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Hints & Tips

New Garden Tips from David Stephen!!

(May 2018)

David Stephen, our own Taroona Gardening Guru, spoke to the May meeting about his lifetimeof backyard research. The handouts about twin compartment composting and the worm tower can be downloaded here.

The Worm Tower   l   Twin Compartment Composting


David Stephen's Organic Gardening Calendar

Written in 1991, (but still a very valid reference) - with lots of useful information month by month.

Birds of Taroona

(Mick Brown's website link)  - a very comprehensive site showing good photos of all the birds you are likely to encounter in Taroona - see


Lots of How To Do's - for gardens

There is a marvellous website at  The Garden Clubs of Australia Inc's ssociated LINKS page-  that shows lost iof interesting How To Do's for gardens.. see

Native plants - tips from the Inverawe Native Garden website 

Bill and Margaret Chestnut spoke to the Forum in March, about their extensive gardens of native plants at Margate, and indicated that he has information about many aspects of planting natives, in the Inverawe website, at

There is also a lot of information about the many species of native birds that visit  the gardens, at

Killing Oxalis

Add water to liquid soap and baking soda and spray the oxalis leaves in the hot sun.  This makes the bulbs swell.
(from Barbara Baddiley, from the NZ House & Garden magazine).

Protection from snails

Brick walls and concrete/gravel paths provide protection from snails and slugs.

Cloches made from plastic drink bottles can protect developing seedlings from harsh weather, also crushed eggshells can be placed to provide a protective barrier from slugs etc and a snail catcher can be made from a plastic tub, with a slit for entry, and filled with beer slops to attract the beasties.

Planting seeds

For planting seeds use egg cartons, biodegradable pots, seed trays, old pots (well-cleaned) or old butter or yogurt containers with holes punched in the bottom.  You can either buy seed-raising mix or make your own using 50% coir peat and 50% sharp sand (aka propagating sand).  For direct planting in the soil for vegies like carrots, radish and beetroot you can use seed tape.  You stick the seed on the tape at the correct interval and lay in the furrow in your garden.  For very fine seed, mix with fine sand in a screw top jar with a small hole punched in the lid with a nail.  Shake well and sprinkle the seed/sand mix along the furrow.  For large seeds, sew directly into the bed or into a biodegradable pot that can be planted into the garden later (from Katrina)

To make hydrangeas blue

25gm Sulphate of iron

4-5 litres water

Apply to your hydrangeas in autumn each year.  From Barbara


Getting rid of Oxalis and other weeds mixed in with other plants.

Make up a solution of Zero or Roundup and apply in one of the three following ways:

  1. Paint solution on the leaves with a paintbrush
  2. Wear cotton gloves over rubber gloves, dip hands in the solution and run over the leaves of the Oxalis
  3. Stick a piece of foam on to each prong of some kitchen tongs, dip into the solution and run up the leaves.  This is an Anne Hallam invention.

Petrol for your mower

Although E10 petrol, i.e. petrol with 10% ethanol, is not available widely yet, it is advised that if your petrol-powered garden equipment is older than 5 years you should check with the manufacturer what fuel would be suitable for your equipment when new fuels are phased in. It seems that different products have different needs. Some can cope with E10 petrol or Premium unleaded petrol and some cannot.

Powdery mildew

To prevent powdery mildew, mix together:

  1. 4 level tablespoons baking powder
  2. 2.5 tablespoons oil (white oil/pest oil)
  3. Drop of detergent
  4. 4.5 litres water

Spray weekly until the problem is solved.

Deterring possums

Here are a few anti-possum remedies:

  1. Spray your roses with a strong brew of Lapsang Souchong tea.
  2. In a saucepan mix together 8 dried chillies or 25g chilli flakes, 1  tablespoon ground pepper, 700ml vinegar. Bring it slowly to a simmer, cover and remove from heat and allow to infuse.  Spray it onto the plants the possums like.  Respray after rain.   
  3. Use a radio! Put an old radio in a box near the plants that are being eaten and leave it on all night.

Seedling pots

  1. Fill toilet roll tubes with potting mix and place enough in a container so they support each other.  When roots appear out the base plant out the seedling, roll and all.
  2. Cut a rectangle from 3-4 layers of newspaper, soak for a few minutes in water and wrap around a tumbler, yogurt pot or the like leaving an overhang at the bottom which is then folded to cover the bottom.  Allow to dry then use as for the toilet roll tubes.
  3. Use hessian sacks to grow herbs and salad vegetables.  Fill with potting mix, cut slits round the sides and poke in your seedlings.  The sacks have perfect drainage and look good.


Longstem Planting

ABC Gardening Australia September 2009 edition featured a new way of planting trees and shrubs called ‘Longstem Planting'.  We have been told for many years to plant a seedling into the ground with the soil level the same as it was in the pot from which it came.  With this new technique, using a water lance you would plant a seedling of, for example, 1.5m in height, 1m into the ground which is well above the root ball.  The root ball is deep down where there is moisture in the soil and new roots form on the trunk that has been buried in the same manner as on cuttings.  The plants grow much more quickly and this technique has been used in all sorts of soils and microclimates with great success. 

Various species of Acacia, Eucalyptus, Callistemon, Leptospermum and Melaleuca have been successfully trialled.  Maintenance is much lower as the plants have access to water deep in the soil.  However if you go so far down that you meet the water table the plant may drown. 

 For more information visit the website of the Australian Native Plant Society at: