curl-grubs_web

Curl grub

If you dig the soil in a garden bed, you will probably have discovered curl grubs. They are up to 4 cm long, have 6 legs, are white to cream in colour and have a brown head and a grey end. They curl up to a C shape. Curl grubs are the larvae of a [more]

Improving very clayey soils

Improving clayey soil isn’t an easy task, nor is it quick. It may take several years before your garden starts thriving. Instead of improving your soil, you can build raised beds. Avoid walking on the soil whenever possible so you don’t compact it. Perform an immersion/dispersion test: Drop a 6 mm piece of dry soil [more]

Improving very sandy soils

Very sandy soils are often water repellent. Dry hydrophobic soils can be improved by initially applying a wetting agent. You can use a commercial product, or just soapy water, grey water irrigation also makes soils less water repellent. Another recipe is to dissolve 2 tablespoons of powdered agar agar in 2 cups of hot water [more]

Testing soil drainage

Dig a hole 15 cm square, 30 cm deep. Fill the hole with water and let it drain completely, then fill it with water again. If it takes longer than four hours to drain, drainage is poor. [more]

Testing soil texture

According to it’s composition a soil is classified as ‘sandy’, ‘loamy’ or ‘clayey’. Sandy soil shows great aeration and drainage, dries out quickly, it’s often poor because it doesn’t keep nutrients well and doesn’t break down easily to offer new nutrients Loamy soil shows good balance between aeration and drainage, has good water retention, keeps [more]

seed-mix

What’s good soil made of?

Soil is a heterogeneous mix of water, minerals and anorganic particles (by size) Rocks break down and wash away very slowly, improve drainage and aeration, disturb the growth of root vegetables Sand breaks down very slowly and wash away slowly, improves drainage and aeration Silt breaks down slowly washes away and is blown away by [more]

Soil pollution

Plants take heavy metals like arsenic, lead and cadmium up from the soil and by consuming the vegetables we also consume those pollutants. If we want to establish a garden that can provide us with healthy veggies and herbs, it is important to deal with this risk. Macquarie University’s VegeSafe program is surveying heavy metal [more]

URBAN-VEGGIE-WORKSHOPS2

Hands-on urban veggie gardening workshops

Would you like to develop your own (balcony) veggie and herb garden? Members of Mort Bay Community garden will help you to grow your skills in a relaxed environment with like-minded friends. Learn to build up, test and maintain healthy soil. Produce your own compost and worm castings. Grow your own seedlings and propagate by [more]

stinkhorn_1

Stinkhorn

Phallus rubicundus is the name of this odd looking mushroom in the family of stinkhorns. It’s up to 20 cm long fruit bodies emerge and grow within few hours on warm and moist Spring or Autumn days. Organic matter and mulch offer them great growing conditions. They topple over and decay within a day or [more]

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Transplanting Seedlings

If plants are started in a seedbed, they need to be singled out after 3 to 4 weeks. We do this, so the individual plant gets more soil to grow it’s roots in and to reduce competition. The seedlings should show at least 4 adult leaves and should be 4 to 5 cm high before [more]

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Crop rotation

In Mort Bay Community Garden we grow a wide variety of crops, which all need a plant-specific set of nutrients and are challenged by different pests. Growing a sequence of different types of crops in any one bed over subsequent seasons is called crop rotation, a strategy already practised by Middle Eastern farmers 8000 years [more]

marika

Remembering Marika

Have you seen the white plaque set in stone in the native bushland near the picnic area of the garden? If you come closer you can read: Marika (Sam) Baumann 20th May 2015 Founding member of this garden In loving memory from family & friends ~~~ Marika passed away in 2015. Together with her loving [more]

sweet-potatoe

Sweet potato

Botanical name: Ipomoea batatas Description: Sweet potatoes one of the only two edible and non toxic plants in the morning glory family (the other one is water spinach). They are grown for their starchy root bulbs; the leaves and young shoots of some sweet potatoes are also used as a vegetable. They are not closely [more]

