Tag Archives: Garden

Gardening for Biodiversity

If you live in Adelaide and want to enhance the biodiversity of your little patch, there are some great tools online:

Butterfly-friendly native plants (interactive map from Butterfly Conservation Society of SA)

Backyards for Wildlife (Urban Forest Biodiversity Program)
Plant database for local species, tips and resources on establishing a native and biodiverse garden, including container gardening with natives

Secret little lizard

Whenever I head into the front garden with a watering can at the moment, little Shadow the blue-tongue lizard is usually around. I think we might have an understanding as today he/she drank a few drips of water and regarded each other. What seemed to pass was something like this: “If you keep a little water around when I’m thirsty in the late afternoon, I’ll stay and discourage snakes”. Deal little blue-tongue! Your secret hidey gentle presence is more than welcome.

A welcome garden critter

Metallic nature

shield bug eggs
Shield bug eggs?

I found these beautiful little silver metallic eggs on the underside of a leaf.  I think they belong to a shield bug (or stink bug) and there are definitely plenty of those around from time to time.  I love the gradient pattern of colours, which I’m guessing are the result of the eggs being at different stages of development? Looks like a design.

As most shield bugs are plant pests, and like to suck sap, I have to say they aren’t exactly welcome to set up big colonies in my garden – unless they are the good guys (and I don’t know how to work that out yet). I’m going to keep an eye out for the bugs and see if I can learn something about who they are over summer.

Even if they are the pest variety,  I can definitely still appreciate their spot in the ecosystem and admire the beauty of their eggs. Respect your enemies.

Hanging tomatoes

Faced with two bushes full of lovely green tomatoes and shortening days, we’ve used our usual strategy of using up a glut of green tomatoes – making chutney, and picking some to ripen inside.  Ripening inside is ok, but sometimes they aren’t quite as tasty and seem to be a bit watery. I decided to see if there were any other methods for ripening tomatoes and found this article suggesting that you can pull up the bushes and hang them upside down to ripen the green ones.

I’ve heard of planting tomatoes to grow upside down, but had never considered  you could ripen them this way too. The advantage is that all the nutrient in the branches and leaves is apparently put into the tomato fruit and you get the same juicy fruits as you would have, had you been the middle of the sunny blue-skied growing season.Add to this that Richard had to pull my tomatoes out to make way for a wood store, and I decided that trying out the hanging method made lots of sense this year.

hanging tomatoes
Just-hung tomatoes

We just hung them against the fence, in a position of fuller sun than they had been when in the ground. You could put them somewhere more sheltered out of the rain.

Half of the daily harvest (Fionna ate 5 before I could take the photo)

And…it works! In the one week that ours have been hanging, they are ripening daily and there’s a steady daily supply.

After a week, I pruned back some of the dying branches today to let more sun in and help the plant put it’s energy into the remaining tomatoes.

I’m actually really impressed with the concept of doing this because it seems such a waste of a plant’s energy, to just rip up tomatoes bushes at the end of the season. Sometimes you have to do to make space for your winter crops, or in our case, a wood store. If we hadn’t moved them into the sun the unripened ones would have just rotted on the vine as the winter came in. This will definitely be an end-of-summer routine task from now on.

Native Frangipani

We have two beautiful trees in our front garden and I’ve managed to find out that they are native frangipani’s. There is nothing to me, more exciting that finding out what grows in the garden when you move house.

Native frangipani seeds
Hymenosporum flavum - Native frangipani seeds

They are such beautiful trees with fragrant flowers, so I took the opportunity of some seed saving, particular after reading that the plants can be hard to find.  The seeds are a thing of beauty in themselves.


How to make a faery house – really quickly

Having just moved house, and after a year of upheaval – the big move from the farm,  and then renting  for around 9 months, my 3 year old expressed genuine concern about whether our garden fairies would know how to find our new house. In our rented house garden, we built many a daisy-flower fairy ring, and fairies had been with us on the farm.  Her time in the garden was pretty much about talking to them and making cups of tea for them, and occasionally they would leave a tiny chocolate treat in the fairy ring when she hid from them. No wonder she didn’t want to leave these generous little denizens behind! Friends and treat-bearers are not easily left behind!

So, to reassure her – about the fairies and the move to the new house – we built the fairies a new faery house before we’d barely unpacked. This seemed really important to her, and with a new brother on the way in a few months, moving the fairies in to our new house seemed like a good way to lay down a bit of stability and continuity between the ‘old places’ we’d come from and our new place where life was about to change again.

Anyway, it had to be quick and easy amongst working, unpacking and being 6 months pregnant, so here it is, How to make a fairy house – really quickly!

Step 1: Find a small bird house from your nearest hardware store. (If you haven’t just moved house you may have something around that you can recycle for this project.)

small bird house
Nice for birds, but needs faery renovations

Step 2: Gather wild leafy and flowery bits from around the place. This was fantastic as we got time to explore what is growing in our new garden.

Wild bits

Step 3: Engage a faery expert to decorate the house.

Faery decoration consultant

Step 4: Admire the house and wish you were little enough to step inside and sleep on the rose-petal bedding.

Fit for faery

Step 5: Find a leafy place for your house (faeries prefer leaves as no tell-tale faery footprints are left behind).

location, location, location

Step 6: If you have elusive, secretive, shy faeries (the most common type) find a dingly dell or secret glade for your house so that faeries can come and go via spider-web bridges, untroubled by mortal eyes.

shy faery abode

….and of course, the fairies did move with us as we discovered the next morning…