Did you know?

Hints, tips and fun facts for healthy environments and managing waste.

Stuck the mud

Dec. 10, 2020 at 9am


Clays are the smallest part of a soil, with clay particles up to 0.002 mm across. A soil described as a clay has a higher proportion of clay than silts and sands, and the way the soil behaves is dictated by the clay. A heavy clay is one where there is a very high proportion of clay in the soil. A strong clay is one where the lumps (peds) of soil are difficult to break. Clays hold more nutrients and water than sands because of their surface area. Clays are valuable for growing crops, and Eastern Australian native plants prefer clay too.

Image by Chantal

Dec. 9, 2020 at 3pm


Insects and rodents can destroy houses, crops, and spread diseases. The chemicals being used to control pests are damaging  Australian ecosystems. Rodenticides are driving declines in owl populations and other birds of prey. Insecticides are killing the birds that feed on insects. Pesticides should be avoided wherever possible -- remember that if you don't lay down rat poison, you increase the survival of the predators who might eat the rat for you at the same time. 

Image by Zdeněk Macháček
What is lurking in your water?

Dec. 9, 2020 at 2pm


Concentrations of water quality parameters, such as nutrients and salts, are usually compared to guidelines to assess whether water quality is acceptable for uses such as irrigation, domestic consumption, or watering livestock. It's important to know that just because all of the water quality parameters measured may be acceptable (e.g. salinity is low, arsenic is below detection levels) that doesn't mean there isn't something potentially toxic in the water. Chemicals like pesticides or PFAS may be present but just haven't been analysed.

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Flaming nutrient deficiencies

Dec. 9, 2020 at 2pm


Plants not getting enough nutrients from soil will have a physiological response. Symptoms such as flaming (red/purple patches along the edges of leaves) and chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) are common indications of phosphorous and nitrogen deficiency respectively. Stunted growth or poor harvests are another problem. A careful process of looking up the symptoms and remedies of deficiencies can be used by the home gardener, noting that different plant species have different symptoms and too much fertiliser can be worse than none at all.

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Compost your compost

Dec. 9, 2020 at 2pm


It takes time to convert all those waste food and garden items into the black, friable material called compost. Did you know that you can cause damage to your plants if you use material that isn't fully composted? This is called nitrogen drawdown, and occurs because the bacteria in the compost out-compete the plants for the nitrogen in the soil that they want to help them break down the compost. Nitrogen drawdown can be avoided by ensuring compost is fully mature before it is used. 

Autumn Leaves
Pick hotter plants

Dec. 7, 2020 at 11am

Did you know that you can source plants that are more used to warmer and drier conditions expected under climate change?  Using your climate analogue, you can see what same plants live in a hotter drier area compared to your area. You can source a new provenance of that plant from the local nurseries in your climate analogue. This helps to build in climate resilience of your local ecosystem

Cool down, plant trees

Dec. 7, 2020 at 11am

Did you know that trees help cool down the environment? Research in China showed that green spaces (parks, forests, rivers) may be as much as 20 degrees cooler than concrete and asphalt areas. If you want to cool down your neighbourhood or land, plant more trees to increase tree cover and density. 

Slugs don't like coffee as much as me

Nov. 30, 2020 at 11am

Did you know that slugs and snails hate caffeine? I always thought it was an old wives tale, but putting old coffee grounds around plants stops slugs and snails from eating your plants and delicious strawberries. Research has found caffeine as a promising pesticide. 

No nude soils this summer

Sept. 3, 2018 at 11am

Did you know that bare soil can reach temperatures of 70 degrees in an Australian summer? It’s important to vegetate or mulch bare soils before the summer begins as these temperatures kill most of the microbes on which life depends and will kill the roots of any plants trying to establish.

What makes for happy compost

Sept. 3, 2018 at 11am

Did you know that low moisture is a key limiter of how quickly home compost systems decompose? Compost heaps need regular water to decompose quickly. They also need to be turned every month to minimise the generation of greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide and methane.

Gypsum isn't always your best friend

Sept. 3, 2018 at 11am

Did you know that gypsum - a clay breaker - isn’t needed for all clays and should only be used in saline soil situations? If you have dense soil that is difficult to dig through, adding manure or compost to the soil surface will not only help break up soils but also help water infiltrate and will add valuable carbon.

What is compost exactly?

Sept. 3, 2018 at 11am

Did you know compost is not a fertiliser but a soil conditioner? It contains relatively low concentrations of key plant nutrients N and P, but it improves how well water and plants penetrate the soil (its structure). Compost is important but adding sources of N and P - be they organic in the form of blood and bone or in the form of an NPK fertiliser - is important too.

Where has all the soil gone?

Sept. 3, 2018 at 11am

Did you know that raindrops - little old raindrops - are a key driver of soil erosion? When they hit the ground they can not only splash soil over a metre from its original position, but can also stop water moving into the soil when these tiny soil particles block soil pores. Covering soils with mulch or leaving leaves beneath trees not only cools soils, it also prevents soil erosion.