Dear Diggers (Spring garden 2016)

Contributions and feedback from our readers following the Spring Garden 2016 issue.

Native shade produces dappled light

Dear Editor, I have been reading with interest over the past few issues Clive's call to readers to consider planting exotic deciduous trees for their supposedly better shade cover through the summer.

I normally would agree with him on this, though I would like to jump to the defence of native shade cover, rather than “throw the baby out with the bath water”.

I recently purchased a house that was built and planted in the 1980s with Ironbark and Melaleuca along the north-western border.

Initially I cursed the original owners for this supposedly banal combination but after living with them for two summers now I can happily report on the manifold benefits of these supposedly poor shade species.

First, the shade these native species provide is ample for shading the house in the summer months, the dappled light that does get through also allows me to support a rich mix of indigenous grasses including the fabulously shade tolerant Microlaena and Austrodanthonia, this would be much harder with 90-100% shade cover.

The dappled light also gives me more options for planting and growing an understory of shrubs and perennials, allowing to provide more habitat to small bird species like fantails and wrens.

Second, these trees play host to koalas and sugar gliders as well as temporary stopovers for black and white cockatoos, and galahs.

Good on you for promoting plants and trees as solutions to living through summer in Australia though. Nick H. VIC

Dear Nick, Thanks so much for sharing your experience of native dry shade which we will pass on to all members. Best wishes, Clive Blazey

Eucalyptus trees

Dear Clive, Penny and all “The Diggers”, Oh Clive, about gum trees. They are so precious out here where I’ve lived over 40 years! When I first arrived, there was a big wet season — mid 1975. We had inches!

I was “in love” with the inland, it all seemed green and lush! How false that turned out to be, it was a record year!

Tiny eucalyptus germinated everywhere — I transplanted about 2 dozen onto our block, of which 3 now live. Hard drought years followed and still are! But the dry years are the norm, the big wet was not!

Great dry gravelly riverbeds have an occasional established gum tree, a most welcome and cool, shady sentinel of these arid areas.

You people of the moist fringes of Australia can grow exotics and imports, but here where month on end the temperature climbs into mid 40°C and some days up to 50°C!

Those lovely exotics cannot survive.

I’ve tried just about every shade tree imaginable but, unless one “steals" the preciousness reticulated water, the only survivors are natives.

Please, don’t knock eucalyptus they hold the inland together!

Kindest regards, Jan P. NSW

Dear Jan, Lots of deserts have great tree survivors, such as olives (pictured below) and pomegranates. The Euphrates Poplar thrives from Iraq to Gobi Desert to name a few. Kind regards, Clive Blazey

Dear Clive, I have read the comments about Eucalypts with interest. My husband and I purchased our five-acre block in 1969, to build a house and create a garden. After the developers had left the site there were only about six very old gum trees left.

Our first plantings as the house was being built, were oaks, tulip trees, birches and line of conifers as a windbreak. We left the gum saplings as they appeared, believing it the right thing to do. “Giving something back” as a Landcare worker phrased it.

Now, if it were possible to relive that time, I would remove every eucalypt as it appeared.

After 48 years those saplings have grown into large trees, and apart from not providing good shade, my main objection is the propensity they have to drop branches, needing considerable effort for removal. Many showing no sign of termite activity. So it seems these trees just periodically shed branches.

While acknowledging that Eucalypts are native to this country, and quite apart from their flammability during bushfire, I believe they have no place in gardens, schools or streetscapes. E.C. NSW

RoundUp® — yes or no?

Dear Clive and Team at Diggers, For the last 12 months, I have been involved in an online campaign through AVAAZ against Monsanto, having read some of your earlier articles. Recently, the campaign has focused on trying to stop Monsanto marketing the weed killer glyphosate.

Do you agree with this concept and if you do, how would you suggest one would kill off such things as massive invasions of sour sobs or couch grass?

I do not use chemicals in my little garden, but am helping my son get his home ready for sale. I am in charge of the garden make over. I am doing fine out the front , but out the back in the area that I have designate an orchard, there is a large jungle of couch.

I have advised him to poison the couch as I heard on Malcolm Campbell and John Lamb's gardening show, that this would be the only way to really get rid of this difficult and invasive weed.

I would like advice re the problem in my son's garden, but also I want to know if I should continue to support (donate) AVAAZ with this campaign. Yours sincerely, Elizabeth D. SA

Dear Elizabeth.
1. Couch grass is the lawn of choice for golf club greens. At Heronswood we put steel edging (see pic below) to stop invasions into garden beds.
2. We haven't used RoundUp® for 15 years, we mulch our garden beds and torch our gravel paths.
3. You could also try solarising the area, covering it with clear plastic to burn off the weeds during the summer months.
Kind regards, Clive Blazey

Environmentalism

Dear Clive Blazey, As one who enjoys reading the garden magazines I was most interested to read your comments re the majesty of trees. How amazing to note that the oldest tree is 4,800 years old (alive I gather). However, the next comment took me by surprise.

Were you referring to Christians as worshipping a dead prophet? From my understanding of reading the Bible Jesus is very much alive ... not only as a prophet but also as the Son of God through whom all of creation took place ... in the beginning. I am sorry that you have the opinion that environmentalists must all be atheists. Far from it. I believe very much in the Risen Living Jesus ... and I thoroughly enjoy His creation as well as taking care of it. Kind regards, JS

Dear JS, The point I am making is not to comment on the virtues of traditional religions but that environmentalism is a new mission with a following as strong as any religion. Thanks for your considered letter. Kind regards, Clive Blazey

Dear Editor, Clive Blazey's gratuitous lapse in common garden respect for the views of others, and, I suspect, of many Diggers Club members, struck this reader as misconceived and self-opinionated (“many so called environmentalists have switched their allegiance from worshipping a dead prophet”, Winter Garden 2016, p2). What was the point of this silly and offensive remark? Did it advance Clive's argument in some way? Did the environment somehow benefit from an insulting reference to the faith of others? I doubt it, and I respectfully recommend Clive try to contain his self opinionation to things he understands, like gardening.  Robert F.

Dear Robert, I am sorry you are offended by my remark which was simply articulating for the first time that Environmentalism is for many a new religion. I make no judgement about any other religion and wouldn't. Best wishes, Clive Blazey

Weeds, I eat most of mine!

G’day Clive, Got your garden book for Autumn. Good to see how people think (outside the box) and new ideas as well.

Just reading and saw a bit about getting rid of weeds (although I eat most of mine) and mulching.

I live in desert area 80 km east of Alice Springs and recycle everything I can use. And I thought maybe I can help people out there.

First weed problem, you don’t need chemicals, get an old chip heater (runs on wood) and use the heat and steam to kill all your weeds.

Then mulch your garden with dry spinifex, if you are in the right area, because the bacteria under this will push your vegies and trees.

Lay drip line under this. Laurie B. NT

“A society grows wise when old people plant trees knowing they will never sit in their shade”

Just retired and recently joined Diggers Club. I hope you like this very old saying. Regards, John W. QLD.

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