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Hello Annette, I am including a photo of an insect that appears to be in large numbers buzzing around our fruit tree garden (lemon, orange, lime and avocado) which is mulched with lucerne hay. They are very busy in the air, but settle for a little while to feed from the flowering gum. Will they be a problem to the trees and young tomato plants growing nearby. Richard and Helen.

Hello Richard and Helen
How lucky are you. These are native bees! Not only are they stingless, but they are doing a great job pollinating your garden. All you need to do to keep them happy is to keep planting things that flower and avoid using chemical sprays.

Can I use mature hardwood woodchip mulch ( from gum trees, it's been sitting in a pile for about 4 months ) as a mulch under my fruit trees - citrus, grumacharma, jaboticaba, pawpaw etc. If so should I add anything else at the same time?
Margaret - Sunshine Coast

Hello Margaret
Yes, you can use the wood chip. Add a couple of handfuls of granular for pelleted fertiliser to each wheelbarrow of wood chip as you spread it. Alternatively you could spread a handful per square metre to the soil prior to spreading the mulch. Be sure to spread the mulch over damp (not dry) gardens. Water the mulch well after spreading. Take care not to breath in any dust or spores associated with the mulch. I like to wet it down prior to spreading.

Could you please tell me why some of my "Blue My Mind", have changed their leaf size to small and colour from a silver green to just green and now will not produce any flowers? Sheryl - location unknown

Hello Sheryl
Any chance this plant has been affected by spray drift from a turf weeder or similar? If so, there is nothing you can do, but dig out that section. It could also be severe mite damage (although I would expect all the plant to be affected). Cut the plant back and spray with a soap spray. Let me know how you get on.

Know Your Rootstocks
We all recognise the importance of rootstocks on citrus, but if you are unsure about which rootstock goes with what citrus cultivar, Queensland fruit tree expert, Peter Young, suggests the following:
Trifoliata - confers some dwarfing. Ideal for Meyer lemon and finger limes, but is salt sensitive.
Swingle - produces a very large tree. Best used on grapefruit and pummelo.
Troyer - produces a mid-sized tree. Adaptable to a variety of cultivars, but avoid lemons and finger limes.
Benton - best used with Eureka lemon.
Cleo - best used with Calamondin.
Flying Dragon - confers dwarfing characteristics. Ideal for orange, mandarin and lime. Great advice. Thanks Peter Young HMAQ

Can you give me any advice with how I would be able to strike a leopard tree from the seed pods? I have tried for a while, but with no success. I would be happy to buy an advanced tree, but am unable to find them. Could help with that as well please?
Marie of Brisbane

Leopard trees are rarely available in nurseries these days as many local authorities consider them overly large and a bit weedy for suburban planting. To successfully grow trees from seed you need to break open the hard outer seed coat. Place the small seeds in boiling water and soak overnight before planting. This will allow water to penetrate and speed germination.

I have grown this eggplant from seed that I received at a seed saving workshop. I think the seeds were from Annette's garden. Are you able to identify the plant? Do I use the fruit as I would any other eggplant?
Cynthia of Brisbane

Congratulations on your success. This is a red eggplant. Use it in the same way as other eggplants. It is nice to mix in with purple eggplants just for the colour.

Here is the progress on germination of a polyembryonic mango. Individual seedlings (hard to see, but there are three) are starting to separate. One seedling is typically from cross pollination (not true to type). Other seedlings are vegetative clones that grow true to parent fruit. These clonal seedlings tend to be the most vigorous. If in doubt, pot them all as it is often easier to tell as the seedlings develop true leaves. Also, some varieties are notorious for producing dodgy offspring (like R2E2). You can always use spare seedlings for grafting practice. Why are commerical mango trees are grafted? For production uniformity and rootstock characteristics like disease resistance, soil-type adaptation, faster fruiting and dwarfing. Remember, a seed grown mango collected from a dwarf grafted mango tree will not produce a dwarf tree. The fruit will be the same, but grafting confers the dwarf habit. Seed grow trees take 5-7 year to fruit. Grafted trees can bear fruit in 3 years.


Judy recently came to my 'New Year, New Garden' workshop at Sandgate Town Hall armed with a sample of this plant that had her and her garden club members perplexed. She left it with me to identify. Here is my reply.

Your seeds are from a Michelia probably a variety of Michelia champaca. I recall you said it had small, white scented flowers - so maybe Michelia champaca alba? Seeds must be fresh to germinate, but may not come true to type with regard to the variety/flower colour. Might be fun for your garden club members to try growing some.

