John's Garden Newsletters

John Bodycoat works for Conservation & Land management as a lecturer in the advanced diploma in agriculture and horticulture courses. He writes a Newsletter most months which is printed in Mandurah area newspapers. He has agreed to share the articles on our website.

March 2015 in the Garden

Gardening in autumn means dealing with the extremes of heat we can experience in the Peel Region. It’s generally still hot and dry so make sure you’re prepared to nurture your plants to make the most of the season’s growth and also the fruitfulness. Late summer and early autumn is a bountiful time in your edible garden in Pinjarra, Waroona and Mandurah. So have you been looking after things?

With a bit more heat likely to come in the next few weeks it’s not too late to reduce heat stress to your plants. What worries me is all the books you purchase tell us that certain plants grow best in full sun. But a lot of these books are printed in England and this advice is as good as their cricket team – useless! Other books are from the eastern states and it does get hotter for a longer period in most of WA than over there.

So the truth is, protect plants to ensure they all survive when the days are long and hot. Many plants will wilt, suffer leaf burn or even start to cook if the conditions become extreme. Erect some type of shade protection. I’ve found the best type is using shade cloth which will cast a shadow during the hottest part of the day. Soil protection is also very important because most of our edible plants have shallow root systems, so don’t leave the soil exposed as the sun will stress the plant from overheated roots.

Tips for March Gardening

Irrigation.

For the best delivery of water to your garden plants, most people prefer drippers to spraying types. So check the drippers in your garden for the best method for an efficient and effective watering system. Keep your lines free of ants by a regular flush out, which should be done every couple of weeks. Remember the more water available to the plant the more it will lose through respiration which can cause leaves to burn. So it’s best to save the watering to early morning and late afternoon.

Mulch.

I believe in mulching, so mulch, mulch and more mulch to prevent moisture loss as well as protecting your soil from extreme temperatures which as sure as night follows day will be here in March. It also prevents weed infestations and reduces erosion in your garden if we have heavy rain. Use cereal straw such as barley and wheat straw, pea straw or lucerne hay, but do not use meadow hay as this will reintroduce weeds into your garden during the winter months.

If your soil has become so dry that when you water it just runs off, then please visit your garden centre and purchase and use a wetting agent mixed with a sea weed base tonic. Remember also that if you use liquid seaweed to the root zone and use it as a foliar spray it will strengthen plants against weather extremes and improve their resistance to disease and insect attack. Using mulch will help reduce the effects of intense heat on the root system and reduce moisture loss through evaporation.

It’s all in the soil so go back to basics. Good soil structure with high levels of organic matter in the form of compost and old animal manures will help your garden beds retain moisture more effectively and hence relieve your garden plants of water stress.

Fruit Fly in the Home Garden.

Mediterranean fruit fly or med fly is around the Peel and Murray area, mainly because most people don’t know what it is and how to eradicate this damn nuisance. Some gardeners know they have it but don’t do anything about it. If you have stone fruit, guavas, citrus or figs just check because you too may be harbouring them. In fact med fly infests over 200 fruit and vegetable species that are grown in this region. In the past, local councils would come around and spray but that has been stopped for many years and the fly has increased and is damaging our fruit trees.

You can control these insects organically or by baiting with chemicals. I am not allowed to recommend trade names but try Rogor or Lebaycid and ask at your local nursery for info about med fly. Organically this pest can be controlled by making a female fruit fly lure using the following recipe. It’s formulated especially to attract the female and once in the lure it will drown, preventing the eggs from being laid and of course future adults being hatched out.

Organic Control

2 litres of water
1 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 tablespoons of cloudy ammonia

This recipe will be enough for 8 x 2 litre bottles to be placed in your trees in your back yard. Only partly fill the bottle by dividing by 8 or you can purchase special bottles from your friendly nursery man and follow instructions. Hang it upside down by a wire hook in the lower branches of your fruit tree. Keep checking the mixture and replace when it runs out. Some people use vegemite and water, or beer and water (yeast products) and place in plastic cool drink bottles with the top cut out. It’s your choice but everyone with one tree or more should do this and try and help eradication from the Peel region. A lot of locals call me to their gardens to look at their fruit trees, especially in Pinjarra and Mandurah, and we have mobs of fly here. Please don’t ignore these critters like we have with weeds in our neighbourhood, as the consequences are that no fruit tree will be producing those lovely home grown delights that we are able to enjoy now.

Do not bury infested fruit as the fruit fly maggots will survive, hatch, come to the surface and then wreak havoc as adults. Instead place the infected fruit in a large plastic bag and leave in the sun. This will kill maggots. If fruit falls from your tree pick it up and dispose of properly. If you have chooks then they’ll love a feed of fly maggots.

What can I do in my March garden.

As March starts to cool off a tad we should be starting to prepare our potting up area. Sterilise your pots by soaking in swimming pool chemical. Your fruit trees will be laden with figs and stone fruit so if you have a favourite recipe of these fruits and would like to share, please send it to me. Please share as there is a favourite recipe section in the next issue and we have independent judges who will try these favourites, with the winner receiving a free garden bed in the Community Garden.

Autumn is now here at last, and it’s my favourite season for gardening. Harvest all those yummy fruits and prepare for planting or potting-on in the next few weeks.

John Bodycoat

Spacer Spacer.