How to Keep Your Orchids Alive and Well

How to Keep Your Orchids Alive and Well

Orchids are one of the best flowers for gardening beginners – it’s sold everywhere, affordable, relatively low-maintenance, and pretty to boot. Here are a few tips on treating your orchid to make sure the plant stays alive and the flower blooms well.

Get the Right Light

Orchids love bright, indirect light – for optimum growth, you can place them indoors by an east-facing window, or near a south- or west-facing window with some sheer curtains on. Check the leaves to see if your orchid is getting an appropriate amount of light – healthy foliage will be bright olive green. A darker shade means it is not getting enough light, and a lighter, red-tinged colour means it is exposed to the light too much.

Stay Temperate

Orchids thrive in environments that are kept from 18-29 degree Celsius with sufficient humidity. Make sure to keep the space ventilated to allow for air circulation and prevent the roots from getting too damp.

Water Weekly

One of the most common mistakes in taking care of orchids is overwatering. Orchids USA recommends watering your orchid once a week with lukewarm or room temperature water early in the day or when it’s sunny outside to allow for full evaporation before nightfall.

Cut the Dead Out

When the flowers have wilted out and the stem has dried, it is time to cut them off. It is recommended to cut above the first node or bump below the wilted bloom, ideally leaving two to three nodes from the base. The new flowers will grow back within eight to twelve weeks.

Repot Well

When you buy an orchid, it usually comes in a pot with its own potting mix. It is wise to repot every one to two years to make sure the potting medium stays fresh and prevent root rotting. You can buy orchid potting mix made out of bark, moss and/or charcoal. Be careful when you’re removing the orchid from the pot, as the roots are easily tearable.

Bolting Plants: What Is It, and How to Deal with It

Bolting Plants: What Is It, and How to Deal with It

When someone bolts, it usually means that he or she is running or moving quickly from one place to another. But what does it mean when a plant bolts?

While a plant may not “run away” physically, their growth can run rapidly to flower and set seed in a very short period of time, prematurely producing flowering stem(s) before the plant is ready for harvest. The result of this bolting is usually inedible, bitter-tasting or poor quality crops.

Why Do Plants Bolt?

Bolting occurs when the season changes – most plants bolt when the weather heats up, although a few others may be triggered by low temperatures instead. As the day gets longer and warmer, plants may experience heat and water stress, and thus focus their energy on producing seeds before their time. This is especially likely for photo-sensitive plants such as lettuce and spinach.

In contrast, warm-season plants such as onions, beetroots and carrots may bolt in response to unstable weather, which confuses their life cycle. When the days get prematurely warm, these plants may take it as a sign that winter is over and start preparing for reproduction – but when the temperatures return to lower numbers it will inhibit healthy growth, resulting in dud produce.

How Can I Prevent Bolting?

  • Sow your plants regularly, especially if the weather fluctuates a lot. This will increase your chance of healthy growth.
  • Keep your soil healthy with careful watering or compost addition to encourage good growing conditions.
  • Sow cold-sensitive plants in early spring and cold-season plants in late summer to reduce risk of bolting.
  • Provide the best conditions for your plants. Providing shades for cool-season plants and placing your warm-season plants in full sun exposure are recommended.
  • Opt for bolt-resistant varieties, such as the Boltardy beetroot.

DIY: Kokedama

DIY: Kokedama

You probably have seen one on Instagram, even if the name sounds unfamiliar. Kokedama, meaning “moss ball” in Japanese, uses bound-up moss instead of pot to store house plants. You can then place the kokedamas as they are or hang them up to make a string garden. Here’s how to make a kokedama.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Peat moss
  • Sphagnum/sheet moss
  • Bonsai soil mix
  • Small green or flowering plant
  • Twine or brick line string
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Bowl

Method:

  1. Mix peat moss and bonsai soil in a 7:3 ratio. After mixing the two into a ball, add water to keep it moist. Remove excess water.
  2. Create a hole in the ball to make room for the plant roots. Remove the plant from the original pot/planter and remove excess soil from the roots. Place the plant roots in the ball.
  3. Soak the sphagnum/sheet moss in the water. Remove and squeeze excess water.
  4. Cut two long pieces of twine/string and place them diagonally on a bowl. Place the sphagnum/sheet moss on top of the twine.
  5. Cover the ball with the sphagnum/sheet moss and wrap it with the twine strings. Secure the twine with a knot.

