Browsing articles in "Gardens"
Jan 15, 2018
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Fruit Trees

Why not grow a home orchard? What could be better than fruit picked fresh from the tree?

Many home gardeners have given up on fruit trees because they did not really get to enjoy the fruit – the local birdlife, possums, bats, vermin or insects got to it first! That can be a problem, but there are also some ways to outsmart the competition so that the feasting rights and benefits become yours.

While there are insecticides to provide an easy solution to the insect side of this problem, it is quite another thing to deter our native fauna. They are, after all, protected and we don’t want to remove them from our gardens, and we don’t even mind sharing some of the fruit with them… just not all of it. Generally, the problem is that while we wait for the fruit to ripen, the possums, bats and birds are happy to feast on the unripened fruit. If we pick the fruit too early, it will not ripen.

Tree nets are now available, which protect the fruit to a large degree, but they are expensive and if not erected correctly, may entangle animals and birds. An alternative to netting is shade cloth over the canopy of the tree, or using individual paper bags over accessible fruit.

Metal sheet Tree Collars are helpful where the issue is a possum or rat climbing up the trunk of the tree.

To keep birds away from ripening fruit, shiny objects hanging in the tree may serve as a deterrent. CDs, aluminium pie pans, strips of reflective tape, a scarecrow shape in the branches – these will all help keep the birds away. Remember to take down the obstacles after the fruit has ripened and is removed. The ecosystem in your garden needs birds to visit and help with cross pollination.

Another solution for the home gardener wanting to enjoy the fruit of their garden is to choose dwarf varieties when planting. These are easier to manage – whether it is spraying for insects or using netting or shade cloth to protect the fruit. These dwarf plants can also be kept in pots, and placed in a protected environment – away from the natural wildlife.

All fruit producing trees and vines should be carefully pruned after fruiting, and will benefit from regular fertilising. Attending to these will help produce a bigger crop for you to enjoy. Even if you have to share some of it with the wildlife!

Sep 28, 2017
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Birds in the Garden

If you want to encourage native bird life in your garden, hanging a birdseed bell or leaving out food scraps for them to eat is not the way to do it. You need to create a garden which is bird-friendly, and will encourage birds to not just come for a feed, but to nest and make your garden their home.

In order to attract native birds, you should plant native flora. Grevilleas, Banksias and Acacias are excellent sources of nectar, insects and shelter for many native species. Larger species require larger trees for their habitat – Kookaburras, Currawong and Parrots all require native trees of substantial size to feel at home in your garden. Smaller species like Honeyeaters, will be encouraged to visit if you plant nectar producing bushes and trees.

If you are unsure of the type of bird visiting your garden, you can search using descriptives such as size and colouring to find the name of the bird, and read about its habitat, feeding and breeding practices on the Birds in Backyards website.

As well as providing native flora for bird life, a small pond, fountain or bird bath will also encourage winged visitors – especially on a hot day. If your pond has fish in it, you will want to cover the pond with chicken-wire or something similar, because many birds enjoy freshwater seafood! Bird baths should be placed in dappled shade and perched high enough for the birds to feel safe and comfortable. It should also be close to shrubs or trees so that the bird can escape if frightened. Birds drink and bathe in the same water, so the water will need to be refreshed quite frequently. A shallow pond with a fountain and various levels and depths would be perfect.

Providing nest boxes is another great way to attract bird life. Natural hollows in the trunks of old trees used to provide a nesting place for kookaburras and parrots, however in the suburban landscape, old trees are removed and so this natural habitat for nesting is not so freely available. If you are serious about encouraging birds to make your garden their home, then consider a few nesting boxes carefully placed at a safe height and in the shelter of a healthy tree.
The key to creating a bird friendly garden is to create structural diversity with a good mix of native plants. Plants should include a range of shrubs of varying heights, grasses and ground covers and some nice tall trees. Using mulch around garden beds encourages insects, which in turn encourages birds to visit and feed.

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May 2, 2017
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Botanic Gardens

Did you know you can do a free guided walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney? Each day from 10.30 am until noon, and from March until November, 1-2pm weekdays (except public holidays). It’s an easy walk around the Garden, but wearing comfortable walking shoes is recommended. The walk begins from the Information Booth at the Garden Shop. Bookings are not essential, except where an organised group is involved.

On Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays at 10 am there are also tours which explore plant uses, culture, artefacts and tasting of some bush foods under the supervision of an Aboriginal guide.

Should you prefer to explore the gardens at your own pace, be sure to include the Tropical Horticultural garden near Mrs Macquaries Road which is at its best during summer and autumn. The Glasshouse, Fernery and Palm Grove are not to be missed, and the Ponds are abundant with beauty and local bird life from late December to mid March.

There used to be a very large colony of flying fox (large fruit bats) in the gardens, but this has been greatly reduced due to recent efforts to relocate them. Garden management complained that 47 important trees had been killed by the bats, and another 300 trees were at risk. Playing loud, industrial noises to disturb their sleep seemed to do the trick, and the vast majority of the bats relocated themselves – many to the nearby Centennial Park. For more information about the Royal Botanic Garden click here

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah also provides free guided walks through the gardens most days at 11.30 am. Organised groups should pre-book, and they will be rewarded with an expert who offers a personalised sensory feast of the Garden’s seasonal highlights. There is a small cost involved for organised tours, but it is well worthwhile.

Plants are grouped in this Garden. There are Southern Hemisphere Woodlands, North American Woodlands, Conifer forests, a Bog Garden, Rainforest, Rhododendron garden, Proteaceae feature garden, traditional European style garden, Heath and Heather Garden and a Formal Garden wherein you will find a large collection of modern and heritage roses, and a Rosarium.
Special interest groups are catered for, using an experienced guide with the relevant specialised horticultural knowledge. These need to be booked in advance. Self-guided audio tours for adults are available for a small fee, and children may purchase a kit from the Visitor Centre to make their visit more hands-on and enjoyable. More information can be obtained from their website.

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