How To Treat Leaf Curl On Your Nectarine Tree

Leaf curl (Taphrina deformans ) is that horrifying-looking disease your stone fruit get where the leaves curl up and dye and your yields are drastically impacted. Leaf curl predominately affects peaches and nectarines, but can also hit apricots and almonds.

Leaf curl in action – yuck. 

We have a mixed orchard which includes some stone fruit – our nectarine tree is the only one with leaf curl…

Our winter orchard. For those of you who are interested, this particular row of trees has been pruned to a rough espalier “fan” shape to be more space efficient.

Where does it come from?

While it’ll start to show up in early spring it’s actually been living in your trees over winter, dormant – waiting for the seasonal rains to come and spread it into every little nook and cranny throughout the tree.  Effective treatment must begin when an affected tree loses its leaves in late autumn or early winter.

So what do you do?

A number of things, but two of the most important ones are:

  1. Before the tree buds swell spray it with lime sulphar. The lime lodges around unopened buds providing a temporary rainproof seal. Warning the lime sulphar smells like rotten eggs.
  2. When the buds are swelling (opening) usually in late winter/early spring, spray it again with Copper oxyxhloride  – this kills the fungal spores. If you’re a bit late to the spraying party and your tree’s buds are already swelling (so can’t do the lime spray), go straight to the copper spray – it’ll still worthwhile.

Be sure to spray on a still day (wind gets a bit chaotic and messy) and that it’s not about to rain (it’ll wash it away).

Both treatments mentioned above can be sourced from your local nursery – they’ll provide details on quantities to use.

Importantly, once leaf-tips appear, it’s too late to do the above treatments – timing is everything! I literally put these treatments in my diary a year in advance so I don’t forget – I recommend you do the same :-).

Lime sulphar mix ready to go

Make sure you drench the trees with the spray to ensure it gets into all those nooks and crannies.  

Other things you can do as well

For the best results in controlling leaf curl, use a number of control methods together. Complete elimination can be challenging, but the impact on the tree and fruit production can be minimised.

  • Clean up any fallen leaves from previous infections and dispose of in the bin to minimise hiding places for the fungus spore.
  • If a tree is already infected, remove all distorted leaves and fruit and destroy (bin or burn them).
  • Feed your soil with slow release organic fertilisers and soil conditioners, as well as regular watering regimes, to ensure it is healthy and can recover from infection.

A healthy tree = more fruit

If you don’t treat your trees than your yields will go way down and the fruit you do get will be small and deformed – and it’s likely you’ll cry. While the year of 2020 is throwing a hole lot of shite at us – lets not add leaf curl to the list. So if you’re privileged enough to have a fruit trees – have a crack at maximising what you can get from them.  Cause the more you have, the more you can share with your community :-).

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Permaculture and Racism

It’s been a devastating week in our global community where systemic racism has repeatedly reared its ugly head with the death of George Floyd, Rio Tinto literally blowing up an aboriginal sacred site 46,000 years old and Christian Cooper being threatened while bird watching. And all while National Reconciliation Week is taking place here in Australia.

What’s permaculture got to do with racism?

Everything. As permaculturalists, we can either perpetuate racism or we can help break the cycle.

Permaculture is based on three ethics – earth care, people care and fair share. You cannot do one without doing the others, all three or nothing. It’s more than just gardening/farming – it’s a holistic approach to actively re-thinking and re-shaping the system we all live in to be good for everyone. 

It also bases a lot of its strategies and techniques off indigenous practices. It’s vitally important this is acknowledged when practicing permaculture – otherwise you’re part of the problem. You’re taking away from First Nation cultures when there’s an opportunity to work with them and highlight their incredible skills, knowledge and resilience. I’ve personally been in situations in Australia and overseas where I can vouch that First Nation farmers know better than some young, white permaculturalist (i.e. me). My advice?  Be quiet, listen and learn and then use your white privilege to highlight/celebrate First Nation farmers/land stewards in that region, giving them the credit and authority they deserve and helping others realise this.

