Question Of The Week
Hello Annette, I am
including a photo of an insect that appears to be in
large numbers buzzing around our fruit tree garden
(lemon, orange, lime and avocado) which is mulched with
lucerne hay. They are very busy in the air, but settle
for a little while to feed from the flowering gum. Will
they be a problem to the trees and young tomato plants
growing nearby. Richard and Helen.
Hello Richard and Helen
How lucky are you. These are native bees! Not only are
they stingless, but they are doing a great job
pollinating your garden. All you need to do to keep them
happy is to keep planting things that flower and avoid
using chemical sprays.
I have lots of black and
white striped grubs in my pots and raised garden beds.
They are striped down the length of the grub, quite
skinny (about 1.5 mm) and only up to about 2.5cm long.
Are they a problem and, if so, how do I get rid of them?
Many thanks, Margaret
These are millipedes. You find them from time to time in
the garden or in pots, but they usually do not cause
much of a problem here in Qld. They do occur in plague
proportions in cooler climates. You seem to have quite a
few, so you might want to do something about them. They
feed on damp organic matter and hide under leaf litter,
in unused pots, or other things around the garden. If
you have piles of damp newspapers or other things they
can hide in you might want to clean this up. If they
have no-where to hide, they tend to move on.
Diatomaceous Earth or Boric acid available from
Green Harvest can be
used to control them. You just sprinkle this around
where they are active.
Question Of The Week
Can I use mature hardwood
woodchip mulch ( from gum trees, it's been sitting in a
pile for about 4 months ) as a mulch under my fruit
trees - citrus, grumacharma, jaboticaba, pawpaw etc. If
so should I add anything else at the same time?
Margaret - Sunshine Coast
Yes, you can use the wood chip. Add a couple of handfuls
of granular for pelleted fertiliser to each wheelbarrow
of wood chip as you spread it. Alternatively you could
spread a handful per square metre to the soil prior to
spreading the mulch. Be sure to spread the mulch over
damp (not dry) gardens. Water the mulch well after
spreading. Take care not to breath in any dust or spores
associated with the mulch. I like to wet it down prior
The new leaves on my
tatsoi and kale, in a raised garden bed, seem to be
gnarled and lumpy. Any ideas as to the cause and are
they still edible? The photo shows a normal leaf and an
abnormal one. Many thanks. Shirley
This is mite damage. Remove as many of
the affected leaves as you can and spray the rest of the
plant with a soap spray. Be sure to target the
undersides of the foliage as this is where the mites
live. The leaves are still fine to eat, but if you do
not control the mites, the plants will suffer and
produce very few new leaves.
Could you please tell me why some of my "Blue My Mind",
have changed their leaf size to small and colour from a
silver green to just green and now will not produce any
flowers? Sheryl - location unknown
Any chance this plant has been affected
by spray drift from a turf weeder or similar? If so,
there is nothing you can do, but dig out that section.
It could also be severe mite damage (although I would
expect all the plant to be affected). Cut the plant back
and spray with a soap spray. Let me know how you get on.
We all recognise the importance of
rootstocks on citrus, but if you are unsure about which
rootstock goes with what citrus cultivar, Queensland
fruit tree expert, Peter Young,
suggests the following:
Trifoliata - confers some
dwarfing. Ideal for Meyer lemon and finger limes, but is
Swingle - produces a very large tree. Best used on grapefruit
Troyer - produces a mid-sized tree. Adaptable to a variety of
cultivars, but avoid lemons and finger limes.
- best used with Eureka lemon.
Cleo - best used with Calamondin.
Flying Dragon - confers dwarfing
characteristics. Ideal for orange, mandarin and lime.
Great advice. Thanks Peter Young
you give me any advice with how I would be able to
strike a leopard tree from the seed pods? I have tried
for a while, but with no success. I would be happy to
buy an advanced tree, but am unable to find them. Could
help with that as well please?