Morning glory

Botanical name Convolvulacea Features of morning glory Plants of the morning glory family show a funnel like flower made up out of 5 petals. They grow as vines or shrubs and have winding stems. The leaves are alternate. Some of them produce starchy tubers. Species we grow Sweet potatoes Other common plants in this family [more]

strawberries

Strawberries

Botanical name: Fragaria x ananassa Description: Strawberries (together with apples, roses, most stone-fruit and almonds) are a member of the rose family (rosaceae). Strawberry plants grow 20 to 30 cm high, show dark green serrated leaves and usually flowers with white petals, that look like tiny wild roses. The fruit is conically shaped, dark red, [more]

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Tomato Bud Worm

  Signs of infestation Young caterpillars feed on the foliage first before moving into flower buds or developing fruits. What is happening and why? Budworms are caterpillars of the Helicoverpa moth family. The moths lay their eggs at night on young foliage close to fruits or flower buds and the young caterpillars feed on the [more]

broad-bean-pasta

Broad Bean and Sage Pasta

Peel broad beans, fresh from the garden, or use frozen broad beans. Blanch beans in boiling water for 90 seconds and refresh in cold water. ‘Double peel’ beans, i.e. remove the tough skin from each bean, so that you are left with the tender, vibrantly green heart of the broad bean. You will need about [more]

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Broad Beans

Botanical name: Vicia fava Description: Broad beans or fava beans are part of the legume family. The inedible pods of broad beans are thick and spongy, containing 2 to 7 large, flat, bright green tender beans. The plant builds 2 to 4 stems that grow up to 180 cm high. It shows white flowers with [more]

composting

Compost

Here is a summary of the terrific talk MJ gave on one of the last working bees regarding our beautiful compost: Compost improving our soil At Mort Bay Community Garden we use compost as one of the key ingredients to top up our beds and to enrich our soil with organic matter. We recently improved [more]

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Blue triangle

Blue triangles, also called common bluebottles, are swallowtail butterflies native to eastern Australia and southeastern Asia. They are very quick and skillful fliers and reach a wingspan of 8 cm. The butterfly itself feeds on nectar, its caterpillar specialises on the leaves of Australian native trees and doesn’t affect any of the crops in our garden. [more]

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Black soldier fly

Black soldier flies are slender flies about 18 mm long and 5 wide with a dark black body and transparent wings, usually folded together on their backs. The flies are fairly slow moving, often not even trying to escape. They mimic the appearance of wasps to scare off predators but can’t sting or bite. The [more]

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Minute two-spotted ladybird

This shy little beetle is just 3 mm big and a native to eastern and southern Australia. It will drop or fly away quickly if disturbed. If we think of beetles the picture of a ladybird is very often the first thing that comes into our mind. The minute two-spotted ladybird doesn’t really match this [more]

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Transverse ladybird

If we think of beetles the picture of a ladybird is very often the first thing that comes into our mind. The funny little red or orange beetles with black dots are frequent visitors to our gardens and usually people don’t mind them and find them rather cute. Some people find they bring luck. Some [more]

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Ladybird larva

Just shy of 1 cm long and a couple of millimeters wide this little hunter certainly looks like a little alien. Don’t worry, it doesn’t do any harm to humans, neither does it harm any plant. It does mean business though when it comes to its favorite food: aphids, scale insects and mealybugs. Ladybird larvae [more]

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Green plant hopper

About 15 mm small and shaped like a bright green triangle green plant hoppers are very well disguised as a leaf. Most often you will only realise they are around when they hop long distances to escape after being disturbed. A member of the bug family they are a pest sucking on the plant’s sap. [more]

