14. A dish of beer, milk or yoghurt will trap unassuming snails and slugs. Alternatively if you don’t like killing the little critter, egg shells, ashes or sharp sawdust will deter them.
  15. Some bugs are big enough and few enough to be picked off by hand. The cabbage white moth caterpillar is a classic example of this. If you have chooks, feed the caterpillars to them or put them in the compost.
  16. Soapy water sprayed onto insect eaten plants will also help to deter them.
  17. Net or fence garden if birds or mammals are and issue.

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Companion planting

Companion planting works on the principle that some combinations of plants growing together can help each other out in some way. They do this in a number of ways like deterring pests, improving growth, making them taste better, attracting predators and good bugs to the garden, fixing nitrogen and confusing pests. There are also some combinations of plants that don’t do well together. The key to a healthy garden though is biodiversity. Having as many different plants as possible, all mixed up together. Read more to find out about what plants like getting neighbourly and why.

Plant Good Neighbours How it Works Bad Neighbours
Apple Nasturtium, Chives Nasturtium Climbs tree and is said to repel codling moth Potatoes
Apricot Basil, Tansy, Asparagus Basil and Tansy are said to repel damaging insect  
Asparagus Apricot, Basil, Chives, Comfrey, Lovage, Marjoram, Parsley, Tomatoes Basil and Parsley are said to improve flavour. Onions and garlic release substances reducing growth. Garlic, Onions
Balm (lemon) Tomatoes Attracts bees, said to enhance flavour and growth  
Basil Tomatoes Basil said to repel flies and mosquitos  
Beans (climbing) Brocoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Corn, Lettuce, Lovage, Majoram, Parsley   Beetroot, Chives, Garlic, Gladiolus, Onions, Sunflower
Beetroot Beans (bush), Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Onion, Peas, Potato, Spinach, Silverbeet Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Beans (climbing), Tomato
Borage Squash, Strawberries, Tomato Said to deter tomato worm and improve tomato flavour and yield. Said to increase strawberry yield  
Brassicas (including: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower) Beans, Beetroot, Carrots, Chamomile, Coriander, Cucumber, Dill, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Marigold (French), Mint, Nasturtium, Pea, Potato, Rosemary, Sage, Tansy, Thyme, Zinnias Dill attracts a Cabbage White Butterfly controlling wasp. Nasturtium disguises and repels aphids. Sage repels the Cabbage White Butterfly. Zinnias attract ladybirds, which we love! Bad neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Tomato
Capsicum, Chilli Carrots, Onions, Tomato    
Carrots Beans, Chives Coriander, Cucumber, Leeks, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Onion, Pea, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Tomato Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Dill, Celery
Celery Cabbage, Chives, Dill, Dwarf Beans, Leek, Lovage, Majoram, Onion, Pea, Sage, Spinach, Tomato Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Carrots, Parsnip, Potato
Chamomile Cabbage, Onion Deters flies and mosquitoes. Strengthens neighbouring plants  
Chives Apples, Cucumbers, Lettuce, Peas Prevents Apple Scab. Said to deter aphids Beans
Cucumber Basil, Beans, Borage, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Corn, Dill, Kohl Rabi, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Parsnip, Pea, Radish, Sunflower, Tansy Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Potato, Sage, Strongly Aromatic Herbs
Dill Brassicas (including: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower) Dill attracts a Vabbage White Butterfly controlling wasp  
Eggplant Beans, Spinach    
Garlic Apricot, Cherry, Mulberry, Parsnip, Peach, Pear, Raspberry, Rosemary, Rose Deters aphids, especially from roses and raspberry. Repels Cabbage White Butterfly Beans, Cabbage, Peas, Strawberry
Kohl Rabi Beetroot, Onion   Beans, Tomato
Leek Carrot, Celery, Lovage, Majoram, Onion, Parsnip, Strawberry   Beans, Peas, Parsley
Lettuce Achillea, Beans, Beetroot, Cabbage, Carrot, Chervil, Coreopsis, Cucumber, Lovage, Marjoram, Marigold (French), Onion, Parsnip, Pea, Radish, Strawberry, Zinnia Achillea, Coreopsis & Zinnia attract pollinators and offer shade for lettuce Parsley
Marigold (French) Numerous vegetables, including Tomato Kills root knot nematodes and eel worm  
Melon Radish, Sweet Corn    
Mint Cabbage, Tomato Deters pests such as Cabbage White Butterfly, ants and fleas  
Nasturtium Cabbages, Fruit Trees, Radishes, Zuchini Flowers repel aphids and codling moth. Cabbage White Butterfly is attracted to this plant, and will seek it out over cabbages  
Onion Beetroot, Broccoli, Vabbage, Carrot, Chamomile, Leeks, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Parsley, Parsnip, Silverbeet, Strawberry, Summer Savory, Tomato Smell of onion said to deter numerous pests. Onions release substances reducing growth of Bad Neighbours Asparagus, Beans, Gladioli, Pease
Parsley Asparagus, Sweet Corn, Tomato Said to improve flabour of aspargus and tomato  
Peas Beans, Beetroot, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Vauliflower, Celery, Cucumber, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Parsnip, Potato, Radish, Sage, Squash, Sweet Corn Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth. Sweet Corn has traditionally been used as "living stakes" for peas Chives, Garlic, Onion, Shallots
Potato Beans, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Corn, Eggplant, Horseradish, Lovage, Marjoram, Marigold (French), Nastutium, Parsnip, Peas, Sweet Alyssum, Sweet Corn, Watermelon Sweet Alyssum and Marigold attract beneficials and suppress weeds. Potatoes release substances reducing growth of Bad Neighbours. Horseradish should be planted at the corners of the patch Apple, Celery, Cherry, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Raspberry, Rosemary, Squash, Sunflower, Tomato
Pumpkin Beans, Cabbage, Eggplant, Peas, Radish, Sweet Corn Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Potato
Radish Beans, Carrot, Chervil, Cucumber, Sweet Corn, Cucumber, Lettuce, Lovage, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Parsnip, Pea, Spinach, Sweet Corn Radish is said to attract leaf miners from Spinach Hyssop
Raspberry     Blackberries, Potato, Tomato
Rosemary Beans, Cabbage, Carrot, Sage Said to deter Cabbage White Butterfly. Attracts beneficials  
Sage Brassicas (Including: Broccoli, Vabbage, Cauliflower), Carrot, Rosemary Sage repels the Cabbage White Butterfly Cucumber
Silverbeet Beetroot, Cherry, Lavender, Lovage, Marjoram, Onion   Basil, Wormwood
Spinach Celery, Eggplant, Strawberries    
Squash Borage, Lovage, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Peas, Sunflower, Sweet Corn, Tansy   Potato
Strawberry Beans, Borage, Chives, Leek, Lettuce, Marigold (French), Onion, Pyrethrum, Sage, Spinach   Brassicas (Including: Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower), Brussel Sprouts, Garlic
Sunflower Apricots, Cucumbers, Squash   Beans, Potato
Sweet Corn Beans, Cucumbers, Lovage, Marjoram, Melon, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Pumpkin, Radish, Squash, Zuchini Sweet Corn has traditionally been used as "living stakes" for peas. Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Cabbage
Tomato Asparagus, Basil, Celery, Borage, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Chives, Dill, Gooseberry, Grape, Hyssop, Lovage, Marigold (French), Marjoram, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion, Parsley, Parsnip, Turnip Marigolds said to repel white fly and root knot nematode. Bad Neighbours roots release substances reducing growth Apricots, Beetroot, Cabbage, Fennel, Kohl Rabi, Potato, Rosemary, Sweet Corn
Turnip Cucumbers, Lettuce, Nasturtium, Peas, Tomato    
Watermelon Potato    
Yarrow Most Aromatic Herbs When planting along pathways, is said to enhace essential oil production and herb flavour  
Zucchini Lovage, Marjoram, Nasturtium, Sweet Corn    

And a couple of general plants that make great companions for other reasons

  • Basil helps repel flies and mosquitoes.
  • Borage in the strawberry patch will increase the yield.
  • Catnip repels fleas, ants and rodents.
  • Caraway helps breakdown heavy soils.
  • Chamomile deters flies and mosquitoes and gives strength to any plant growing nearby.
  • Chives grown beneath apple trees will help to prevent apple scab; beneath roses will keep away aphids and blackspot.
  • Elderberry a general insecticide, the leaves encourage compost fermentation, the flowers and berries make lovely wine!
  • Fennel (not F. vulgare or F.officionale) repels flies, fleas and ants.
  • French Marigold root secretions kill nematodes in the soil. Will repel white fly amongst tomatoes.
  • Garlic helps keep aphids away from roses.
  • Hyssop attracts cabbage white moth keeping brassicas free from infestation.
  • Mint repels cabbage white moth. Dried and placed with clothes will repel clothes moth.
  • Nasturtium secrete a mustard oil, which many insects find attractive and will seek out, particularly the cabbage white moth. Alternatively, the flowers repel aphids and the cucumber beetle. The climbing variety grown up apple trees will repel codling moth.
  • Pyrethrum will repel bugs if grown around the vegetable garden.
  • Rosemary repels carrot fly.
  • Rue (Rutus, not Peganum) keeps cats and dogs off garden beds if planted round the borders.
  • Sage protects cabbages from cabbage white moth.
  • Tansy (Tanacetum, not Senecio) repels moths, flies and ants. Plant beneath peach trees to repel harmful flying insects. Tansy leaves assist compost fermentation.
  • Wormwood (Artemesia, not Ambrosia) although it can inhibit the growth of plants near it, wormwood does repel moths, flies and fleas and keeps animals off the garden.

Information reproduced with permission of Sustainable Gardening Australia www.sgaonline.org.au

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