Autumn in SE Queensland

The summer has been and gone and I am looking forward to the cooler weather.

Queensland this year suffered from heavy rains and flooding; luckily we were spared the worst of it in our local area but the impact of the continual rain and high humidity meant that the garden suffered with an increased number of pests and diseases.

We also have mould covering the outside of the house and inside chairs, bags and shoes also had a coating of grey. We used clove oil inside to get rid of the mould but haven’t tackled outside yet. We have been waiting for the humidity to drop and the rain to stop so we can get to the mammoth task of cleaning the outside of the house.

Soil PH Test

I started my horticulture classes in February with my first lessons focussing on soil. I had never really thought about the importance of understanding PH levels, soil structure and microbial activity. My first assessment meant that I had to conduct some tests at home and I thought I would start with testing PH levels in various parts of the garden where I had a number of trees and plants struggling to survive. To my dismay I found that the “premium” soil I had bought from a local nursery to top up my garden beds had a very low PH level and was too acid for my plants. I was shocked and disappointed that the nursery was selling a product that wasnt fit for purpose.

I have since used Dolomite (lime) around the garden to help to neutralise the soil, and have noticed an improvement in the plants. I now ensure that I understand the optimum PH levels for what I am growing and test the soil and adjust accordingly.

We have also been reminded of the value of making our own compost and using it to improve soil structure and provide nutrients for our plants rather than relying on chemical fertilisers. Composting simply copies nature?s ways. Leaves fall from trees, plants grow and die and the natural cycle of decay returns nutrients to the soil.

This week I attended my first meeting of the Brisbane Organic Growers Club and am looking forward to getting advice and support from like minded people. It is good to see so many people that want to grow their own food and in a healthy and sustainable way.


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Rain and Koalas

Rain has continued this week and we are very lucky not to be caught up in the floods that are affecting most of Queensland.  We are lucky too that our house is at the top of the hill well away from the creeks that run through our property. The sheer force of the creeks is amazing, from barely a trickle to a dangerous waterway in a matter of hours.

I had planned to spend these two weeks of my holiday gardening, however have only managed to snatch a few days outside.

Most of the plants, especially the fruit trees have been enjoying all of the water. At times like these I am grateful that our soil is free draining. I have fertilised the trees ensuring that the rain will wash it into the roots.

Of course the insects are breeding well and I am not able to keep up with the fruit fly baits, which keep get washed away with each shower. I have now given up on my tomatoes, which have been spoiled.

Earlier this week as we were heading down the driveway we were lucky to spot a Koala that quickly scaled one of the large eucalypts to stay out of harm?s way. I had been lamenting not having seen a Koala on our property for two years; it was definitely an uplifting experience to see one again.  We managed get a photo although it?s not the best you can at least discern the Koala in the tree.

We have seen more snakes than usual; I imagine that they are being driven from their homes because of the rain. Of course the cane toads are everywhere and even come out during the day now. It is very alarming to see the large numbers of both small and large toads. I grieve for the damage they are doing to our wildlife.

The rain is set to continue here in Queensland for the next few months, although hopefully not as heavily as these past few weeks. It will be interesting to watch the changes in the wildlife and the landscape.

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The Flying Fox ate my Nectarines!

We have been looking forward to eating our nectarines this year, having watched last year as they disappeared in the evenings. I had tried everything from Perspex barriers to nets, none worked, it seemed that the possums and the flying foxes were not going to be deterred.

Unfortunately we didnt get to enjoy any of the fruit in 2009 and I was at a loss as to what I should be doing. I am aware that Flying Fox populations are declining due to extensive habitat loss and harrassment from fruit growers. This is a concern as these remarkable animals have an important role in our environment, because through their feeding they help to pollinate and disperse the seeds of native trees. (Photo Courtesy of KBCS Inc)

This year I took a different approach and decided that it just wasn?t worth the effort of trying to net and protect the fruit, so each day I have been checking to see if the fruit is ready to pick. I could see where the flying foxes had started testing as well and decided to pick the best early.

Our new night camera provided us with the proof that the flying foxes still made their nightly visits it was fascinating to see just how impressive these very large bats are, hovering and eating the fruit on the tree.

I have decided to let the trees grow so hopefully in future there will be enough fruit for the bats and us too!

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My First encounter with a Tick

I had my first experience with a tick this week, which came as a surprise because after 5 years of living on a bushy property in the sub tropics of Queensland I would have expected to be bitten earlier.

I noticed it in the evening when I felt the need to scratch my shoulder. I felt a small lump, but couldn?t quite see it so I asked Peter to have a look.

He looked closely and could see some small legs moving and then realised it was a tick. Peter went to great length to ease it out gently with tweezers being sure not to leave the head imbedded. It took a good 5 minutes to remove the tick as it was intent on continuing to feed.   When removing a tick, you need to ensure that you grasp the head as close to the skin as possible so that you don?t displace fluids from the tick into the wound.

The picture above shows a tick before and after feeding. It is a pretty ghastly little creature.

We have since done some investigating on the internet and found a very good article on the University of NSW Department of Medical Entomology

The recommended method of removal is spraying with an insecticide (pyrethroid based) and then leaving it to fall off, which usually happens within 24 hours. There are also available some specialist tools to remove the tick.

We have a many different species of tick in Australia, with the paralysis tick being of concern to us as it is found on the east coast of Australia and is often encountered by those in rural areas.

In most cases the tick bites are not serious. However, a few people develop life-threatening illnesses such as paralysis, tick typhus (caused by an infection carried by the ticks) or severe allergic reactions.

Using personal insect repellents will minimise the risk of a tick attaching to you and checking yourself regularly is a very good idea.

I am pleased to report that apart from some localised itching and a mark I am fit and well after my first tick bite!

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The Koalas are Disappearing

We moved here to Cedar Creek in South East Queensland in 2005 and at that time were aware of Koalas on our property; we saw them and also heard them.

koalas are disappearing

This picture was taken in 2007 which is the last time we actually saw one on our property.

Three years and we have neither seen nor heard a Koala!

Koalas are in serious decline suffering from the effects of habitat destruction, domestic dog attacks, and bush fires and road accidents.

The Australian Koala Foundation estimates that there are less than 80,000 koalas left in the wild, possibly as few as 43,000.

Each Koala?s ?home’ is made up of several trees and they visit these same trees regularly. The area covered by these trees is their home range, and each koala has its own home range, which overlaps those of other koalas but except for breeding purposes, they do normally not visit another koala?s home trees.

We know that to make a difference we all have to do our part; Peter and I have ensured that we have kept as much native vegetation as possible on our land and have been diligently removing the introduced exotic trees and plants that were here.

We are also planting native vegetation in those areas that have been cleared because as well as being homes for koalas; they are food, shelter and nesting sites for many other native animals and birds. The hollows in older trees are very important to many animals and birds and they may take hundreds of years to develop.

koalas are disappearingWe have two lovely pet cattle dogs Lulu and Gemma and although we are sure they would never attack a Koala we tie them up at night to ensure their safety and that of the wildlife.

The Koala foundation recommends that everyone should keep your dog or cat in a koala-proof fenced enclosure or inside a garage or dwelling overnight (from dusk until dawn). This is when koalas are most active and something as simple as this could make such a difference.

I hope that everyone gets behind the campaign to Save the Koala and ensures that our governments do everything they can from stopping another of our native animals becoming extinct.

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