Dealing with citrus stink bugs

When inspecting plants look out for tell-tale signs: the actual animals, often sucking at the most tender leaves. Black adult or orange immature bugs limp and wilting leaves leaves that show brown, burnt areas intense, repugnant citrus smell Preventive measures: Not many predators go for stink bugs because of their caustic defence tactics. Make sure [more]

aphids

Dealing with aphids

When inspecting plants look out for tell-tale signs: the actual animals, often sucking at the most tender leaves plenty of ants patrolling the plants limp and wilting leaves sugary, sticky honeydew on the leaves Preventive measures: Aphids are hard to prevent, but there are a lot of predators eating aphids. Companion plant flowers with the [more]

aphids

Aphids

Aphids are soft skinned sap-sucking insects. They are tiny animals about 2 to 8 mm long. Aphids come in a range of colours: green, black and brown, whitish and light red. Other names are black-fly and green-fly. Most aphids species specialise on particular host plants. They are a serious and if not contained devastating pest. [more]

hoverfly

Hover-fly

Hover-flies look like little wasps. They have a yellow and brown striped back and transparent wings. This mimicry helps them to scare off predators. Despite their looks hover-flies are harmless to humans, they are a real fly. The feature that lends them the name is their peculiar flight behavior. They hover in the air at [more]

nativebee

Native bee

Native bees are important pollinators in our garden. While foraging for nectar and pollen they also distribute pollen from one flower to another. By doing this they make sure that our plants get fertilised and can set fruit. To attract native bees to our garden we offer them a variety of flowering plants, that we [more]

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Honey bee

Honey bees are important pollinators in our garden. While foraging for nectar and pollen they also distribute pollen from one flower to another. By doing this they make sure that our plants get fertilised and can set fruit. To attract honey bees to our garden we offer them a variety of flowering plants, that we [more]

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Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the larvae from butterflies and moths. They look like little worms with 6 legs near the head and some additional stumps at the other end. Caterpillars have a wide range of colours, usually those that allow them to camouflage, browns, yellows and greens prevail. They come with smooth skin, covered in bristly hairs [more]

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Dealing with caterpillars

Depending on the severity of the caterpillar impact there are several options. Always first try to use preventive measures to avoid caterpillar problems: Preventive measures: Plant companion plants! Avoid dry stress and mulch beds in dry conditions. Avoid underfeeding of plants. Regularly, every second week and after strong rain apply worm-juice or seaweed solution (should [more]

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Orchard swallowtail

  Who says that pests have to be ugly? The adult stage of this animal is a beautiful butterfly. Indigenous to eastern Australia and PNG these butterflies have a wingspan of up to 14 cm. They are mostly black and white with red, orange and blue patterns on their back wings. The larvae is a [more]

Budworm moth

Budworms are caterpillars of the Helicoverpa moth family. The moths lay their eggs at night on young foliage close to fruits or flower buds and the young caterpillars feed on the foliage first before moving into buds or developing fruits. Budworm moths choose several fruits for their young ones, in our garden they are a [more]

cabbage-butterfly_web

Cabbage butterfly

This 5 cm large butterfly is a common sight in the garden. It has white wings with black tips and dots. There are several species of cabbage butterfly that look and behave very similar. Other names of those butterflies are large white butterfly or small white or simply white butterfly depending on the species. The [more]

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Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is the name of a variety of fungi, that affect the leaves of plants. They are present everywhere in the environment and are brought in by wind, birds and insects. Powdery mildew loves warm humid nights and dry, warm and shady areas of the garden. Really wet conditions and constant very high or [more]

Preventing powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal infection, distributed by fungal spores. The fungus favours warm moist conditions to set foot onto a plant and warm dry conditions to thrive. We can’t control the presence of fungal spores and we can’t control the weather conditions but there are some basic rules that help reducing the risk: always [more]

Dealing with powdery mildew

Once a leave is seriously infected it needs to be removed. It can go into the compost because the spores are around in the environment anyway. We can’t remove the spores, but we can make the conditions less favourable for the fungi. We use different approaches and are still testing which works best for us. [more]

mapgie

Magpie

Members of our resident flock of magpies are a common sight in our garden. Adults and young birds can be seen walking around on the ground inspecting our beds. With their piebald plumage they are easy to identify. One of the most accomplished Australian songbirds they entertain us with their beautiful calls, sometimes even mimicking [more]

Tawny frogmouth

Frogmouths are nocturnal birds. They are often confused with owls but only distantly related. They are native Australian birds and can grow up to 50 cm tall. Frogmouths have an amazing way of disguise. On the day the birds sit on a tree motionless, the head usually held up high: it is hard to distinguish [more]

