It’s great to be back in the Patch- 2020.

It’s great to be back in the Patch- 2020. By Mick O’Brien- Dip.Hort(MAIH) RH-101

Happy New Year all. Hope you all had some time to relax and unwind over the holiday break. It seems most of us have returned back to work again already, myself included. There is still lots to do in the patch this month too. We were blessed to have some rainfall over Christmas, and it was joyous to hear the rain beating down all night knowing full well that our parched landscape will benefit immensely. As a result, most lawns are looking a little greener about the place finally and while there still is a little moisture left in the soil profile. It’s the best time to get some liquid organic brews like seaweed, worm or fish- tonics, applied or incorporated into the soil, lawns and gardens to assist to revitalise them all. Our soils were suffering so- much, in the months leading up to Christmas that applying any fertilisers or tonics may have shown little result as the turf grasses shut down from moisture stress to save themselves, but if you managed to treat your patch after the rain during the holidays- well done indeed!

Unfortunately, a lot of weeds took advantage of this opportunity to infiltrate and colonise any thinning or bare patches in the lawn and as a result they flourished, flowered and set seed while the drought- stressed swards were barely growing. Interestingly, the definition of a weed- is just a plant, that generally grows or invades where mankind does not want it to grow. So, it is amazing, that with our typically- sandy and mostly hydrophobic soils here on Bribie Island, which has trouble accepting and retaining moisture and contains- very little organic matter, can support much plant life at all- never mind in the times of drought. It just goes to show how resilient nature really is- as weeds and plants can encode in their seed- DNA, over their many years of struggle, their exact time to flower, fruit and set seed, and release them so they may lay dormant as they wait for moisture- to complete their mission and sprout, reproduce and try and dominate their surroundings accordingly. One of the many benefits of adding organic substances like compost and manures to your patch means- it will break down slowly and assist in moisture retention over time. If we use mineral salt based manufactured fertilisers on sandy, parched soils and gardens, we will run the risk of having to use extra irrigation to flush the salts and dissolve them to help prevent further dehydration to the root system. This happens when the moisture droplets contained in the pore spaces around the fine root hairs of plants or turf, can get vacuumed towards the mineral salts contained in the fertiliser. (By Osmotic pressure). This is especially important to consider when rationing water for irrigation, if you rely on rainfall and don’t have the luxury- of quality bore water at your disposal.

I believe in using less chemicals and therefore promote the IPM- Integrated Pest Management- approach, which supports creating and maintaining sustainable landscapes in the urban environment. As part of the IPM- plans, one of the core principles is called- Cultural Control. This cultural control method refers to strategies, such as hand pulling weeds before they flower or pruning diseased or pest affected foliage such as trimming citrus leaf miner damage- as it appears, rather than reaching out for insecticide as a knee- jerk reaction, and instead using more organic solutions- where possible. The healthier the lawn the thicker it may be, and some weeds can be hand pulled rather than sprayed with selective herbicide. In the landscape, mulching frequently to slow weeds, retain moisture and protect delicate plant roots from the harsh midday sun, is a great cultural control method also. It’s really great to see that now days, a lot of fertiliser manufacturers, growers and farmers have branched off to a more organic approach. I have personally incorporated an organic herbicide that is very useful for situations like garden beds and pathways, also kills moss and algae on contact. This commercially available product is called- ‘Slasher Weedkiller’ and is an organic, non-selective herbicide made from nonanoic acid which destroys weeds on contact quickly. It’s best to keep the product well away from trunks of existing shrubs, and delicate root systems though, as this product is corrosive by nature, but not residual in the soil- but it works! Well that’s all for weeds, seeds and plant needs -this month. Until next Issue: Stay hydrated! Your Local -Happy Horticulturist!

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