Marie of Brisbane
Leopard trees are rarely available in nurseries these
days as many local authorities consider them overly
large and a bit weedy for suburban
planting. To successfully grow trees from seed you need
to break open the hard outer seed coat. Place the small
seeds in boiling water and
soak overnight before planting. This will allow water to
penetrate and speed germination.
grown this eggplant from seed that I received at a seed
saving workshop. I think the seeds were from Annette's
garden. Are you able to identify the plant? Do I use the
fruit as I would any other eggplant?
Cynthia of Brisbane
Congratulations on your success. This is a red eggplant.
Use it in the same way as other eggplants. It is nice to
mix in with purple eggplants just for the colour.
Here is the progress on germination of a polyembryonic
mango. Individual seedlings (hard to see, but there are
three) are starting to separate. One seedling is
typically from cross pollination (not true to type).
Other seedlings are vegetative clones that grow true to
parent fruit. These clonal seedlings tend to be the most
vigorous. If in doubt, pot them all as it is often
easier to tell as the seedlings develop true leaves.
Also, some varieties are notorious for producing dodgy
offspring (like R2E2). You can always use spare
seedlings for grafting practice. Why are commerical
mango trees are grafted? For production uniformity and
rootstock characteristics like disease resistance,
soil-type adaptation, faster fruiting and dwarfing.
Remember, a seed grown mango collected from a dwarf
grafted mango tree will not produce a dwarf tree. The
fruit will be the same, but grafting confers the dwarf
habit. Seed grow trees take 5-7 year to fruit. Grafted
trees can bear fruit in 3 years.
Judy recently came to my 'New Year, New Garden' workshop
at Sandgate Town Hall armed with a sample of this plant
that had her and her garden club members perplexed. She
left it with me to identify. Here is my reply.
Your seeds are from a Michelia probably a variety of
Michelia champaca. I recall you said it had small, white
scented flowers - so maybe Michelia champaca alba? Seeds
must be fresh to germinate, but may not come true to
type with regard to the variety/flower colour. Might be
fun for your garden club members to try growing some.
From the attached photo’s, can you advise what it is
that I have in my ‘blue couch lawn’? How can I remove
this ‘weed’? It has many deep roots into the ground
which would take considerable time to remove. If there
is a chemical spray that is safe to use around bird life
as I do feed wild birds daily.
Bill of Coopers Plains
Creeping Indigo - Indigofera spicata. This legume
weed was introduced for agricultural use. It fixes
nitrogen in association with common soil bacteria. It
has a long tap root, spreads like a mat, and is a
prolific seed producer. It is a common weeds of lawns.
Common lawn chemicals are registered for the control of
this weed (MCPA/Dicamba), but I prefer to dig it out so
that you remove all the seed pods at the same time.
Burning with fertiliser is another option. I have been
asked to identify some lawn and garden weeds on ABC
radio recently. Identifying weeds from verbal
descriptions is always difficult, so I will post some
names and images of some problem weeds here in the hope
that you might see the one troubling you. My favourite
weed control method is burning. I do this with a gas
powered flame weeder or by using fertiliser. To burn
weeds with fertiliser simply apply a concentrated
fertiliser directly on top of the weeds (without
watering in). The weeds will be burnt out completely in
just a few hours, after which any remaining fertiliser
can be watered into the lawn/garden.
Moroccan Carrot Salad
I have had the pleasure of running a series of
workshops with Queensland Food Ambassador, Alison Alexander. This is a
recipe Alison developed for Queensland carrot growers. It is a favourite
in our household and once you make it, I am sure it will become a
favourite at your place too.
Does this web belong to a
lawn grub or a spider? The webs are isolated, more noticeable at this time of
year and do no damage to the lawn. Joyce
What a great image! They could be just
spiders, but given you seem to have a few I suspect they are sod web worms. It
is a type of caterpillar and you get at least some in most lawns. If they do not
appear to be causing any damage, I would not worry. In most cases they are
largely controlled by birds.