 

Tip:

  • Water your kokedama once a week by submerging the ball in the water for 5-10 minutes. Drain the water and let it drip dry before putting it back to its original place.

Sorting Out Your Garden Waste

Sorting Out Your Garden Waste

Gardening comes with a surprising amount of waste: leaves, grass clippings, pruned branches and twigs, weeds and more. These amount to a special kind of waste that requires its own way of managing. Here are a few things you should do with your garden waste.

Put It in the Right Bin

Instead of the general red bin or the recycling yellow bin, garden waste should be disposed of in the bright green bin. Don’t let the waste spill all over the road or into waterways to prevent more pollutions and road hazards. Make sure not to put in items such as rocks, pots, soil, cardboards, wires and plastic bags and bottles in the bin – these might get processed and mixed into compost/mulch and affect the environment negatively.

Reduce the Waste

The less waste you send to the landfill, the more you can minimise the production of pollution, methane and other greenhouse gases that could exacerbate global warming. Rather than dumping it in the bin, you can use your garden waste to make compost or Bokashi bin to enrich your soil.

Get Help

Sometimes you have too much garden waste to fit in your bin or recycle, and your council’s fortnightly collection service don’t quite cut it. If this is the case, you can hire a removal service to pick up the trash. Keep in mind that the NSW Environment Protection Authority recommends keeping receipts and records of the company name and the place of intended waste disposal.

Event: Managing Pests in the Garden, Sydney

Event: Managing Pests in the Garden, Sydney

There are a lot of things that can go wrong in gardening: lack of yields, rotting roots, bolting plants and more. But perhaps the most annoying of them all are pests and diseases. These unwanted guests can spoil your produce, deprive your plants of nutrition and prevent optimal growth. This Blacktown workshop happening next week will help you navigate through the issue.

Managing pests in the garden will teach you the organic ways of solving common pest problems like black spots, whiteflies, grubs, weeds and more with techniques such as homemade pesticides, companion planting and crop rotation. If you have some greens sitting in your yard with pest issues, you can also bring them to the workshop for a fix.

The workshop is free. For more information, visit the Blacktown City Council website.

Tuesday, October 9, 9.30-11.30am | Blacktown Showground Community Garden, Richmond Road, Blacktown

Winners of WSU’s Cattle-Raising Competition Revealed

Winners of WSU’s Cattle-Raising Competition Revealed

Windsor’s Bede Polding College has been crowned the Champion School for the 2018 UniSchools Steer Challenge.

Organised by the Western Sydney University, the competition saw students from 12 schools across New South Wales raise cattle for three months to be judged in various categories, including steer weight gain, best presented steer, and more.

Bede Polding College was announced as the year’s overall winner at the closing ceremony earlier this month, making it the school’s sixth win since the competition was established in 2001. McCarthy Catholic College and Caroline Chisholm College won the most categories, snagging the top spot in categories such as champion carcase school and junior champion parade.

Mount Annan Christian College, Sydney won the champion junior judge category and also emerged as the best combined beef appraisal team.

See the full list of winners here.

Event: Wild Wild Inner West: Wattle we do about your garden?, Sydney

Event: Wild Wild Inner West: Wattle we do about your garden?, Sydney

If you’re a millennial living in Sydney, chances are you may not have a lot of experience in gardening. Growing up in the city and being busy with school and work might not really leave a lot of time to get your hands dirty in the backyard. However, if you want to expand beyond succulents, a workshop designed for you is coming this weekend.

Wild Wild Inner West: Wattle we do about your garden? is a workshop for young people of Inner West and City of Sydney aged 18 to 35, where you can learn about local native plants of the bushland that can fit right into home gardens. Limited gardening space, which often comes with living in this city, is not an issue either – the workshop will focus on species that thrive in pots and containers as well as backyards and balconies.

