Autumn Newsletter 2014

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Autumn Newsletter

Welcome to our Autumn newsletter. We hope this finds you all well and preparing for the cooler months ahead.  In this issue we will be giving you some ideas for extra services we can provide which will help your lawns and gardens survive and flourish in the cooler months. There is also some handy tips and suggestions for planting Autumn vegetables we hope you will enjoy reading.

Scarifying Your Lawn

Green Machine Autumn Newsletter - image 1All lawns build up thatch over time and a small amount is beneficial for your lawn as it helps prevent evaporation, increases water retention and protects against wear and tear.  However, when you are about to top dress your lawn or the accumulation of thatch reaches a point where it impedes water, air and fertiliser penetration, then scarifying needs to be carried out.

Scarifying can be achieved by making cuts, scratches or holes into the surface of the soil. You can scarify small lawns by raking them energetically with a wire rake. For larger areas, it is best to hire a powered scarifier (from a hire shop) and scarify the lawn in two directions crossways, for the best effect.

This may be a daunting process for many novices and which is why we are happy to offer our clients this service.

Top Dressing Your Lawn 

It is important to top dress your lawn in autumn. Lawns which are based on poor soil will benefit from top dressing the soil each year. Top dressing will build up the quality of your soil, assisting it to retain moisture better and helping your lawn to be more draught resistant.

Lawns based on good quality soil do not need top dressing every year but if you want a really top, able to meet professional standards then you should top dress your lawn annually.

Topdressing the lawn is the process of adding a fine layer of ‘quality soil’ over the top of your grass. This has the added benefit of evening out any lumps and bumps and filling in any small hollows that have developed in your lawn.

Top dressing also stimulates the grass to produce new shoots, and results in denser grass cover which helps combat the onset of weed infestation.

The key to applying the top dressing soil is to make sure you get an even spread of the soil over the area to make sure it does not remain ‘on top’ of the grass. You then spread the top dressing

over the required area using a rake or a special tool called a lute (which is made specifically for this purpose). The soil should penetrate down to the existing soil level, a general guide is around 1.5-2 kg of soil per square metre. This figure can be increased for lawns with a more uneven surface. Make sure the spreading action leaves no bumps on the surface and fills in all the hollows.

Do not leave top dressing lying on the surface of the lawn. If there is excess top dressing left on the grass surface after spreading, then remove it.

If you have compacted soils you may find it necessary to aerate your lawn before you begin top dressing.

Top dressing can be time consuming and messy. If you would prefer to have this maintenance task completed by a professional, we are more than happy to provide you with a quote.

Watch out for Bindi

The coming colder months are the best time to spray your lawn to eradicate bindii (Soliva pterosperma). Bindi flower and set seed in early spring; once the seed is formed, even if you spray and the plant dies, the seed will still prickle your feet and enable new plants to grow again the following year. It is really important to spray in Autumn and Winter before this happens as repeated spraying is required to kill all the plants as they start to grow.

Environmental solution:  Bindi prefer to grow in compacted soil; so aerate affected area with an aerator or a fork. If only a small area is affected, you can remove the weed by hand making sure to get all the roots.

Chemical treatment:  Yates Bindii Weed Killer or Bin-die (around $15 for 200ml) are safe chemicals to treat Bindi with. Some other sprays can harm nearby shrubs and plants.

We are happy to add a Bindi spray into your regular service for a small extra fee.

Premium Mowing Service

In the cooler months we still offer our premium service. Winter lawn services can include scarifying, aerating and top dressing your lawn. We can also weed, bindi spray and fertilise at regular intervals to prepare your lawn to look its best in the summer months.

Autumn in your Veggie Garden

Autumn in Brisbane, with its milder weather, is the perfect time to plant tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants, lettuce, radish, beetroot, silverbeet, beans, cucumber, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, turnip, onion, garlic, broad beans, parsnips and cauliflower.

How to Grow Tomatoes

Tomatoes have to be one of the easiest food producing plants to grow in your garden, so if you are a novice, they are a great place to start.