There seems to be a few
of these "webs" in the small bush. Can you identify and if so, how to prevent
these from forming? Tony
This webbing is caused by a caterpillar
(there are several different types of webbing caterpillars). It makes this nest
to hide itself from birds and other predators. If you are brave enough to pull
the webbing apart you will find it hiding inside. You can cut off and dispose of
the affected branches - they often affect the tip growth of bottlebrush or small
internal branches of paperbarks (Melaleuca) and teatree (Leptospermum).
Alternatively, just remove the webbing by hand when you see it. Plants recover
I have a rather weird looking avocado seedling. As you can see from the attached
picture, one plant appears healthy green and the other is pale (almost
translucent). We regularly eat avocado. I placed a couple of pips outside ...
they began to sprout at the same time ... I put them into pots (with the same
potting mix) at the same time - approx. two months ago. Is the "pale" seedling
diseased? Should I destroy it, or let it grow and see what happens? Paul -
Thank you for your question. Albino avocado seedlings are not uncommon. It is
generally believed that this occurs when seeds germinate prior to the seed
reaching a certain level of maturity. Where this is the case, the seedlings can
develop normal green leaves with time.
If might be interesting for you to see if it does.
I attended your Sandgate workshop on Sat and thank you for
a great and informative morning. I have a hibiscus with red and cream leaves,
but a lot of plain green leaves keep coming through. I have cut them out a few
times but they persist. Judy of Brighton
Judy, your hibiscus was bred from a random variegated shoot on a normal green
form, so it is natural that it wants to revert back to green. Pruning out the
green as you have been doing is the only option. Just make sure when you prune
that you take out the entire green shoot right back to the point that it
originates deep within the plant.Cut flush with the stem so that there is no
chance (no buds/stem) from which the plant can reshoot. If you just cut the
green back it will keep reshooting as it is more vigorous than the variegated
Hi Annette, What is this bulb? Please identify. Thanks
Roslyn (Bulb and flower images provided).
Hello Roslyn. Your mystery
bulb is Scadoxus multiflorus. It is a gorgeous thing and quite easy to grow. It
will develop large green leaves over the summer/autumn. I have some growing
quite happily in the garden without much care and attention. It prefers a little
shade in the afternoon.
I love the Thai Summer Salad recipe on your website, but have been trying to grow
my own Vietnamese mint to use in it. What is the secret? I just cannot seem to
get it to thrive.
Kaye of Townsville
The secret to growing any mint is water and a little bit of protection from the
hot afternoon sun. Grow your Vietnamese mint (Persicaria odorata), in a self
watering pot or preferrably in a pot plunged into a water feature so that the
roots are fully submerged. All mint grows quickly, so you will need to divide
the plant and repot it once or twice each year. I always keep at least two
plants on the go at any one time, so that I always have plenty of Vietnamese
mint on hand for our favourite summer watermelon salad.
for the terrific Thai Pea Eggplant seeds you so generously gave away at the
recent Green Heart Fair in Carindale. I dutifully planted them with love and
care, and they have germinated. Horray!! Picture attached!!
now like to plant out into containers (on a balcony - NE facing, good sun).
Information about growing Pea Eggplant in pots is somewhat scant on the
internet... I have tried!! These are my questions.
(1) What pot size is
appropriate? I like the 95c, 9L buckets from Bunnings after I drill 6 holes in
the bottom. Would they be OK? One plant per pot?
(2) Also I like to plant a
couple in smaller pots, so I can give away to friends for them to repot at their
home. Do you think Pea Eggplant will still fruit OK after two re-pottings, from
seedling pot, to 600ml pot, to something permanent?
(3) Most of the seeds I
was able to plant separately, but in some cases there are 20-30 little plants
clumped together. Do you have any recommendations for techniques to separate out
the little seedlings?