You cannot practice permaculture without practicing social justice. 

What are we personally doing about it?

  • Paying the rent: As of this past week we now pay the rent to a local Aboriginal organisation (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre). We encourage you to connect with local First Nation organisations in your region to find out how you can support them.
  • Supporting climate action: We are members of Groundswell Giving which fund effective climate action. When you fund/support climate action, you’re supporting First Nation communities who feel the impacts of climate crisis disproportionately to others.
  • Getting educated: We are continually learning how to stop being racist. Yes we’re racist. As white folks, we’ve grown up in a system which we benefit from and we have bone-deep implicit biases that we’re working on dismantling. I find reading and listening to First Nations voices helpful in this ongoing mission. Here’s a good book list for you to explore (I’d just add Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe to the list )and a new podcast “always was always will be our stories” by Marlee Silva launched this past week. Please leave your recommendations in the comments below.

As the impactful artwork of Molly Costello says below, we were built for this. This is hard, uncomfortable work and we will all be better off for doing it.

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How To Grow Green Manures & A Better World For All

Green manure crops are used within a crop rotation cycle to re-nourish the soil in preparation for further annual crops. Our latest AND LAST Crisis Gardening video steps you through what green manure seeds you can grow for both cold and warm seasons and how to do it.

It also explores how we can grow a better world. Because as we still have months/years ahead of us in recovering from covid-19, now is the perfect time to ask ourselves

“what type of world do we want to re-emerge into?”

Instead of going back to business as usual- why not consider going forward and outgrowing the status quo? You can watch the whole video here and read about how to garden both of these things into existence below.

What are some of the common green manure crops?

Green manure for cold seasons

  • Broad beans (also known as faba or tik beans) (Vicia faba)
  • Mustard (Brassica nigra)
  • Peas (Pisum sativum)
  • Lupins (Lupinus)
  • Oat grass (Avena sativa)
  • Rye grass (Lolium rigidum)
  • Vetch (Vicia)
  • Annual crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum)

Green manure for warm seasons

  • Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)
  • Lablab (Lablab purpureus)
  • Soybeans (Glycine max)
  • Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata)
  • Millet (Panicum miliaceum)
  • Marigolds (Tagetes)

The benefits

Different green manure options will have different benefits for the soil, as  Sustainable Gardening Australia puts it below…

  • Biofumigants, like marigolds (Tagetes patula) planted in spring, brassicas (Brassica napus and Brassica campestris) and mustard, planted in autumn help to control root knot nematodes and root rot fungal pathogens. These crops must be dug in to release beneficial gases as they decompose.
  • Legumes, like lucerne, clover, beans and peas, which fix nitrogen and will make it available to whatever follows the green manure crop.
  • Weed smotherers include lablab, cowpea, lucerne and buckwheat.

How to plant them

  • We mix up a range of the above seeds in a bowl (usually a blend of mustard, peas and broad beans or lupins) and simply broadcast them across the soil.
  • We then rake them in, not overly worried if some are still exposed.
  • If needed, we water them in – if rain’s coming we let nature water them instead.

Then what?

We make sure they’re never allowed to flower, as once they do the plant starts to put all their energy into flowering/fruiting instead of into the soil. Remember we’re feeding the soil NOT ourselves. So we will slash them down a couple of times over the season to ensure they’re putting all their good stuff into the soil.

Once it’s time for the next crop to be planted, you can either:

  • Dig the plants into the soil (remove any excess green matter from the top of the plant first), slash/mow/sythe them to ground level and leaving the roots in the ground,
  • Plant your crops amongst them (knowing you might have to manage any re-growth) or,
  • You can slash them down, water it and then smother the garden bed with a non-toxic tarpaulin/silage tarp 4 – 6 weeks before you want to plant the next crop. This process encourages all the biology to the top soil level where they eat the whole plant – leaving no trace of it.

