Seed Swaps

Making Potting Mix & Revitalising Garden Beds

11 Jan 2012
Cloudy 30°C / 86°F

Even in this hot weather, gardens still need some attention.

Out with the old – in with the new: I’ve pulled out the spent plants and added to the compost. Recycling nutrients to feed new plants is a regular activity here.

Next on the list is to add fresh compost and mulch, seaweed, organic complete fertilisers and rock minerals back into the beds for the next crops, side dressing in some places.

I’ve had some heavy feeders like cucumbers, capsicums and zucchinis all sharing the same space so they’ve also drained the moisture. Trying to keep water up for the hot days has meant extra time in the garden in the morning but worth the effort to keep the food plants producing.

Our 6 passionfruits are loaded with flowers and fruit and they too are needing moisture morning and night. I don’t want them to drop their fruit at this point so lots of love is going into them.

Rhubarb is still growing well although it wilts in the heat of the day. Heavily mulched and heaps of worms are creating beautiful humus around their crowns so they seem to be surviving OK for now even without shadecloth protection yet.

The soil in some of the micro gardens is also ready to be revitalised after several months of use. I make my own potting mix ( and also reuse old mix in the garden to save money (




Nothing looks quite as beautiful as a vigorously growing, abundant garden. Your photos make my mouth water.

Posted on 12 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

Thanks LillyPilly! Sadly my cucumbers are now taking a hammering from the harlequin bugs that have arrived en masse for some reason. I think it’s because the soil is drying out so quickly in the heat with 16 plants in a small space. Their water stress has obviously become a beacon to predators. This is what happens when you have visitors stay and can’t spend the time in the garden!! So I’m currently undertaking some remedial work to save my beautiful crop. My daughter who eats at least one cucumber a day is not happy!

I’ve never had to deal with these little stinkers ever before so I’m working out the best organic strategies. So far, sneaking up on them and squashing is working (unless they see me and fly off), as is looking under leaves for infant nurseries and closing the entire leaf on them and squashing. I’ve also tried using a ‘stun gun’ approach by spraying the adults with neem and they seem shocked for a few seconds – long enough for me to exterminate. Have you had experience with these bugs before?

Posted on 12 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

They haven’t been a problem for me, yet. Maybe there is something around here that eats them? Most of what I have growing is pretty tough, so that could be part of my good luck. Next year when the beds are up and running could see me too doing the harlequin hunt.

My biggest issue is the wretched bronze orange bugs. As well as being squitry nasty, they are plain creepy looking. I haven’t found much that works except for knocking them off by hand into a container of soapy water. Or vacuuming them up. Supposedly there is now another organic knock down I could try, can’t remember the name, but Spinosad is the active ingredient. If I can’t slow them up I’ll have to consider pruning back all the citrus to make it easier for me. Living across the street from a remnant rainforest and two streets away from the Range escarpment means I get a lot more here than I had in my last place, only four streets away. And don’t mention fruit flies.

Posted on 17 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

Whilst I haven’t had to deal with the bronze orange bugs here, I know the small nymphs are best controlled in winter with the soap spray – much easier than the parents that you have to knock off with a stick. I’m not sure my hand-eye coordination would do too well with that job! My girlfriend went around her tree with a bucket day after day until she got them all off but she had to wear protective clothing and goggles. Little stinkers!
What do you use to control the fruit flies?

Posted on 17 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

My fruit fly tactic is mostly avoidance. I plant things that aren’t a problem! And bagging with knee high stockings or voile bags. I have to really want something to take the trouble. Tomatoes are worth it and figs. What have you found effective?

Posted on 21 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

A few strategies I guess. Mainly prevention and diversity. I usually plant more than just one plant of each variety so if something happens, I have another plant(s) to fall back on. With the fruit trees, I make my own fruit fly traps out of empty milk bottles and hang them. These are very effective if done at the right time of year. They last much longer than the ones I bought from Green Harvest. The plastic must not have been UV treated because they disintegrated quite quickly but my milk bottle traps are still fine. Have you ever used these with any success?

So far I haven’t had to deal with fruit fly in the vegie patch except for one isolated tomato plant near the fence this year and I had so many others I didn’t worry because this plant was away from the rest. It was a volunteer plant and I also know that the soil there hadn’t had any help from me so that may have had something to do with it. What fruits get attacked in your area?