Claire from Taringa
Well done on your
germination of the Thai pea eggplants. Pea eggplants (like all eggplants) need
as much sun as possible. One plant per 9L bucket should be fine. You have plenty
to give away so pot them into small containers for friends. You could also do
this with the ones you are keeping and gradually pot them up into the
bucket-sized containers. Separate the clumped seedlings by washing the roots in
some liquid seaweed (dilute according to directions). Overcrowded seedlings can
be separated and successfully repotted when they soil is washed off. Fertilize
your eggplants every week with liquid nutrients and be sure to add extra dry
fertilizer to the potting mix.
The cycad blue
butterfly has become an increasing problem for
gardeners over the past decade. This small butterfly lays eggs in the centre of
the plant, often prior to the emergence of the new fronds. The new fronds either
fail to emerge or are permanently ruined by the chewing of the slug-like larvae.
The presence of ants on cycads is often an indication of the presence of larvae
on the undersides of the fronds. Any organic products that control caterpillars
(including molasses and spinosad sprays)
will control this pest, but must be
applied before the larvae being to chew the new foliage. Correct timing is
essential. I prefer to cover the centre of each plant with a small section of
soft, green, mosquito netting, prior to frond emergence. Tuck it loosely over
the centre of the plant leaving room for the new fronds to gradually push it off
as they mature. Covering with ting keeps plants free of larvae and once the
fronds become hard they are immune to attack. If you are not prepared to go to
this effort consider an alternative plant. Zamia furfuracea (a close
relative of the cycad commonly known as the cardboard palm) is immune to attack
from the cycad blue butterfly.
What an honour it is to be featured in Anne Vale's new
book, 'Influential Australian Garden People and Their
Stories'. Dr. Anne Vale is a historian, lecturer and
garden photographer. This latest book is a sequel to her
2003 award winning title, 'Exceptional Australian Garden
Makers'. I am enjoying reading about colleagues like
Jane Edmanson, Steven Ryan and Tim Entwistle. Other
Queenslanders featured include Arno King and Paul Plant.
Copies will soon be available at BCC libraries or you
can purchase copies online at
For more of
Annette's articles and other interesting stories on how to 'Live For
Other articles of
Tree Paste and
When buying seeds
how the seed
My Top Ten:
cuisine, in fact you
have possibly eaten
dishes. If you have
pond or water
can grow kangkong....
Native Plants W/Shop
Lawns W/Shop Notes
Soil pH Plant List
Ask A Question
Poem by Annette
Buranda State School
and Harmony Choir
gardening guru with
the song Annette
originally wrote as
a poem. Compiled by
January 2016, Roger from Ellanora wrote regarding the
non-flowering of his seed grown poinciana (7-8 years old
and 3.5m tall). I suggested that poinciana trees require
7-10 years to flower and that his patience would be
rewarded eventually. In November 2016, Roger got back in
touch with the news below.
Hi, Annette, earlier I
sent you a photo of my Poinciana tree which I had grown from seed and asked you
if it would flower?. As you can see by the photo after 8+ years it has finally
come good. Thank you for your gardening tips in the Sunday Mail, please keep
three citrus trees. But it seems only one has an infestation of stink bugs. I've
tried picking them off with a gloved hand and snipping of entire branches. Is
there anything I can spray? from Mary
To control adult stink bugs (or bronze orange bugs), spray with oil (a
plant-based oil or pure neem oil - note Eco-Neem is not registered for edibles) by
aiming the spray directly at the insect. Another option is to use an old vacuum
cleaner to dispatch them at arm's length. In future, it will help to recognize
the various stages of the lifecycle. It is likely that your tree was infested
several months ago. Control the eggs and immature stages by spraying each
season with oil. This will
also control scale, mites and aphids. Without treatment your stink bugs will
spread to all your trees next year.
more pest information....
like Annette McFarlane to identify this tree which I have growing in my garden,
if possible, please?
Keith of Carina
Your mystery plant is the
Australian rainforest native known as the powder puff tree (Syzygium wilsonii).
It prefers a shaded position, is very slow growing and has a natural weeping
habit. It bears its stunning, signature crimson flowers massed with stamens
popular with new gardeners is the no-dig or sheet mulch gardening technique.
