Companion planting

nasturtiums-orange-jan

Here are some tried and tested companions that help a variety of edible plants:

  • Marigold with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and most plants – repels white fly and root nematodes
  • Corn with spinach, swiss chard and leafy greens – protects and shades delicate leaves from the harsh sun
  • Borage with strawberries, cucumber and most edible plants – increases yield by adding nitrogen to the soil and attracting bees
  • Onions and garlic with fruit trees, tomatoes and eggplant – help deter aphids, slugs and other insects and weeds
  • Geranium with grapes, tomatoes and eggplant – attract insect pests so they stay away from other plants
  • Comfrey with tomatoes, berries and fruit trees – the leaves are full of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
  • Nasturtiums with cabbage, radishes and apple trees – attract aphids so the aphids avoid other plants
  • Sage with cabbage, carrots and strawberries – repels the cabbage white butterfly.

Can you think of any others?

Edible Garden Design by Jamie Durie

Photo by Jan.

Best plants for Brisbane’s weather

strawberry-watercolour

I attended a seminar on vegetable gardens presented by Tim Auld. He encouraged the group to brainstrorm the best plants for each of the seasons in Brisbane.

He explained that the traditional seasonal climates (spring, summer, autumn and winter) are mostly applicable to southern states of Australia. Queensland has a more temperate climate (sub-tropic) and further north have a tropical wet season (Dec – March).

Here’s the list of plants the group came up with:

Plants for the wet season (December to March):

  • ceylon spinach, choko, kang kong, melons, squash,  snake beans, sweet potato, taro and yams

Plants for a Cool temperate summer (April to August):

  • broccoli, carrot, garlic, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radish, silverbeet, spinach, and tomatoes

Plants for a Mediterranean summer (September to November):

  •  basil, beans, beetroot, capsicum, chilli, corn, melons, silverbeet, and squash

Plants for honey bees

northey-honey

It is important to encourage bees to our gardens, so that they can help pollinate our fruit and vegetables. The best plants to grow are nectar-producing natives and flowering plants such as basil, borage, catmint, coriander, cornflowers, fennel, garlic chives, heather, hyssop, lavender (heirloom varieties), lemon balm, marigolds, mint, rosemary, scabious and sea holly, thyme.

Jerry Coleby-Williams recommends growing begonias, blue ginger, pigeon peas and salvias to encourage the native Blue Banded bees. He also says:

There’s a lot more I’d recommend, but one crop that is often overlooked is corn – for its pollen.

I’ve planted Eucalyptus tereticornis and Melaleuca leucadendron in my street for honeybees.

I use ‘Honey Flora of Qld’, by S.T. Blake & C. Roff, published by DPI Qld, ISBN 0-7242-2371-1″>0-7242-2371-1 as a standard reference book.

If you aim for a variety of different plants which flower at different times of the year, you’ll have more success with encouraging bees.

Northey Street City Farm honey

How to make your own air freshener

rainforest

The best way to freshen the air inside your house it to open up the windows.

You may like to add some indoor plants to help filter out any existing pollutants and toxic chemicals.

Add some natural essential oils to a burner if you like aromatherapy.

Other green air freshener products to try are:

Native plants for butterflies

bnwbutterfly

To encourage butterflies to your garden you’ll need to provide both plants for the caterpillars and a good range of nectar rich flowers throughout the year for the butterflies. A source of water is also required – a bird bath is ideal. Local native plants from your region are the best choice.

Here are some that a suitable for the greater Brisbane area:

Ground covers and herbs:

  • Love flower
  • Spade flower
  • Stinging nettle
  • Yellow buttons

Native grasses:

  • Kangaroo Grass
  • Lomandra
  • Pademilon Grasses (Oplismenus)

Shrubs:

  • Bolwarra
  • Brisbane Wattle
  • Coffee Bush
  • Dogwood
  • Forest hop Bush
  • Green Wattle
  • Native Finger Lime
  • Native Plum
  • Pavetta

Trees:

  • Brown Kurrajong
  • Brush Box
  • Crown of Gold Tree
  • Lacebark Tree
  • Macadamia
  • Melaleuca and Callistemon
  • Rusty Gum
  • Sandpaper figs
  • Tuckeroo

Vines and Palms:

  • Barbed Wire Vine
  • Monkey Rope
  • Native Wisteria
  • Piccabeen Palm
  • Richmond Birdwing Vine

Native plants for frogs

frog

To encourage frogs to your garden you’ll need to provide them with shelter, food and water for breeding. It’s best to not take frog away from their original habitat – wait for them to take up residence in your garden. You can encourage them by building a garden pond, adding a rockery and using local native plants.

Frog-friendly plants for around ponds:

  • Bird’s Nest Fern
  • Brisbane Lily
  • Mat Rushes
  • Native Ginger
  • Native Lasiandra / Blue Tongue
  • River Lily

Frog-friendly plants for ponds:

  • Frogsmouth
  • Swamp Lily
  • Water Snowflake
  • Wavy Marshwort

For more information about frogs see:

More bees please

French royalty uses bees as a symbol of immortality and resurrection.

Recently many bee hives have been infected by colony collapse disorder, which is characterised by a rapid loss of mature bees. It may be caused by varroa mites, insect diseases or pesticides. One of the culprits could be varroa mite and Australia is the only continent that is free of this parasite.

Bees are important for the pollination of over 90 edible plants, so they play an important role in our ecosystems and food production.

Australia has a number of native stingless bees, that we can encourage to live in our backyards by planting the following:

Acacias, Banksia, Cassia (Senna), Emu bush, False sarsaparilla, Fan flower, Flax lillies, Gums, Grevillea, Guinea flower, Hakea, Honey Myrtles, Paperbarks, Paper daisy, Tea tree, and Westringia.

You’ll need a range of different flowering plants to ensure a constant supply of bees throughout the year. Other bee-friendly plants include:

Blue mist, Bergamont, Borage, Californian poppy, Candytuft, Chives, Cosmo, Dog rose, European honeysuckle, Hyssop, Larkspur, Lavender, Lungwort, Nasturtiums, Rosemary, Sage, Sunflower, Thyme, Yarrow and Verbena.

For further information watch the trailer of the upcoming The Vanishing of the bees or check out our Plants for honey bees.

Please contact  Bob the Beeman if you need help to rescue and/or relocate any bee hives in the Brisbane area.

Are bees the new canary in the coal mine?

Watering edible plants

“Every dollar’s worth of fruit and vegetables has needed at least 103 litres of water to mature. Every equivalent dollar’s worth of home grown food uses only 20 litres”.
David Holgrem

We purchased a three thousand litre plastic tank with the assistance of a government grant. It collects rainwater that runs off of our one car colourbond garage.

Fortunately we are allowed to use the rainwater as we choose, and it’s the main source of water for the vegetables and fruit trees. Our tank is situated close to the beds and trees, so we have managed to do without a water pump. Gravity works well until the tank is below a third full, then the pressure seems to drop off and watering takes twice as long. So far the tank has been big enough.

Natural rainfall always gives our plants a big boost in growth.

The Diggers Club has an informative article on “how much water do I need to grow fruit and vegetables? [PDF]”

Growing better indoor air

Grow your own fresh air – an excellent online presentation by Kamal Meattle.

Indoor air can become polluted from cleaning products, fabrics, flooring, furniture and new paint. Toxic chemicals that may be found indoors include acetone, ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and xylene. They can irritate eyes and skin, and may contribute to asthma, headaches, and hay fever.

The good news is that indoor plants are effective at breaking down these polluting substances. Plants can also remove mould spores and other unhealthy microbes. Try a few of these in your home:

Resources