I have a rather weird looking avocado seedling. As you can see from the attached picture, one plant appears healthy green and the other is pale (almost translucent). We regularly eat avocado. I placed a couple of pips outside ... they began to sprout at the same time ... I put them into pots (with the same potting mix) at the same time - approx. two months ago. Is the "pale" seedling diseased? Should I destroy it, or let it grow and see what happens? Paul - location unknown

Hello Paul
Thank you for your question. Albino avocado seedlings are not uncommon. It is generally believed that this occurs when seeds germinate prior to the seed reaching a certain level of maturity. Where this is the case, the seedlings can develop normal green leaves with time.
If might be interesting for you to see if it does.

I attended your Sandgate workshop on Sat and thank you for a great and informative morning. I have a hibiscus with red and cream leaves, but a lot of plain green leaves keep coming through. I have cut them out a few times but they persist. Judy of Brighton

Judy, your hibiscus was bred from a random variegated shoot on a normal green form, so it is natural that it wants to revert back to green. Pruning out the green as you have been doing is the only option. Just make sure when you prune that you take out the entire green shoot right back to the point that it originates deep within the plant.Cut flush with the stem so that there is no chance (no buds/stem) from which the plant can reshoot. If you just cut the green back it will keep reshooting as it is more vigorous than the variegated growth.

Hi Annette, What is this bulb? Please identify. Thanks Roslyn  (Bulb and flower images provided).

Hello Roslyn. Your mystery bulb is Scadoxus multiflorus. It is a gorgeous thing and quite easy to grow. It will develop large green leaves over the summer/autumn. I have some growing quite happily in the garden without much care and attention. It prefers a little shade in the afternoon.

I love the Thai Summer Salad recipe on your website, but have been trying to grow my own Vietnamese mint to use in it. What is the secret? I just cannot seem to get it to thrive.
Kaye of Townsville

The secret to growing any mint is water and a little bit of protection from the hot afternoon sun. Grow your Vietnamese mint (Persicaria odorata), in a self watering pot or preferrably in a pot plunged into a water feature so that the roots are fully submerged. All mint grows quickly, so you will need to divide the plant and repot it once or twice each year. I always keep at least two plants on the go at any one time, so that I always have plenty of Vietnamese mint on hand for our favourite summer watermelon salad.

Thank you for the terrific Thai Pea Eggplant seeds you so generously gave away at the recent Green Heart Fair in Carindale. I dutifully planted them with love and care, and they have germinated. Horray!! Picture attached!!

I would now like to plant out into containers (on a balcony - NE facing, good sun). Information about growing Pea Eggplant in pots is somewhat scant on the internet... I have tried!! These are my questions.
(1) What pot size is appropriate? I like the 95c, 9L buckets from Bunnings after I drill 6 holes in the bottom. Would they be OK? One plant per pot?
(2) Also I like to plant a couple in smaller pots, so I can give away to friends for them to repot at their home. Do you think Pea Eggplant will still fruit OK after two re-pottings, from seedling pot, to 600ml pot, to something permanent?
(3) Most of the seeds I was able to plant separately, but in some cases there are 20-30 little plants clumped together. Do you have any recommendations for techniques to separate out the little seedlings?
Claire from Taringa

Well done on your germination of the Thai pea eggplants. Pea eggplants (like all eggplants) need as much sun as possible. One plant per 9L bucket should be fine. You have plenty to give away so pot them into small containers for friends. You could also do this with the ones you are keeping and gradually pot them up into the bucket-sized containers. Separate the clumped seedlings by washing the roots in some liquid seaweed (dilute according to directions). Overcrowded seedlings can be separated and successfully repotted when they soil is washed off. Fertilize your eggplants every week with liquid nutrients and be sure to add extra dry fertilizer to the potting mix.


New Recipe
Moroccan Carrot Salad
I have had the pleasure of running a series of workshops with Queensland Food Ambassador, Alison Alexander. This is a recipe Alison developed for Queensland carrot growers. It is a favourite in our household and once you make it, I am sure it will become a favourite at your place too. read more...

Can you eat the flowers on chives?
Judith of Toowoomba

Yes, you can eat the flowers of chives - although many people may think they look so lovely, it seems a shame to do so. The unopened flower buds can be added to a stir fry or used as a garnish. The individual flowers (separated from the globular flower head) are great as a garnish, added to dips and salads or cooked in an omelette or other egg dish.

Back in January 2016, Roger from Ellanora wrote regarding the non-flowering of his seed grown poinciana (7-8 years old and 3.5m tall). I suggested that poinciana trees require 7-10 years to flower and that his patience would be rewarded eventually. In November 2016, Roger got back in touch with the news below.