In no-dig gardens, layers of organic material are built up on the top of the
soil, rather than dug into it. Lucerne is usually used as the main
component of the no-dig garden, but you can mix in other high nitrogen materials
such as grass clippings and sappy green prunings with animal manure
and compost. This will make the lucerne go
further. Straw, sugar cane or some other high
carbon material is used as a mulch on top of the garden.
No dig gardens can be built on top of the soil or any
surface, even concrete!
To build a no-dig garden 2m x 3m you will need:
bales of lucerne
One barrow of compost
One bale of straw/cane straw
Slash or mow any existing lawn or weeds. Water the
area well and spread some gypsum if your soil is heavy
clay. Lay down a thick layer of wet newspaper,
overlapping it well. Alternate thin layers of the
lucerne, compost and manure, watering as you go.
When you have a nice thick layer almost knee high and
all your nitrogen materials have been used up, spread
the straw/cane mulch over the top to form a mulch layer.
for at least two weeks before planting, re-wetting if
necessary. Covering the bed with plastic will ‘cook’ the
layers and help them to break down more quickly.
To plant the no-dig garden create small pockets within
the lucerne layer and fill with compost or potting mix.
Plant seeds or seedlings into the compost pockets,
drawing the straw mulch layer back in around the plants.
Leafy crops such as silverbeet, spinach and lettuce grow
well in no-dig gardens as do tomatoes, melons and
pumpkins. Avoid planting root crops in no-dig
gardens for several seasons until a good depth of
compost has accumulated.
Mite Damage on Citrus
Take a close look at your citrus blooms (these are from a Minneola tangelo) and
you may observe some distorted flowers and developing fruit. These blooms have
been affected by bud mites (most likely Eriophyyes sheldoni). Sulphur or oil
sprays can be used as a preventative, but once flowers and young fruit have been
affected the damage is already done. Pick them off if you like. Fruit typically
still develops, but will be distorted.
Silver Leaf Desmodium - (Desmodium uncinatum)
Here is another introduced pasture legume that has
become a weed problem in gardens and bushland areas. It
grows incredibly quickly and flowers and seeds
prolifically. You will see it covering the soil and
growing up trees as a dense climber. The small, flat
seeds stick to your socks and clothing. You really are
best to remove it by hand. If you try to spray it with a
herbicide like glyphosate, the vine will die, but the
seeds will drop to the soil and before you know if you
will have another crop to contend with. If you have
grazing animals (sheep, goats, a cow), you could feed it
to them as it is high in nitrogen. Avoid putting it in
the compost as the seeds are problematic, but you can
soak it in water and use the nutrient enriched liquid as
a liquid fertiliser.
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Oh no, it is the dreaded Dendrobium beetle! This is a
common pest of potted and shade house orchids, but as
you can see, will also attack orchids grown in tree
forks or other naturalistic settings. Beetles and their
larvae destroy new leaves and stems of orchids, so
control them if you can. Squash them by hand (like I did
this one) or try using any organic chewing insect
control (Spinosad, diatomaceous earth, molasses drenches
I have tiny ants on my gardenia
flowers. Do you have a solution - preferably organic?
Are you sure they are ants June?
you must also have scale or mealy bugs as ants are typically attracted
to these pests. You will need to control the ants (try chilli powder),
plus control the scale (oil sprays) and mealy bugs (difficult, but try
drenching with molasses - 2 tablespoons per litre water - each week). I
suspect that you have thrips (see image). Try an oil spray or pyrethrum.
Alternatively, if you are just picking the flowers for indoor use and
not that worried about a few bugs on the plant itself, plunge the cut
flowers in water and drown the thrips before arranging the blooms.
Can you eat the flowers on chives?
Judith of Toowoomba
Yes, you can eat the
flowers of chives - although many people may think they
look so lovely, it seems a shame to do so. The unopened
flower buds can be added to a stir fry or used as a
garnish. The individual flowers (separated from the
globular flower head) are great as a garnish, added to
dips and salads or cooked in an omelette or other egg
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