This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Apples and Grapes, Soil, Ponds and Pollination

Granite Belt Grapes

I was chatting online to my friend Vic who runs a hardware store in Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia, the other day. My wife Hazel and I often visit and stay with Vic and we know the district well. It is the heart of the fruit and vegetable growing area in south-east Queensland known as the Granite Belt, and being up in the mountains enjoys a more temperate and better growing climate for fruit and vegetables than any other part of the state. He told me that they had recently held the Apple and Grape Harvest Festival, a biennial celebration of the district’s two major crops, and that autumn had arrived. It was the Ruby Anniversary of this important event and it was as successful as ever click here.

Autumn is a busy time in the gardening season and just the time to start on new garden projects. For many gardeners, especially those who are either new to gardening or who have a new garden, it is a time of great learning. The soil begs to be dug and prepared and various garden features demand changing. Apart from hard landscaping projects, all gardening enterprises and developments are dependant upon the soil, especially its physical nature. If it is very heavy clay, or really fine sandy soil, it is quite obvious, but with other soils the various components are a mystery. However, they need not be, for the physical constituent elements can be determined by a simple test.

Take two or three tablespoons of dry soil that is representative of the area to be tested and rub it down into a powder. Place in a screw top jar and add water. Shake vigorously until the contents are just muddy water. Stand and allow to settle. The larger sand particles will settle within an hour. The clay may take two or three days. Any organic matter will float on the surface. After four or five days the water will have completely cleared and a layer each of sand and clay will have been deposited on the bottom of the jar. Thus the percentage of each component can be calculated and any particular remedial action can be made. It is particularly useful to observe how much organic matter the soil contains. Often very little.

PondMessenger blog started

I have been delighted by the reaction of members from all over the world to the GardenMessenger blog. It has been really great to hear from folks from New Zealand to Newfoundland and even from Libya, which I would not usually associate with gardening. My wife Hazel (who types the blog and looks after group members) and I are making many new friends. What a great combination the Internet and gardening make. I have also found it very exciting and rewarding to write the blog, but I have had one problem, keeping the balance of content in order to maintain everyone’s interest. I am not short of things to write about, but like most gardeners I do have specialist interests.

As most members and friends know water gardening is a great passion for me. There is so much going on in the water gardening world that I could swamp this blog with ponds, plants and fish, so I have decided to write a PondMessenger blog too. It will not be daily like this one, but once a week. It is up and running now, so if you want to take a look its here. Even though PondMessenger has its own blog now, I will not exclude items of general pond interest from here. It is important to keep a balance and serve everyone.

Fish assisted pollination

One fascinating item of research has originated from scientists at the University of Florida and Washington University in St. Louis. They have recently described a quite extraordinary chain of events that clearly demonstrate that fish can have a marked effect upon the pollination of flowers that grow around a pond. The research, published in Nature, provides a fascinating insight into both how vulnerable our eco-systems are, as well as how long the chain of dependence may be. Fish help indirectly to spread pollen amongst plants by preying on dragonfly larvae. Adult dragonflies are major predators upon bees and butterflies, as well as other insect pollinators. Thus, the more fish, the fewer dragonflies, then the more bees and butterflies, then of course better pollination, more seeds and the plants are more readily perpetuated.

Happy Gardening



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Photo: Grapes Australian Tourist Commission

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