This last method is our preferred one as it means you don’t have to dig the soil at all (meaning you don’t disturb the soil food web) and all green manures have perfectly “disappeared” into the soil, with all the biology having eaten and cycled them back into the soil profiles. You can see how a variation of us doing this in our garden here. 

Photo from Longley Organic Farm

Where to source seeds

In Australia we recommend the follow – but check in with your local nursery to find local ones.

How to grow a better world

Green manures are the perfect way to feed, rest and activate your soil simultaneously. Which leads me to how to grow a better world. During these past 10+ weeks of covid-19 lock downs, people have been retreating, hibernating, watching, wondering, resting, feeding and activating their brains with new thinking – sewing new seeds for how we might move forward.

Some of these new “social seeds” we can all start or, continue sewing are listed below with links to impactful organisations and resources already working in these areas.

First Nations Justice

Organisations and resources to help you learn and support First Nations Australians.

  • Original Power – a community-focused organisation that aims to build the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through collective action.
  • Seed Mob –Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network, building a movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people for climate justice with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.
  • Amazing book – Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe – Reexamines colonial accounts of Aboriginal people in Australia, and cites evidence of pre-colonial agriculture, engineering and building construction by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Food Sovereignty

  • Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance –The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance is a farmer-led organisation made up of organisations and individuals working together towards a food system in which people can create, manage, and choose their food system.
  • La Via Campesina – an international movement which coordinates peasant organisations of small and middle-scale producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities

Regernative agriculture

  • Savoy Global – is the large-scale regeneration of the world’s grasslands through Holistic Management to address the global issues of desertification, climate change, and food and water insecurity.
  • Regeneration International – promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.

Divest

  • Market Forces – believes that the banks, superannuation funds and governments that have custody of our money should use it to protect not damage our environment.
  • 350.org – an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.

Donut Economics

Where our economic system operates within ecological and social constraints and drops the finite growth approach.

  • Kate Raworth website resources and book explaining this concept thoroughly.

Renewable Energy

  • Renew Economy – Australia’s best informed and most read web-site focusing on clean energy news and analysis, as well as climate policy.
  • Beyond Zero Emissions – a climate change think tank, showing through independent research and innovative solutions how Australia can reach beyond zero emissions.

Gender equality

  • Plan International – driving change to advance children’s rights and equality for girls by working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners.

Compassion and Courage

  • This Ted Talk by political strategist, Tom Rivett-Carnac is well worth watching. It’s about approaching crisis with love.

Other resources for a better world

  • Retrosuburbia – a book by David Holmgren that’s recently become available as an e-book that you can pay what you feel. This book outlines how our suburbs can transform for the better.
  • Australia reMADE – a national organisation working toward whole system transformation.
  • From what is to what if, book by Rob Hopkins.
  • 2040 documentary – explores just some of the possibilities available to us.

And look, there’s more than this list (obviously). I haven’t even mentioned healthcare for all, education, housing and adopting a more ethical approach to refugees seeking safety. There are many, many things needing our attention. And while some of us might feel covid-19 restrictions easing and the sense of crisis lifting. We need to remember that there’s also the ever-present climate crisis here, waiting for us to address it effectively.

Here’s the good and interesting news. A lot of what we’ve already been doing in response to covid-19, i.e. relocalising our diet, flying less, walking/riding our bikes more, working from home where possible, fostering more community (albeit online) – everything – is actually in line with what we need to do to address the climate crisis (except please f*#k off forever physical distancing). But we now know we can make global changes quickly and effectively – if the will is there.

So please my friends, please go forth and sew both those green manure and social seeds to re-nourish our soils and societies towards a better world for all. We are more powerful than we think.

This clever artwork by Brenna Quinlan captures it all…

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How To Propagate Plants From Cuttings: AKA Free Plants!