The instructors – Rosie King and Alex Birker, who boast 4+ years’ experience in horticulture and ecology – will also teach you how to care and maintain your plants, create potting mix, and deal with noxious weeds.

With just $5 fee, you can take home all the relevant knowledge AND a few native plants for you to grow right away. For booking and more information, visit the Eventbrite page.

Saturday, September 15, 11am-1pm | Hut 1, Addison Road Community Centre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

Attracting Birds to Your Garden

Birds are a wonder of nature for your garden – they assist in pollination and seed dispersion, keep pests under control, and bring moments of delight with their mellifluous voice and beautiful flocks. Australia is endowed with a wide variety of native wildlife birds, but attracting them to your garden is not so simple. Here are a few tips to encourage a visit from your feathered friends…

Do Some Research

Different birds have different needs. Before preparing the habitat for bird visits, it is a good idea to know the kinds of birds to expect in your area. Do a quick lookup of your suburb on the Internet or reach out to your local birdwatching group to find out the common species of birds to look out for.

 

Design Accordingly

Once you know and decide which birds you want to attract, it’s time to set your garden. Tall trees are perfect to encourage high flyers like kookaburras and parrots to perch, while low-lying shrubs and grasses will be suitable for the low lying such as finches and wrens. Nectar-feeding birds will love flowers, especially the red and yellow ones, while insect-feeding and carnivore birds will enjoy pesticide-free gardens that let preys roam free. If you’re looking to attract multiple types of birds, the following plants could help serve all their needs: acacia, banksia, eucalypts and and melaleuca.

 

Water over Food

Water allows birds to drink, swim and clean their feathers – under a few conditions. Make sure your bird bath is shallow enough to let birds stand and elevated enough to protect birds from predators. Keep the water supply consistently filled throughout the year, as birds remember water sources and rely on them.

Providing bird food in your garden is a more controversial subject. Store-bought and/or artificial food might make native birds unwell, and dependence on feeding stations might make them more vulnerable to attacks by predators such as other birds, cats and foxes.

 

Good luck and have fun birdwatching in your own backyard!

Gardening Myths, Busted

Gardening Myths, Busted

When it comes to gardening, there are a lot of myths and misinformation. Here are a few popular ones, debunked.

Myth: Adding sand to clay soil will lighten it

Truth: The sand will make the soil hard and heavy, as it draws in a lot of water. This can also increase the risk of drowning your plants. Try loosening your clay soil with organic matters, or make a raised bed so that the water can flow somewhere else.

 

Myth: Young or newly planted trees should be staked

Truth: Staked trees might grow to be weaker, thinner and less stable than their un-staked counterparts. There are two possible solutions: place the trees in areas that are not too windy, or stake the tree on the same side as where the wind blows from. Use a soft fabric or material that won’t give the trees a permanent damage.

 

Myth: Organic is better

Truth: Just because something is “organic” or “natural”, it doesn’t mean that it’s better or safer for your garden. Natural pesticides can still kill beneficial insects such as ladybirds and bumblebees. Organic methods such as tilling can lead to more erosion and nutrient runoff.

 

Myth: Watering on a hot day will cause plant sunburn

Truth: In general, plants don’t get sunburn. However, it is still advisable to avoid watering when the sun is at its brightest to reduce the amount of evaporation. Mornings or after sunsets would be a great time to water your plants.

 

Event: Mindful Succulent Potting for Beginners, Sydney

Event: Mindful Succulent Potting for Beginners, Sydney

Succulents might be one of the most popular starter plants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest to take care of. This workshop will teach you the basics, from potting to treatments.

Nat Tsirimokos from Environmental Rights Organisation will present the workshop and teach you how to recycle items for planting, identify various types of succulents, propagate for growth, create a potting mix and use different techniques to care for your plants. All you need to bring is yourself, a pair of gardening gloves and objects to plant your succulents in (optional).

Tickets are $10, excluding processing fee. For more information, visit the Eventbrite page.

Saturday, September 1, 10am-12pm | New Moon, Yanada Room, 22 Hudson Street, Lewisham