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Sustainable Gardening Tips for August

Welcome to the August newsletter. I’m digging deeper into ways we can garden more sustainably by managing insect pests without chemicals. Growing a food garden can be frustrating when you feel insects get to enjoy your crops more than you do. This month’s plant profile is rosemary and there are seasonal gardening tips as usual. I hope you find these practical and helpful.

Sustainable Gardening Tips for August

Sustainable Gardening Tips for AugustSustainable Gardening Tips for August

“The more life there is in a garden, the more likely there will be a balance between pests and diseases and beneficial organisms.”Dennis Crawford (Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs, 2015)


How to Prevent and Get Rid of Aphids Naturally

Aphids are sap-sucking pest insects that every gardener deals with at some point. I’ve lost plenty of plants to aphids over the years, so in my latest article, I’m sharing what really works and the science behind why. Unfortunately, aphids are one of the most destructive pests because you can suddenly have plague numbers almost overnight. You’ll discover how this happens and why you need to have some ‘tools’ in your pest management toolkit for getting rid of aphids fast. There’s some fascinating research from scientific studies so you can feel confident about using natural strategies to manage this pest without chemicals. I hope you enjoy reading How to Prevent and Get Rid of Aphids Naturally to learn more about this insect. You’ll be armed with knowledge and tactics for when they visit your garden.

Severe infestation of onion aphids Neotoxoptera formosana on shallots

Severe infestation of onion aphids Neotoxoptera formosana on shallots

Severe infestation of onion aphids Neotoxoptera formosana on shallots – a common issue in spring


Insect Pest Management Tips

Maintaining a biodiverse ecosystem in your garden is one of the best ways to minimise pest insect numbers. Beneficial insects, soil microorganisms and birds play important roles in the life cycle of pest insects and the food chain. When Nature is in balance we have few issues to deal with. These are some other considerations.

  • Habitat. Insect-eating birds need shelter, water and a food source. Locate a bird bath close to a bushy shrub or protective tree canopy to encourage regular visits from small birds. They need to feel safe when looking for dinner and have a place to retreat to, drink and bathe.
  • Maintain good garden hygiene. Avoid bringing in pest-infested plants. Carefully check plant stems, leaves and buds at the nursery before purchase.
  • Crop rotate. To avoid a build-up of soil-related pest (and disease) problems, it’s wise to move members of the same plant family of annual vegetables to a different spot each season. Like human families sharing the flu, plant ‘cousins’ are prone to similar seasonal pest problems. Rotating crops interrupts their life cycle.
  • Propagate for plant health. Crowded plants create an environment suited to many pest insects. Plants weaken as they compete for nutrients. Air circulation becomes poor and parent plants can lose their vigour. Divide and separate perennials to encourage healthy plants. Learn propagation skills!
  • Keep weeds in check. Weed species that are related to crops or ornamental plants are hosts or food sources for pest insects. Once they exhaust their food, they often migrate to your more valued plants.
  • Avoid using chemicals. Quick fixes that disrupt nature’s sensitive ecological systems results in long-term damage. Every action has a consequence. Many synthesized chemical products indiscriminately kill your beneficial insect populations as well as pest insects. They can also harm bees, lizards, soil microorganisms, birds and aquatic life. Biological non-chemical pest control methods are safer and don’t destroy the very life you need to keep problem insect populations in balance.
  • Water consistently. Over or under-watered plants can suffer water stress and are more vulnerable to pest attack. Water the soil deeply and cover with mulch.
  • Avoid over-fertilising. Feed your soil naturally with organic matter, compost, minerals and mulch. Soil biology will do the rest. Flushes of growth from NPK or nitrogen-rich fertilisers are a major cause of unnaturally fast soft new leaf growth. This artificially creates a banquet of food for herbivorous insects. Slow and steady feeding avoids creating this issue.
  • Record your observations in a garden journal. Each season, write down when pests arrive in your garden and which plants are attacked. Note what remedies you tried. What worked? What didn’t? Your knowledge base is a valuable tool to use year after year.

What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD

August is typically when our temperatures start to warm up during the day. It’s usually dry and windy with an increase in pest insects after overwintering. We also notice many plants starting to wake up from winter dormancy. Some plants may be under stress if it’s too dry. Before the warmer weather arrives, it’s an ideal time to get all those big garden projects finished. Building new garden beds, mulching, setting up vertical garden structures for spring and getting shade covers ready. It’s exhausting trying to do those jobs when it’s hot and humid!