Basic pest-control strategy

Insect and fungal pests are a natural part of our ecosystem. We strive to reduce their damaging impact by trying to understand their needs and changing the conditions in our garden to be less inviting to them by tolerating a degree of pest damage to encourage predatory animals to life in our garden. By eating [more]

Cabbage family

Botanical name: Brassicaceae, also known as the mustard family, cruciferae or crucifers Features of the cabbage family: The cabbage family comprises a wide variety of cultivated plants that are important as vegetables and leafy greens, as spices and as a base for every day condiments and cooking oils. The family is distributed globally. While particular [more]

basella

Basella family

Botanical name: Basellaceae Features of the basellas: Basellas are native to Africa, India and southeast Asia. The plants in this family are climbers with vines up to 10 meters long. These herbaceous plants can be grown as perennials. The leaves are heart-shaped. The leaves and stems are semi succulent. Flowers and fruits are grouped into [more]

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Malabar spinach

Botanical name: Basella rubra Description: Herbaceous semi succulent perennial plant with vines up to 10 m long. The stems are red and soft. The leaves are heart-shaped. Reported to be high in calcium, iron, soluble fibre and vitamins A and C. The whole plant is edible. How to grow: The plant is actually a perennial, [more]

basil

Basil

Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum Description: Basil is a herb in the mint family. It shows a flower fused out of 5 petals and showing an upper and a lower lip, typical for this family. Basil grows best as an annual plant. It has green leaves placed in pairs growing opposite each other on a slightly [more]

lemon-grass

Lemongrass

Botanical name: Cymbopogon citratus Description: Lemon grass is a herbal shrub and a member of the true grass family, it is related to sugar cane and corn. It origins in south India and South East Asia and grows as a perennial in areas with no frost. Lemongrass grows thick stems up to 2 cm in [more]

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Bok choi

Botanical name: Brassica rapa, one of several Chinensis cultivars of this species Description: Bok choi is one of the Asian greens, a type of Chinese cabbage. This quick growing cabbage doesn’t build a firm head but a flattish rosette of dark green leaves, 5 cm high and about 20 cm in diameter. The leaves are [more]

Tatsoi

Botanical name: Brassica rapa var. rosularis or Brassica narinosa Description: Tatsoi is one of the Asian greens, a type of Chinese cabbage. This quick growing cabbage doesn’t build a firm head. It forms a low growing rosette of small spoon shaped dark green leaves with short pale lime green stems. The leaves are the vegetable [more]

wild rocket

Rocket

Botanical name: Eruca sativa is the garden rocket and Diplotaxis tenuifolia is the wild rocket Description: There are two varieties of rocket. The garden rocket with lobed leaves and white flowers and the wild rocket with deeply serrated leaves and yellow flowers. Both have deep green leaves with a  spicy, nutty flavour, the later variety [more]

bok choi

Pak choi

Botanical name: Brassica rapa, one of several Chinensis cultivars of this species Description: Pak choi is one of the Asian greens, a type of Chinese cabbage. This quick growing cabbage builds a very loose head with long green leaves and succulent white stems. The stems and leaves are the vegetable and are about 30 cm [more]

Choi sum

Botanical name: Brassica rapa var. parachinensis Description: Choi sum is one of the Asian greens, a type of Chinese cabbage. This quick growing cabbage doesn’t build a firm head but long slender crunchy stems with oblong green leaves. The stems are 2 cm wide and up to 30 cm long. The leaves are up to [more]

broccoli

Sprouting broccoli

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. italica, calabrese Description: Sprouting broccoli is a variety of broccoli with smaller heads on a larger number of thinner stems than ordinary broccoli. The plant grows up to 80 cm high. It develops a strong main stem 5-8 cm in diameter with several branches. The dark green leaves are 20 [more]

kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes Description: Kohlrabi is closely related to broccoli. It is grown for it’s bulbous, swollen stem which comes in a light green and a purple variety. The kohlrabi bulb reaches about 10 cm in diameter. The leaves grow directly from the bulbous stem and are up to 40 cm long. [more]

