Sunday, 28 October 2007

Building a garden pond

We've finally finished our pond. It was a bit of work, but we reckon it's worth it, as it now gives the garden a different look and feel (even more so when we actually top it up with water!).

We've been looking into getting some native pond plants and ways to attract frogs too.

First, you must create the ideal habitat for frogs. From the slideshow here of our pond-making efforts, you can see the pond's location. It's in part shade and is shaded from the afternoon sun by the house (which is great in summer and hopefully will lessen the loss of water through evaporation), and using plants and the established trees we hope the microclimate will be conducive for frogs!

What's a microclimate? Basically, it's an area which exhibits a highly localised climate that is different to the general climate of an area. It can be as small as a few feet or as large as a few acres. We're hoping our pond will help to keep the area surrounding it cooler and more humid than areas further away. We've got a jasmine climbing on a frame nearby, a range of native plants, including lilies (a native pale vanilla lily), grasses and native violets; plus, some orchids, daphne, grevillea, and japanese maples. With the side of the house (brick) together with the lattice fence, the area is contained and protected from wind. The eaves also help protect plants from winter frosts. When creating microclimates it's good to think about

  • temperature control
  • patterns of light and shade
  • humidity
  • airflow Carol from garden guides has.

What about maintaining your pond? We had a look at the ACT govt legislation website for details relating to ponds and water restrictions. Here's a snippet from the table of info they provide on the site (from left to right, staged restrictions apply up to level 5. We are currently on level 3 water restrictions):

  1. Private Ponds and Garden
Fountains to be switched Off unless they re-cycle water.

Ponds may be topped up by hand held hose or bucket

Fountains to be switched Off

Ponds may be topped up by hand held hose or bucket

Ponds that support fish or birds may be topped up by bucket directly filled from a tap but not a hose Ponds that support fish or birds may be topped up by bucket directly filled from a tap but not a hose Ponds that support fish or birds may be topped up by bucket directly filled from a tap but not a hose
Source: WATER RESTRICTION SCHEME APPROVAL 2002 - Utilities (Water Restrictions) Regulations 2002: Part 2, s 5: Approved water restriction scheme.

Sydney Water also have some tips on garden design for optimum water-saving, including the use of microclimates.

Additionally, installing a rainwater tank would mean you can top your pond up with rainwater rather than mains water. We're researching water tanks at present to see what will work in our location, to achieve optimum rain capturing and usage!

We'll post more on that later. For now, we're going tadpoling!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Books: Australian Plants for Canberra Region

While spending up big at the Botanic Gardens plant sale yesterday, we also purchased this book:

Australian Plants for Canberra Region Gardens and other Cool Climate Areas (ISBN 0 909830 59 2).
It's an informative book covering a broad range of grasses, shrubs, trees and more that grow well in Canberra's harsh conditions. It's published by Australian Native Plants Society Canberra Region Inc. (formerly the Society for Growing Australian Plants, Canberra Region Inc.) who describe the book on their website:
The purpose of this book is to assist people growing Australian plants whether they are starting a new garden, developing an established one, or just adding some native plants to any garden. It features over 10,000 Australian plants suitable for growing in the Canberra Region, and much of the information gathered here will have application elsewhere in temperate southern and eastern Australia. Many of the plants that grow successfully in Canberra's climatic extremes have a wide range of adaptability.
Well worth the $20 we think! A great addition to your book collection if you're aiming for a native garden in the Canberra region.

New plantings and diggings

Its that time of the year again and the Australian Botanic Garden Society had their biannual native seedling sale. We picked up a few seedlings at last year's Spring sale and a few more at the Autumn sale. We went a bit crazy on Saturday and stocked up on some hedging shrubs for the new bed along the side fence - some hovea longifolia, pomaderris betulina (subsp. actensis), leionema elatius, accacia - we wanted some all year colour that would provide a bit of additional screening for our backyard and a local bottlebrush with yellow flowers (callistemon pityoides) .