Nothing beats the flavour of a freshly picked, home-grown tomato. With every size, shape and colour now available, there’s a tomato for everyone, even small space gardeners.

Get the kids involved! Kids love eating something they have grown themselves, and as a bonus, it will get them out of the house and into the garden.

You can either start with seeds or seedlings:

Seeds: If you would like to produce your own seeds, tomato seeds are easy to produce. Put the pulp of a ripe tomato into a bowl and add a little water. After 36 hours, add more water and stir – this process separates the seeds from the pulp, and the seeds will sink to the bottom. Strain the liquid through a sieve, rinse the seeds under the cold tap and then leave to dry on a piece of paper towel. This is a great activity to do with the kids.

P.S. Make sure you have a traditional variety and not from a hybrid tomato to start with. Hybrid tomato seeds will not germinate.

Germination: Germination of tomato seeds requires warmth. Sow seeds into small pots or cell trays and place on your window sill. The natural warmth from the sun in Brisbane is usually enough, but in cooler months, try placing them on top of your hot water system. Once each plant has grown and produced three or four leaves, it is ready to be planted.

Planting Seedlings: Seedlings can be purchased from your local nursery very cheaply. We recommend looking for heirloom varieties for the best tasting tomatoes, but there is such a wide range the choice is yours.

Use tomato stakes 1.5-2m long. Push stakes into the ground about 600mm apart, so that the plants have enough room to grow. Make a planting hole about 100mm in front of each stake and position the seedlings carefully – angling them towards the stakes slightly. Water your plants and then gently pat down the soil around them, being careful not to damage the stems. As the plants grow, you can begin to tie them against the stakes to give them the support they need.

Staking: Once the plant is big enough, staking is essential as tomatoes have a naturally climbing habit.

Training them upwards means they take up less space and avoid the effects of damp soil, which promotes the development of diseases. Use old stockings or a soft string to tie the stems to the stakes.  Make sure you use new stakes every year, as they can harbour fungus. Instead of round stakes, buy square ones to prevent slippage.Mulching: Mulching is essential to stop weeds and water evaporation. Use sugar cane or composted bark. Mulch should be about 50mm deep and remember to mulch only on damp soil to keep the existing moisture in.

Maintenance: Inspect plants regularly; the best time is in the early morning or early evening. Water when the soil looks dry; have a quick look for signs of pests or diseases; remove dead leaves or unwanted shoots; and harvest any ripe tomatoes. Once plants have reached the height you would like to maintain, any small shoots appearing at the top of the plant can be pinched back to control the overall height. This should only take 5 – 10 minutes per day and is a great job for the kids to do.

Companion Planting: To reduce the amount of chemicals you use, it is always best to grow a companionplant.  Planting marigolds around your tomatoes will assist in reducing infestations of whitefly.

When tomatoes begin to bloom, mix two large spoonfuls of Epsom salts in 5 litres of water and pour onto the soil around the plants. The magnesium and sulphur in the salts encourage healthy fruits.

Varieties to look out for:

  • Rouge de MarmandeOne of our favorite tomatoes, a tall growing early fruiting variety. Great for salads.
  • RomaEasy to grow, great for sauces, a very versatile tomato.
  • Costoluto GenoveseA great tomato for sauce.
  • Burnley SurecropAustralian bred large heavy cropping plant.
  • Mortgage LifterVery large ‘Beef steak’ type tomatoes, sweet rich flavor, great for slicing to add to sandwiches and salads.
  • Tiny TimCherry tomatoes on a low growing plant. Great for growing in pots or containers.
  • Tommy ToeCherry tomatoes, sweet and a tall growing plant.
  • Black RussianYes its very dark, with dark flesh, and something a little different.

If you would like a veggie patch in your back yard but do not have the time to set it up, why don’t you give our office a call. We can come and discuss your needs and provide a quote for our friendly and qualified staff to come and do all the hard work for you.