Lesson 8 – Part A: CARING FOR YOUR GARDEN
Lesson 8 – Part B: PROTECTING PLANTS FROM COLD
Lesson 8 – Part C: HEAT AND WIND PROTECTION
Lesson 8 – Part D: FIND-A-WORD PUZZLE
CARING FOR YOUR GARDEN
Don't forget your hat and gloves!
Also remember to:
• Not leave tools lying on the ground as they can cause nasty injuries if they are stepped on or knelt on! Always return tools to the storage area after your lesson
• Water your plants thoroughly when they need it, and not lightly every day out of habit
• Protect the soil in garden beds by covering it with organic mulch
This lesson includes a few other things that you can do to help keep your plants strong and free of pests.
Some plants need an extra drink or two of liquid plant food to help them along if they look as though they are growing too slowly. Worm castings diluted in water to a weak black tea colour, or organic-allowed liquid plant food usually produces quick results. A drink of organic-allowed seaweed tea in autumn can help your plants to be more resistant to frosts, and a drink of seaweed tea in spring can help your plants resist summer heat.
However, only give plants extra food if they need it. If you give plants too much food they will attract aphids and other pests that like sucking on the very soft, sappy leaves that plants grow when they are fed too much food.
Another regular job for gardeners is keeping the garden area free of weeds. Many weeds are strong growers and will quickly take over your garden unless you remove them before they become a nuisance.
Weeds also need water to grow, so allowing weeds to grow in garden beds will mean less water for your plants. Mulch on garden beds will certainly help to stop weeds growing, but you must remove weeds from around the outside of your garden beds too, because some weeds provide a home and food for garden pests that spread diseases to the plants you want to grow. You don't want these weeds anywhere near your food crops.
It is important to remove weeds before they can produce seeds. Weeds can produce hundreds of seeds from one plant. If weeds are allowed to drop their seeds, you will have weed problems in
your garden area for many years.
Weeds without seed heads can be put into your compost heap and recycled into compost for your garden. Soft weeds can be put into your worm farm – even if they have seeds. The seeds will germinate in the damp conditions in worm farms and the worms will eat the germinated weed seeds so that they won't end up back in your garden.
You can get rid of weeds easily when they are very small by pushing a trowel or special hoe backwards and forwards across the soil surface. Then cover the soil with mulch and the weeds will break down to add more organic matter and food for plants.
Don't use poisons to kill weeds. These aren’t good for your health and also kill fungi that help to keep your soil healthy.
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PROTECTING PLANTS FROM COLD
Cold frames keep potted seeds and seedlings warm in spring weather when nights are still cold. The simple cold frame at right was made from some old bricks and windows found at a building-recycling centre. The window glass was painted with a small amount of watered-down white or cream house paint to allow light to reach the seedlings and protect them from direct sunlight.
This type of cold frame is made to fit the size of the window (or windows). Stack bricks very close together to make the walls. Don't leave any gaps between bricks for mice to get in. Three layers of bricks will allow plenty of height for most seedlings. Set up your cold frame in a warm spot – close to a north-facing wall, if possible. The bricks will soak up and store heat during the day and release it slowly at night, keeping the seeds and seedlings warm on cold nights. The extra warmth helps seeds to germinate and seedlings to grow more quickly in cold weather.
However, the cold frame can quickly lose warmth through the glass at night, if it is not covered. Place several hessian bags or some crumpled shade cloth or weed mat on the glass panels in the late afternoon, and remove them in the morning when the air is warmer. Once seeds have germinated, prop the lid open slightly during the day to allow air to move around the seedlings.
Cold soils slow down root growth and frosts can severely damage delicate leaves and stems of seedlings. You can get a head start on growing seedlings in garden beds by covering them with a cloche (c-low-sh), which is the French word for 'bell'. Originally, cloches were dome shaped covers to protect plants but the name now includes tunnel-like structures.
A simple cloche can be made from a length of clear, or lightly coloured, sun-resistant plastic supported by hoops made from fencing wire or thin polypipe used for drip irrigation.
Space the hoops close enough to hold the cover well above the seedlings. Spread the cover over the hoops. Use garden stakes or pieces of timber to hold down the sheeting along the sides of the cloche. The ends can be pulled down, folded to close the tunnel, and anchored with a piece of wood or a brick. Each morning, fold back the ends of the cover to allow good air circulation around the seedlings. When nights become warmer and seedlings are growing well, the cloche can be folded up and packed away in a
storage area until it is needed again.
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HEAT AND WIND PROTECTION
Summer in many parts of Australia can get very hot. Many of the fruits and vegetables we like to grow have originally come from European countries that do not have very hot summers, and these plants do not have the tough, heat-resistant leaves that protect our native plants from sunburn. Although many gardening books recommend full sun for most vegetables, full sun can scorch leaves and crops in your garden where summers are hot and air pollution is low. Sunburnt plants develop brown patches on the leaves that are on the northern side of the plant, and soft crops including tomatoes, capsicums, cucumbers and strawberries may get grey, sunken patches on their skin.
However, you can prevent the sun from scorching your plants by giving them some light shade when sunlight is very strong. Light shade when it is very hot will also keep plants cooler so that they do not lose a lot of water through their leaves trying to cool down, and your plants will need watering less often.
If you live where summers are always very hot, a light shadecloth coverarched over garden beds will let your plants get plenty of morning sun, but keep them lightly shaded through the hottest part of the day when the sun is directly above them.
When the weather is not so hot, the shadecloth can be taken down, folded up, and packed away until next summer. The arches can stay where they are, if you like, so that they can be covered with shadecloth again or with netting when you need to keep birds away from your ripening tomatoes, corn cobs, peas and strawberries.
If very hot weather that scorches your plants does not happen very often where you live, you can make an emergency shade cover, when necessary, by putting in a long garden stake at each corner of an area you want to protect. Then tie a corner of an old sheet or curtain to each stake to provide your plants with a temporary roof to help them get safely through a heat wave.
Strong winds can dry gardens much faster than heat from the sun. Windy conditions are quite common in cooler months and you may be surprised at how quickly your garden is drying out!
Plants will suffer less from wind if you give them a temporary windbreak. The windbreaks that work best are the ones that reduce the amount of wind blowing through them. Solid barriers won't stop plants from drying out because wind will swirl around on both sides of the barrier – drying your garden and sometimes blowing the mulch around, too. In the diagram below, the windbreak that contains some holes is on the left, and the solid barrier is on the right.
If you used light shadecloth to protect your plants from heat, you can use those lengths of shadecloth to make a windbreak, when needed, by putting a garden stake through the hem at each end and placing the shadecloth upright on the windy side of the garden bed. Or, you can use any loosely woven cloth (such as an old lace curtain) as a temporary windbreak. Tack each end of the curtain onto a garden stake.
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The garden words listed below are hiding in the grid. Words may be spelt out in any direction. One word has been found to give you a start.
Can you find all the words? If you can, there will be ten letters left over. These letters will spell out two words that will tell you the secret to successful gardening. There is no need to mix the letters to find the answer.
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