Hi, Annette, earlier I sent you a photo of my Poinciana tree which I had grown from seed and asked you if it would flower?. As you can see by the photo after 8+ years it has finally come good. Thank you for your gardening tips in the Sunday Mail, please keep them coming.

I would like Annette McFarlane to identify this tree which I have growing in my garden, if possible, please?
Keith of Carina

Your mystery plant is the Australian rainforest native known as the powder puff tree (Syzygium wilsonii). It prefers a shaded position, is very slow growing and has a natural weeping habit. It bears its stunning, signature crimson flowers massed with stamens during spring.

Save Your Back
Increasingly popular with new gardeners is the no-dig or sheet mulch gardening technique.  In no-dig gardens, layers of organic material are built up on the top of the soil, rather than dug into it.  Lucerne is usually used as the main component of the no-dig garden, but you can mix in other high nitrogen materials such as grass clippings and sappy green prunings with animal manure and compost.  This will make the lucerne go further.  Straw, sugar cane or some other high carbon material is used as a mulch on top of the garden.  No dig gardens can be built on top of the soil or any surface, even concrete!

To build a no-dig garden 2m x 3m you will need:
Four bales of lucerne
One barrow of compost
One barrow of manure
One bale of straw/cane straw
Wet newspaper

Slash or mow any existing lawn or weeds.  Water the area well and spread some gypsum if your soil is heavy clay.  Lay down a thick layer of wet newspaper, overlapping it well.  Alternate thin layers of the lucerne, compost and manure, watering as you go.  When you have a nice thick layer almost knee high and all your nitrogen materials have been used up, spread the straw/cane mulch over the top to form a mulch layer.

Leave for at least two weeks before planting, re-wetting if necessary. Covering the bed with plastic will ‘cook’ the layers and help them to break down more quickly.

To plant the no-dig garden create small pockets within the lucerne layer and fill with compost or potting mix.  Plant seeds or seedlings into the compost pockets, drawing the straw mulch layer back in around the plants.  Leafy crops such as silverbeet, spinach and lettuce grow well in no-dig gardens as do tomatoes, melons and pumpkins.  Avoid planting root crops in no-dig gardens for several seasons until a good depth of compost has accumulated.

Mite Damage on Citrus
Take a close look at your citrus blooms (these are from a Minneola tangelo) and you may observe some distorted flowers and developing fruit. These blooms have been affected by bud mites (most likely Eriophyyes sheldoni). Sulphur or oil sprays can be used as a preventative, but once flowers and young fruit have been affected the damage is already done. Pick them off if you like. Fruit typically still develops, but will be distorted.

Silver Leaf Desmodium -  (Desmodium uncinatum)
Here is another introduced pasture legume that has become a weed problem in gardens and bushland areas. It grows incredibly quickly and flowers and seeds prolifically. You will see it covering the soil and growing up trees as a dense climber. The small, flat seeds stick to your socks and clothing. You really are best to remove it by hand. If you try to spray it with a herbicide like glyphosate, the vine will die, but the seeds will drop to the soil and before you know if you will have another crop to contend with. If you have grazing animals (sheep, goats, a cow), you could feed it to them as it is high in nitrogen. Avoid putting it in the compost as the seeds are problematic, but you can soak it in water and use the nutrient enriched liquid as a liquid fertiliser.

From the attached photo’s, can you advise what it is that I have in my ‘blue couch lawn’? How can I remove this ‘weed’? It has many deep roots into the ground which would take considerable time to remove. If there is a chemical spray that is safe to use around bird life as I do feed wild birds daily.
Bill of Coopers Plains

Creeping Indigo - Indigofera spicata. This legume weed was introduced for agricultural use. It fixes nitrogen in association with common soil bacteria. It has a long tap root, spreads like a mat, and is a prolific seed producer. It is a common weeds of lawns. Common lawn chemicals are registered for the control of this weed (MCPA/Dicamba), but I prefer to dig it out so that you remove all the seed pods at the same time. Burning with fertiliser is another option. I have been asked to identify some lawn and garden weeds on ABC radio recently. Identifying weeds from verbal descriptions is always difficult, so I will post some names and images of some problem weeds here in the hope that you might see the one troubling you. My favourite weed control method is burning. I do this with a gas powered flame weeder or by using fertiliser. To burn weeds with fertiliser simply apply a concentrated fertiliser directly on top of the weeds (without watering in). The weeds will be burnt out completely in just a few hours, after which any remaining fertiliser can be watered into the lawn/garden.

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