Learning how to grow plants from cuttings is a liberating activity. You’ll never see the world the same again and you’ll always carry secateurs with you just in case you walk past an interesting plant you’d like to grow yourself. For week 9 of our Crisis Gardening series, we show you how easy it can be. You can watch the video here and read about the process below.

Our prop station in action which you can see more of here

Firstly, there are three main types of cuttings, softwood, semi-hardwood and hardwood. I’m focusing on the hardwood cuttings for this blog and video. Depending on what plant you’re taking cuttings from (and what season you’re in) will depend on the type of cutting you take – be sure to research for the particular plant you’re working with.

Hardwood cuttings are taken from dormant, mature stems in late fall, winter, or early spring. Plants generally are fully dormant with no obvious signs of active growth. The wood is firm and does not bend easily. Hardwood cuttings are used most often for deciduous shrubs but can be used for many evergreens. 

Softwood cuttings are prepared from soft, succulent, new growth of woody plants, just as it begins to harden (mature). Shoots are suitable for making softwood cuttings when they can be snapped easily when bent and when they still have a gradation of leaf size (oldest leaves are mature while newest leaves are still small). For most woody plants, this stage occurs in the warmer months (i.e summer). The soft shoots are quite tender, and extra care must be taken to keep them from drying out. The extra effort pays off, because they root quickly.

Semi-hardwood cuttings are usually prepared from partially mature wood of the current season’s growth, just after a flush of growth. This type of cutting normally is made from mid-summer to early autumn. The wood is reasonably firm and the leaves of mature size. Many broadleaf evergreen shrubs and some conifers are propagated by this method (NC State Extension). 

The prop mix

We use a 50:50 mix of coarse potting sand and coco peat for any type of cutting. The sand provides good drainage and the coco peat provides water retention. You don’t need any compost or garden soil as the cuttings don’t require any nutrients at this stage of growth.

The finished prop mix, ready to be planted into

Taking the cuttings

Choose a small hardwood branch with lots of nodes on it. Nodes are the little things sticking out the side where usually leaf would grow from. Once buried in your prop mix, this will be where the roots come out of. You need to have a 3 – 4 nodes buried in your prop mix, so overall try to have at least 6 nodes.  Below you can see a cutting from a Salvia Leucantha bush, being an evergreen I made sure to little bit of leave on top to help it photosynthesise – deciduous plants don’t need any leaf remaining. You can read more about this type of Salvia here.

A cutting with a small leaf left on the top and 7 nodes. 

Planting the cuttings

When it comes to planting, you can choose to dip each cutting into a rooting hormone (of which there are many). We often just dip them in honey which is anti-bacterial and can also help with root growth.

Then, you can simply pop them into some pots with the prop mix. As you can see below, you can plant them very close. After a month or so you’ll notice small roots coming out the bottom of the pots – this is one way to know they’re reading to be transplanted into larger pots of their own.

From here, we simply make sure we water the cuttings as needed and pot them up when they’ve struck roots.

Cuttings are an under utilised option for growing a huuuuuge amount of plants easily and affordably. Even I don’t do it enough. So lets all remember that the whole world is our garden and crack on with it!

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How To Keep Chickens: Tips & Tricks

Over the many years of keeping chickens we’ve tried lots of systems and techniques for housing, feeding and managing them. For week 8 of our Crisis Gardening series we made a video about some of the current systems that make it work really well. You can watch it here, or just keep reading :-).

The deep litter system

Chooks are originally jungle birds and need a deep litter to scratch into – you never want them on bare earth as it’ll become stinky, unhealthy mess. Instead we put in loads of dry carbon materials to soak up all the poo and rain so it’s never stinky. Once-twice a year we dig the whole thing out and replace it with fresh carbon (i.e. woodchips, straw, brown leaves). The stuff we dig out heads straight to our compost bays or our orchard – which the trees love.

Older deep litter on the left we’re digging out and some fresh woodchips that will replace it all. 