We picked up some more native grasses and some flowering rockery plants to plant in our rockery overlooking the pond. Once we got home we realised we would now need a rockery to plant them in, so we did some granite relocation and built up a raised bed with the spare soil we had dug up in making our pond. Before we got stuck into the rockery, we put the lining in our pond and lay a small path to the pond and made our first use of the load of brickies' sand we had delivered with our sleepers.

On the way back from the Botanic Gardens we stopped at Yaralumna Nursery, where we added some Honey Myrtle, which is a swamp tree with mauve flowers and likes wet feet and clayey soil. Perfect for the damp spot near the side gate and is in the shade for most of winter. We also picked up another accacia for the side fence bed and a big kangaroo paw for our 'grassy knoll'.

Our mate from tai chi, Rob, also gave us some grasses which we have put with our new kangaroo paw and will use to replace the weedy, festery, straggly lawn we have on our verge. I have slowly been digging this up from our front yard and turning it in to the soil so that there is almost none left save for a strip along the side footpath. These last remnants are getting the chop this weekend, as I turn it over to, mulch the surface and put in Robbie's native grasses.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Fields of colour at Floriade 2007

Floriade ends this weekend. What a great event it’s been this year! Officials reckon they may have broken last year’s record of attendance with about 340,000+ or so through the turnstiles. Pretty good!

I have to also give a big plug to, and highly commend the work of, CIT staff and students who were involved. Building and Construction students helped out and built the beach shacks that were auctioned; Horticulture students helped with preparation, layout and planting; Child Studies students were also on hand to give parents a break from energetic kids for a time! The Floristry students also displayed their talents with creative floral arrangements based on the Floriade theme of Australian myths and icons.

Our friends, all the way from the WA desert, enjoyed themselves immensely! We have started a bit of a picnic tradition I think with Floriade - a lovely way to take in the flora-tastic spectacle!

View more Floriade pics here as a slideshow.

[Reposted from Edublogs]

Garden layout and design: new moves

I mentioned earlier that we were planning out our garden beds, and have also bought some sleepers to set these up further. This image below shows how the beds were first off:

Our first effort was a basic tidy-up. This second image shows some changes we're working on:

Some slight differences. First we have cut out the Oleander (bottom left corner shrub) in favour of more productive, less toxic choices. Second, we have a second passionfruit, a Nelly Kelly, (to the right) planted to replace the aging one (to the left of the existing one). We've been wheeling in extra soil and mulch to start to build up bed #5, the new one to the right of the path (red dotted lines). This will be in full sun, so sun-hungry plants will go there, along with a couple of citrus trees (in half wine barrels). Oh, and the black dotted line is the clothesline's new home too. :o)

With this 5th bed, we hope to have more garden space for vege production and won't have to worry about mowing the little grassy patch anymore!

Cool climate gardening guide

ABC local radio (666 Canberra) personality Genevieve Jacobs has started a gardening guide for cool climates; a must-see for all Canberrans! These guides a short vodcasts available from the ABC local radio website.

If you have a feed reader like Bloglines, you can keep track of newly available vodcasts. The URL is available on the gardening guide homepage (the one ending in .xml).

It's just the sort of pep-talk we need to jump into action in our garden on a sunny Saturday! Thanks Genevieve and the ABC for these great little resources!

[image: ABC Canberra]

Spring cleaning: bye bye brocolli and caulie!

We pulled out the brocolli and caulie plants today, as they've both finished (the caulies never really started). We kept one of the caulies that was going to seed, to see if we can get some decent seed from it. I'll have to ask my Dad about that one. I remember as a kid Dad keeping the caulie seeds in the coolroom until he was ready to plant them.

The clean-up has given the broad beans and the garlic a bit more room and less competition for precious water. The mulch from winter is still pretty good and probably only needs a little top cover. I was wondering if it was worth keeping one or two more brocolli plants going just to trap the slugs, but I think they were actually attrtacting them and giving them coverage, because we hadn't really noticed many slugs before.

Next door, the onions are ready to burst into flower. The onion bulbs are starting to form too - looking forward to our own homegrown red onions, in time for lovely fresh summer salads! Yum, bean and onion salad!