Posted on 21 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

I think Toowoomba is a problem because of all the fruit on the ground. There are a lot of people who don’t pick, or pick up fruit from trees they inherited. There are also a tremendous number of ornamental flowering stone fruit, that drop small, but juicy fruit. And a lot of loquat trees in town too. Add to that my proximity to the Range and remnant rainforest. It would be easier to say what fruit DON’T get stung. Even capsicums and chillies have been hit. I’m thinking of putting in star pickets on the inside of the raised beds so I can erect ag pipe arches and sew up some covers.

My friend on the other side of town has less of a problem, but the only way she grows tomatoes any more is in a screened bed. She has tried every product out there and had some success with Wild May (I think) for the first year, but not after. All it takes is one neighbour with poor garden hygiene and you are susceptible.

I can reduce the numbers with bait traps, but it doesn’t let me off from needing to use physical protection, so I’m not going to bother any more. For me it is better to stick to those things that don’t make gardening a chore, with the odd exceptions, like tomatoes. I used to grow smaller varieties, but since I have to bag them, next year I will look at varieties with larger fruit. In the last house I managed to grow Green Zebra without fruit fly, so I’ll try them again, too.

All of the trees are too young to fruit, but I have a hunch that I’m going to need to use mesh for a few things, because of the birds as well as fruit fly. I don’t want to end up like poor Russell !

Posted on 23 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

Wow I didn’t realise Toowoomba had such a widespread problem. We live in an area that widely grows fruit trees as most of it was originally pineapple farms but there are many smaller landholdings and suburban blocks now. I haven’t heard of such an issue with fruit fly around here although being QLD it’s everywhere.
Sounds like exclusion and choosing your varieties carefully are your only choice! I have only grown a variety of cherry tomatoes here and they aren’t bothered by fruit fly so have never had to use any traps but now have some Black Russians in so will see how they go. I also picked up some Green Zebras (and what looks like a Roma with Green Zebra stripes) – both heirloom varieties at our local markets last weekend. Want to save seed and give them a go. Love the flavour of the Green Zebra although the colour of the skin takes some getting used to.

Posted on 23 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

You may find more problems in the future. At least commercial growers are required to control fruit fly, even if I don’t like how they choose to do it. Some householders are pretty slack, they pick something with grubs and promptly abandon the lot.

The green does look odd, doesn’t it? And not just the skin, the flesh is not so good for cooking, unless you like the weird olive drab you get. I did find them great for grilled tomatoes, though.

Posted on 24 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

I guess householders are hard to police when it comes to fruit fly. How do you educate on such a wide scale and who would take responsibility for that? As you say, we have to make the best of our own situations and use opportunities to share good hygiene practice.

I’m really not taken by the looks of the Green Zebra although it’s Roma shaped red equivalent is quite cute and very tasty. I’m keen to see how the seeds go. The Black Russians are fruiting and flowering now (only put 2 in) but I’m looking forward to those.

With all this avalanche of rain though (280mm in 2 days), the beds are saturated and it’s causing havoc with some of the vegie patch. The rocket is water damaged from the heavy rain although it’s still harvestable (have about 200 plants in) but I’ve been selling it at the local organic stall and I hope it will be OK this week.

The passionfruits that have set fruit are OK but the flowers are taking a beating on the rest of the vines (such a shame to lose them after so much input) and losing quite a bit of mulch down the kitchen garden due to flooding from the neighbours.

Other than that the raised beds are coping, the pumpkins are great at slowing the overland water flow down and sucking it up anyway and the sweet potato vines are holding their beds together well. I’m always glad I garden in containers in this sort of deluge – at least I can gather up a salad and greens without getting soaked. And I can move them under cover when needed – less leaching of valuable minerals.

Are you copping this rain? Or is it only the south east and coasts?

Posted on 24 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

We are getting some of it too, but we never (well, hardly ever) get what the coast does. The tropical root veg bed looks happy as. Not much else in except trees and bushes who all seemed to enjoy the deluge. Mostly I have things that can cope with the Summers. Some of Mum’s ornamentals, like the pink Gaura look a bit bedraggled. The leaf sweet potato is in heaven. I cut it back by about 3/4 and the remainder doubled in size in three days!

Posted on 26 Jan 12 (over 4 years ago)

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