Chook house

Our “self-cleaning” chook house is a winner. We never have to crawl in there to dig out poo, it’s easy to harvest eggs and the ladies are nice and comfy in there. You can read all about it on a previous blog we wrote here.

But what about foxes?

We don’t have foxes in Tasmania (I know, amazing), this means we don’t have to build really secure structures to lock them up in each night. If you do have foxes (or other predator animals), then we recommend building a straw yard as explained here by our dear friends at Very Edible Gardens.

Chicken tunnel

The little chook tunnel helps connect the chooks to their green foraging area where our young hazelnut shrubs live – and lots of grass and weeds. They love it in there and we love it because it means they can help themselves to fresh greens whenever they like. Win win!

The chicken tunnel/passage can been seen above. It connects their main yard to their house, then to their feeding station and then down this passage behind our compost bays, under a little tunnel and into the forage section which you can see below around our rain tank.

Chook feeder

This has been a life changing system for feeding our chooks. They can feed themselves and not attract unwanted flocks of birds or rodents – seriously, seriously great. You can read all about it here on a previous blog we wrote. 

Overall, we can’t imagine a home without these feathered friends. They’re a wonderful addition to any home, helping turn it into a thriving, pumping place of production, rather than just consumption.

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Grow Your Own Immune Boosting Tea

For week 7 of our Crisis Gardening series we’re covering how you can grow (and make) your own immune boosting tea, or “immune-a-tea” as I like to call it.

Right now the whole world is trying to stay healthy, or get healthy – fostering a strong immune system is something we can all do to help this. This can happen in a range of ways, including drinking daily cups of this herbal brew. You can watch the whole process here, and read about it below.

The 5 herbs you’ll need are…

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

Peppermint (Mentha × piperit)

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Can you use dried herbs instead?

Yes! If you’re not able to grow your own, you can buy them from a shop :-).

How to make the tea?

  • Pick equal amounts of the above plant, specifically the leaf of lemon balm, thyme, peppermint, the flower of the calendula and the leaf and flower of the yarrow.
  • Put them all in a large tea pot, add boiling water and cover it with a lid to steep for at least 10 minutes.
  • Drink one – three cups per day for maximum benefits.

How are these plants good for you?

  • Thyme leaf – lung tonic, anti-bacterial, antispasmodic (for coughs), relaxing expectorant
  • Peppermint leaf – digestive, anti-bacterial, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic (induces fever)
  • Calendula flowers-  anti-inflammatory, wound healing, immune stimulating, anti-bacterial
  • Lemon balm leaf – anti-anxiety, antiviral, digestive, mood uplifting, diaphoretic (induces fever)
  • Yarrow leaf and flowers – diaphoretic (induced fever), tonic, adaptogen

How do I know this?

I consulted with local naturopath Moncia Fancia who provided this recipe (thanks Monica) – you can normally find her working with the renowned Goulds Naturopathica or with Hobart Herbalists Without Borders. Monica and her colleagues have a wealth of knowledge and skill – can’t recommend them enough!

We wish you all good health!

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Three Ways To Grow Potatoes: From Your Balcony To Your Backyard!

From the balcony to the backyard, there’s a method for everyone to grow some of their own potatoes. Originally from South America, these small balls of goodness contain high vitamin C (amongst other nutrients) are one of the only carbohydrates you can grow yourself and there are literally thousands of varieties to choose from.

Our latest Crisis Gardening video shows you three ways you can grow your own. You can watch it now here.

1. The pot (or hessian sack, tree bag or maybe even a pillowcase)

This is the method for people with tiny amounts of space. Think balcony, courtyard or perhaps you’re renting and aren’t allowed to dig up the lawn.

You can buy a “potato bag” from a nursery, or use a hessian sack, tree bag or really probably a pillow case. Please note, I’m yet to try a pillow case, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for one season only (it’ll break down quickly).

2. The in-ground method

If you’re starting with lawn, this involves a fair amount of digging and weeding. It’s perfect for folks without access to lots of resources to build a no-dig garden. Due to covid-19, it can be tricky to source big loads of mulch and/or compost – so we really wanted to show you this method as well.

3. The no-dig method

This is our preferred method as it looks after, and fosters fantastic soil health. Wherever possible we always work towards a no, or minimal till approach to gardening so we minimise/eliminate how much we disturb the soil profile. BECAUSE, each time you dig the ground you’re releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying the structure of the soil. Sounds very dramatic – because it is. You can read/see a bit about no-dig gardening over here on a previous Crisis Gardening vlog.  You can also watch Mr Peter Cundall demonstrate another version of the no-dig potato bed here. Thanks Pete.

When to plant your potatoes

Late winter or early spring is the normal time to plant them – a few weeks before your last frost. Frost harms the leaf, so you’re looking to avoid the cold snaps. We’ll be planting a crop in then, however we’re also doing one in late Autumn (now) as we don’t have heavy/significant frosts on our property. This crop will grow slowly over winter and we’ll harvest it in spring. It wont be the biggest yields, but it’ll be some of the earliest in the region – and that’s what we’re after.

Dutch cream spuds already sprouting. This process is called “chitting” – by sprouting them before you plant them out, they’re getting a head start on growing. 

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Eat Your Weeds: Especially Dandelion!

Week 5 of our Crisis Gardening series has us looking at our weeds – and eating them. Specifically the mighty dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale).

Now, it’s slightly crazy that we spend so much time pampering “traditional” vegetables in the garden when some of the weeds growing in our lawn are significantly more nutritious than they’ll ever be. Take dandelion for example, this beauty of a plant is one of the most nutritious plants EVER tested by the US Department of Agriculture. It’s high in iron, calcium, vitamins A, B6, E and K, thiamin, antioxidants and beta- and alpha-carotene (The Weed Forager’s Handbook).

Obviously we all need to be eating dandelion! Watch our latest video here to get you started. 

More information

  • If you’d like to read about the process, you can also read a much older blog of making dandelion tea (aka dandelion coffee) here. 
  • The Weed Forager’s Handbook: You can buy your own copy of it here

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Hot Composting Video

If you’ve got lots of bulk organic matter in your garden, then hot composting is for you. It’s a great way to process large amounts of material to cycle it back into your landscape to improve soil health and ultimately, grow more food.  You can watch our latest covid-19 Crisis Gardening video to see how we do it in our own garden here.

Additional hot composting resources we’ve created over time include:

In conclusion, compost (in its many shapes and forms) is an essential part of living a good life. Whether you’re doing it in your backyard, community space or your local Council’s facilitating it for/with you – get into it. There’s nothing more satisfying than turning all that comfrey and spoiled straw you can see below into dark brown nutritious compost for our garden!

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Food Waste Composting Video

Food waste composting – it can be a baffling affair, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a glorious, slightly magical process to help facilitate.

We’ve just popped up another little backyard video as part of our Covid-19 Crisis Gardening series, showing three ways people can compost their food waste – you can now watch it here.

A little disclaimer – it’s so hard for me to put this very brief overview up as I know there’s a million more bits of information that I missed out on telling y’all. For example, things to NOT put in a small compost bin (as seen above) include:

  • Weedy plants, i.e. runner grasses, oxalis and seeds from invasive species. As it’s a cold compost they wont break down and you’ll end up spreading them everywhere!
  • Diseased plants – if you’re plant’s sick, bin or burn it instead of putting it into your compost bin.
  • Large bits of meat/bones.
  • Glossy paper/magazines (too much heavy ink).
  • Some tea bags have polypropylene plastics – check with the brand if you’re not sure.

So be sure to dig a bit deeper into some of our free resources below for a lot more information and inspiration for you to wrap your beautiful brains around.

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