Black Spanish radish

Botanical name: Raphanus sativus, var niger Description: Radishes are quick growing annual or biennial plants native to Asia, but can now be found worldwide. The black Spanish radish is grown for it’s swollen globular up to 10 cm in diameter tap roots. The skin colour of the root is black, but the flesh is white. [more]

french radish

French radish

Botanical name: Raphanus sativus Description: Radishes are quick growing annual or biennial plants native to Asia, but can now be found worldwide. French radishes are grown for their swollen long or globular tap roots, up to 10 cm long and 2 cm in diameter. The skin colour of the root is white or red, the [more]

daikonradish

Daikon radish

Botanical name: Raphanus sativus, var longipinnatus Description: Radishes are quick growing annual or biennial plants native to Asia, but can now be found worldwide. The daikon radish is grown for it’s swollen long tap roots, up to 40 cm long and 10 cm in diameter. The skin colour of the root is white, as is [more]

curlykale

Curly kale

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. sabellica Description: Curly kale is a plant in the cabbage family that produces oblong shaped leaves instead of a head. The leaves are green or purple in colour, about 30 cm long and have a curly rim. Some kale varieties can grow more than a meter in height, the plants [more]

tuscan kale

Tuscan kale

Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. palmifolia Description: Tuscan kale is a plant in the cabbage family that produces oblong shaped leaves instead of a head. The leaves are dark bluish green in colour, about 40 cm long and have a bumpy surface. Tuscan kale plants grow about 80 cm high. Kale originates in Europe were [more]

chillies

Chili

Botanical name: Capsicum annuum; Capsicum chinense; Capsicum frutescens Description: There are several genus of chilies. Most chilies, like Thai chilies, jalapenos and long chilies are part of the genus ‘annuum’, which also features the capsicums. The genus ‘frutescens’ has very colourful, small fruits from white over yellow to green, red and purple; tabasco peppers and [more]

Umbel_parsleyfamily

Parsley

Botanical name: Petroselinum crispum Description: Parsley is a herbaceous plant in the umbel family. The plant shows dark green leaves that branch into three 1 to 3 cm big leaflets. Italian parsley grows about 40 cm high, curly parsley up to 25 cm, they are both cultivars of the same plant. Parsley is native to [more]

fennel

Fennel

Botanical name: Foeniculum vulgare dulce Description: The fennel cultivar that produces a swollen, bulb like stem at the bottom is often called Florence fennel as opposed to it’s herb like sibling the bronze fennel that is cultivated as a decorative plant. Both are cultivars of the wild fennel plant that originates in the Mediterranean and [more]

umbel_parsleyfamily

Parsley family

Botanical name Umbelliferae or apiaceae also known as the umbel family, carrot family, celery family Features of the parsley family A lot of members of this family are aromatic herbs. Native worldwide, especially in north temperate regions. The name giving feature is that the tiny flowers are grouped together in umbels. The plants in this [more]

peas

Snow and Snap Peas

Botanical name: Pisum sativum var. saccharatum (Snow pea), Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon (Snap pea) Description: Both snow peas and sugar snaps are cultivars of the podded pea. They are members of the legume family. The sugar snap offer a more rounded  4 cm pod, the snow pea a 6 cm flat pod. If the pods [more]

beans

Climbing Beans

Botanical name: Phaseolus vulgaris Description: Climbing beans are the immature 10 to 15 cm long seed pods of the common bean. They are part of the legume family. There is a wide range of cultivars of climbing beans with pods coloured green, yellow (wax beans), purple, red or streaked. There are thin beans (harricots) and [more]

Legume family

Botanical name Fabaceae also known as leguminosae Features of legumes Plants in the legume family cover a wide range from big trees to shrubs from vines climbing using tendrils to small annual herbs. Most legumes fruits are pods. The pods contain the seeds. Legume fruit are very nutritious and offer a high content of protein. [more]

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Red back spider

Take care when reaching for items in the garden that haven’t been disturbed for a while, look out for animals that may hide there. Shake out gloves before using them but always wear gloves when gardening. Warm dry places are very attractive to red back spiders. Their favourite prey, insects and slaters, is available in abundance [more]