Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Speak Of The Devil!

First spears of the season! I’m in love!

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Tomato Cuttings

I can’t believe that I haven’t told you all about this one before! After all, I’ve been teaching anyone who would listen for the past few years. Did you know that you can get mature tomato plants mid-season simply by taking cuttings from established plants? Absolutely! It’s very easy and I will show you right now.

I have explained what laterals are in previous tomato posts but I will go over it again for you so that we’re all clear: Laterals are the shoots you get between the stem and the branch (see below). You know those “side shoots” that get long and dangly and make your plants a big leaning mess? Well, if they are large enough we can use them to grow new tomato plants.

Tomato - Lateral

This is the ideal time to take cuttings from laterals because by now your plants should be fairly well established and will no doubt be producing laterals thick and fast. Usually I would suggest that you pinch off the laterals when they are young and tender in order to keep your plants tidy and that’s not just me being fussy! By removing the laterals before they get too big you are helping your tomatoes to save the energy they would otherwise be wasting on lateral branches. This will encourage better fruit production. Having said all of that, if you allow a couple of laterals to grow you can use them for cuttings.

I have used laterals that are 15cm long or greater. This is the point at which these cuttings will be able to thrive on their own. I cut them off as close as possible to the stem. Now if you have laterals that you have removed during pruning which are very large, that’s quite alright. They can virtually be whole plants. However, there are two important things to consider:

1. As with all cuttings you need to remove 1/3 – 1/2 of the foliage. This is to prevent moisture loss. Don’t be afraid to cut! They will grow very quickly and before you know it you’ll have forgotten how much you had to remove. If you leave them as they are they will certainly wilt and you’ll be lucky if they survive! FYI – I remove the lower branches that would either go below the soil or sit too close to the surface. This is generally about 1/3 – 1/2 way up the stem.

Remove the lower branches.

I cut the rest of the larger branches in half and any remaining leaves that are on the large side (basically, anything you think might wilt) I cut in half too! It’s fine to do that.

Cut the branches by 1/3 - 1/2. Just the branches, not the stem.

Cut the leaves in half to reduce moisture loss

2. You need to make sure that your cutting is relevant to the size of the pot or hole that it will go into. If it’s too long cut the stem to shorten it so that it is happy holding itself up.

There are three ways you can use these cuttings:

  1. Plant them directly into a prepared area of soil
  2. Plant them directly into a pot
  3. Place the cuttings into a jar or a bucket with water and leave them there for 10-14 days. By that time they should have grown plenty of roots.

The latter is my preferred method. I have found that with the first two I have had about 50% success. It is inevitable that you will lose some this way. However, with the cuttings in the jar method, I have had about 95% success.

Place the cutting in a jar for 10-14 days

So, if you want to try a bunch of different types of tomatoes ask around and if your family or friends have different varieties see if you can take some cuttings from their plants. That way by the time your original plants start to get to the end of their time your new ones will be bearing fruit.

Bendigo Wildflowers

A few weeks ago I was up in Bendigo and the surrounding goldfields with my friends at APS – Keilor Plains checking out the amazing display of wildflowers. It was a wonderful adventure. We saw the most beautiful plants and some spectacular animals too. The number of echidnas that were out there really fascinated me. Although we didn’t spot any there were signs of them everywhere.

We were fortunate enough to see an Eastern Bearded Dragon, and a Lace Monitor (Goanna), pictured below.

Photo by Anne Lagmaid, Greater Bendigo National Park, Victoria. Sept 2011

We started out at Black Hill Reserve, about 3km north of Kyneton. From there went further north to Turpins Falls near Redesdale – such a nice surprise!

Turpins Falls, Victoria

Winding our way along towards Eppalock we stopped in at the Kimbolton State Forest where we found many beautiful plants, in particular Gravilleas and Orchids like this beautiful Sun Orchid below.

We stayed at Camp Getaway in Axdale, 15 min from Bendigo. The facilities were great with very clean and comfortable dormitory accommodation. The couple that look after the place, The Mitchells, were incredibly warm and friendly and good cooks to boot! They spent an afternoon with us discovering the spectacular plants that they never knew existed right on their doorstep.

Westringia Longifolia - white form.

Westringia Longifolia - white form.

Peach Heath - Pink form. White flowered heath also found nearby.

We spent most of the following day in and around the Greater Bendigo National Park uncovering absolute beauties like this fabulous Boronia ameminifolia. This was the most beautiful thing that I saw on the whole trip. Thanks to Bev for spotting it. I think it should be named ‘Bev’s Beauty’ =)

What I found most interesting about the wildflower display was that the most impressive stuff was hiding beneath the acacia flowers. At first glance all you notice is a sea of yellow and occasionally drifts of white flowers above as you see in the picture below. I’m sure the locals are zipping past at 80-100km/h thinking “Gee the wattle is bright!”, completely oblivious to the treasure below. However, when you get out of your car and look up close there is a world of colour that lies beneath.

This carpet of acacia certainly was breathtaking.

Photo by Chris Clark, Axedale, Victoria. Sept 2011

If anyone out there can identify this caterpillar, please let me know and I will add it to natureshare.org.au

These “choral” Corellas woke us up in the morning and I must say that it was a really pleasant sound. I could happily wake to their chitter-chatter every morning.

Photo by Thomas and Ros Nataprawira, Axedale, Victoria. Sept 2011

You know, when we’re walking through the bush, no matter how remote, we always find broken glass. When we do we pick it up. I really feel that it’s important to mention this because clearly people forget that there are wild animals running through the bush completely unaware of the danger. If they seriously injure themselves it’s not like they can whip out the detol and patch themselves up or waltz into the closest doctors clinic. They have to suffer and often die a slow agonising death. If you see broken glass anywhere, please do the right thing – pick it up.

Please don't leave broken glass out there in the bush.

Many thanks to Thomas and Ros Nataprawira, Anne Langmaid and Chris Clarke for their photos.

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