Download your August Gardening Tips PDF for planting suggestions, tasks to do in the garden this month plus issues to watch out for. 

If you can, try to time planting in harmony with the moon phases. Working with Nature’s timing can improve seed germination, help cuttings take root when propagating plants, and encourage healthy plant growth and establishment. There are also times each month to optimise the quick uptake of liquid nutrients. This helps plants access nutrition and get off to a good start. Working with moon phases and a Moon Calendar has distinct benefits. It helps me stay organised! I plan forward for the best times to take specific actions in my garden and reap the rewards. The natural cycles of energy and water that ebb and flow each month are there for us to tap into. Learn more here.

The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. It includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting. 

What to Plant Now in Other Locations

Click here for what to plant and when. Or visit Gardenate.com (USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa)


Companion Planting Tip

Interplant strongly scented, diverse-shaped leafy herbs amongst vegetables to repel insect pests. Here I planted rocket and basil (LHS) with dill and coriander (RHS) around my eggplant and lettuce. These herbs provide food, edible flowers and medicine. They also make useful companion plants in the kitchen garden. When they flower (like the rocket and coriander here), they are blooming beautiful! Flowers attract beneficial predatory insects to their nectar and pollen; pollinators (ideal near fruiting crops like eggplant) and provide free seeds. Herbs play many roles! Next up, one of my favourites – rosemary.

Interplant strongly scented, diverse-shaped leafy herbs amongst vegetables to repel insect pestsInterplant strongly scented, diverse-shaped leafy herbs amongst vegetables to repel insect pests


PLANT PROFILE: Rosemary

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a perennial strongly fragrant, evergreen bush that has two main cultivars (upright and prostrate). Choose a variety and growth habit that suits your space. The upright cultivars make a wonderful long-lived hedge providing habitat for small insect-eating birds, flowers for pollinators and beneficial insects as they feed on the nectar and pollen. Rosemary is an excellent companion plant for kitchen gardens. Dwarf compact rosemary is perfect for a pot close to the kitchen. Depending on the variety, the edible flowers are blue, purple, white or pink and can be enjoyed sprinkled over salads, roast vegetables and meat. The blooms provide anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties.

The quickest way to grow rosemary is to propagate from hardwood cuttings. You can sow seeds or layer a prostrate variety as it touches the soil. Grow in a sunny space in well-drained soil or potting mix and bark mulch. This Mediterranean herb tolerates drought, frost, salt winds and a variety of soil types but hates wet feet. Keep it bushy and lush with regular pruning.

Taking hardwood cuttings of rosemary to propagate new plants and create bushy new growthTaking hardwood cuttings of rosemary to propagate new plants and create bushy new growth

Rosemary earns its name as the ‘Herb of Remembrance’ for its ability to aid memory and slow down mental decline with ageing! If you need mental clarity for work or study, just break off a sprig and leave it on your desk in a vase. Rub the leaves regularly and inhale to release the volatile oils. Rosemary’s essential oils include cineol, camphene, α-pinene, bornyl acetate and borneol. The phytonutrients in rosemary have been used to build the immune system, aid digestion, increase circulation, fight cancer, improve concentration and stimulate blood flow to the brain. See my Guide to Using Kitchen Herbs for Health and How Can I Use Herbs in My Daily Life? for more culinary and medicinal uses. This is a valuable herb and useful companion plant for every garden.


Incredible Edibles Talks

I’m excited to be presenting the Incredible Edibles – Small Space Gardening workshops again in September at six Sunshine Coast libraries. Discover creative ways to grow food in compact spaces for an easy year-round harvest tailored to SE Queensland’s subtropical climate. Perfect timing for spring planting. Learn how to grow a variety of nutritious edibles in small gardens. Find out how to use space and microclimates wisely. Practical tips for growing crops in containers. Be inspired to start your very own low-cost edible garden. Registration is essential. Be quick to book your free seat.

Incredible Edibles - Small Space Gardening Workshops with The Micro Gardener in September 2023Incredible Edibles - Small Space Gardening Workshops with The Micro Gardener in September 2023


Shop Gardening Guides and Resources

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Your results will likely vary if you are still taking potluck and sowing at any time! Some plants might thrive while others fail, bolt to seed, wither or seeds never germinate. Adjusting the timing can make the difference between a productive garden and a frustrating one. It may help to learn more about the benefits of moon gardening. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner!

Dig Deeper …


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I look forward to sharing more news and ways to grow good health next month.

Happy gardening!

Anne


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