The bigger the better, mostly.

Street trees are vital to Summer cooling and reducing urban heat gain but Gawler council has a penchant for cutting down big trees, especially Pepper Trees.

I wonder if they consider that mature trees are refuges for large amounts of pollinator and predator insects? As we face enormous biodiversity loss, insect refuges they are becoming vital to our survival.

Big trees are havens, air conditioners, food sources, soil stabilizers etc etc etc etc...
Big trees are havens, air conditioners, food sources, soil stabilizers etc etc etc etc…

A couple af years back, the council allowed the neighbour on the block to the rear if ours to remove 3 huge pepper trees. We used to be able to sit out the back and watch the antics of numerous birds and, if we got closer, see clouds of insects coming and going and doing their thing. No more.

The garden yielded poorly in the two seasons immediately after that killing and I wonder if those low yields were echoed in other gardens. Pest insect numbers were up too Since then, we’ve managed a new equibrium with our own plantings of insect friendly plants and I seriously think about each insect that I knowingly kill. Of course, there are many that I kill by just existing but every trap and every squish of the fingers follows a moments genuine consideration.

We are at the point where we need to reconsider what is ‘useful’ or ‘aesthetically pleasing’ because we are running out of options, as species of every kind go extinct, there are less choices for us to pick from. Maybe killing a big old tree ticks a box on the council’s to-do list and ‘weedy’ trees are easy targets especially when they get replaced by ‘native plants’ (ticking the ‘reveg’ box). Some of those plants will be better for native pollinators, which is essential, but why not plant them in vacant and unused areas? There are plenty of those. Ironically, when they plant the natives, council then spends money and time poisoning the (often) edible weeds that grow around them, right down to where the water flows in our rivers.

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that we have to rethink our take on the usefulness of plants and nurture what is there with different eyes. We’re running out of options and it takes many years for any tree to grow big enough to start to provide the services that many of us don’t even know they do.

More goodness for the garden from waste materials

Hi Everyone! I’m happy to bring you our first post from Ligaya Garden for 2022!

Not spaghetti sauce, Fish Amino Acid vinegar extract!

The pic above’s not a bucket of spaghetti sauce, its actually a bucket Fish Amino Acid vinegar extract erm… extracting. Smells great too! It’s the second stage in the process of drawing out the maximum goodness from fish scraps and because the first extraction stage, the traditional method of making Fish Amino Acid (FAA) fertilizer using sugar or molasses in an anaerobic environment reduces the smell a lot, when I add vinegar to the leftovers, the smell is just that of pickled fish. Delicious!

Waste and pest damaged fruit can be fermented and returned to the soil.

In the bucket in the next pic, all of the fruit that’s been damaged by varmints is getting a second life and fermenting nicely into a liquid brew so that it doesn’t get wasted and boy are the varmints busy this year! We have a plague of rats getting at the fruit trees and the Tomatoes. They’re like kids and don’t bother with the leafy greens (of which we have heaps) but want the brightest, prettiest things, then they take a couple of bites and ignore it. Maybe I can work out a way of making fermented rat liquid fertilizer…but I don’t think I’ll go there…

A rat attacked Plum!
A rat attacked Plum!

Fruit is pretty well the life goal of most fruit trees and they put a lot of energy and nutrients into producing it, especially phosphorus and potassium and this is one way to reclaim some of the nutrients so that they can be added to the root zone of the trees without the hassle of making regular compost. All you have to do is soak waste or scrap fruit in rainwater for a week or so (in this warm weather) and naturally occurring microbes on the fruit’s surface will start the job of fermenting the fruit for you. Then you just strain and water the resulting liquid onto the root of the plants that the fruit came from. Easy!

We don’t have a compost heap here in the garden. We have a deep litter system with chooks working over most of the organic material that comes into the garden, breaking it down, removing bugs and mixing poo and feathers into it. We also make a lot of liquid additives for our plants and soil and as I’m getting the hang of making them, I’m also incorporating them into the aquaponics. The ultimate goal is to reduce the reliance of fish as a nutrient source in the aquaponics system. The fish will just be pest control and the homemade liquid fertilizers will be the nutrients. Such a system is called ‘bioponics’ and reduces many of the expenses of an aquaponics system, especially on in which the yield is reduced because folks like us don’t eat the fish. Plus it’s one less thing that needs doing.

The pulp left after either of the mixes I’ve shown you today get  strained out and are favourite of the worms in the worm farms.  I think I can hear them smacking their lips now. At least, I think it’s their lips  💋 😅

A sacrificial christmas in extreme closeup

Here’s some Christmas baubles for you!

Actually, they’re Spider Mites filmed with my new digital microscope. As I learn more about microscopy, the videos and pics will improve, so bear with me! The new microscope has added so much more depth to my understanding of the dance of predator and prey in our garden ecosystem.

These mites were filmed living on one of my sacrificial Solanum nigrum plants. Sacrificial plants (no, they don’t have to be virgins) are a great way to monitor and control your pests. All you do is leave one or two of a batch of plants untreated when you apply your favourite pest control method.

They will quickly become infested with whatever’s around and as they become damaged and weak, will attract even more pests because, thinking ecologically, unless they’re in plague numbers and competing for very limited resources, pests are here to remove the sick and weak plants.

Observe your sacrificial plants too for signs of garden predators. I’m not talking about that guy in a raincoat who hangs out by the front fence, but rather the insect predators such as the Ladybird Beetles who were too fast for me to film! Predators are usually quick and aggressive so at this stage, getting one on film is proving tricky…

Once you see predators around, destroy your sacrificial plants (yes, you’ll take out a few predators but their presence indicates that they’re already in your garden) and the pests thereon.

It’s a challenging form of pest control. As you observe the buildup of pests, it’s tempting to pull out the plants immediately but persevere and observe. I’ve learned heaps about the balance of things by using this technique.

When you know that predators are present, you can ease off on your regular pest control routine for that kind of plant because it will kill off the predators too. Do this and you’ll see great results in the way of healthier plants, less poisons, less expense and best of all, less labour! Hooray!

Happy Christmas too!

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