by Spencer Shaw, Forest Heart ecoNursery
As the Covid 19 lockdown restrictions ease and life returns
to some degree of normality (for now) I’m heartened that many of us turned to
our gardens (if we’re lucky enough to have them) for emotional and physical sustenance
in these trying times that we find ourselves in. For me backyards and gardens
are our own little bit of the natural world that we can for example – grow our
own food, share with the local wildlife, preserve endangered species, enjoy the
beauty of Australian native plants and last but not least gardening itself is
good for us physically, mentally and spiritually.
For now, let’s focus on what an abundant garden you can be
growing for yourself by growing your own bush foods, fruit trees, vegetables
and herbs. Harvesting your own produce is fun, healthy and convenient. There’s
nothing quite like popping out into the backyard to harvest some fresh produce.
For example grab a fresh lime and add tang to a salad or fish. Harvest fresh
from your trees the fruit of Blueberry, Grumichama, Jaboticaba, Pomegranate,
Oranges, Mandarin, Lemons, Carambola, Figs, Pawpaw, Tamarillo, Avocado or
Chocolate Sapote, to name just a few. Closer to ground level you could plant an
ever-growing range of herbs and vegetable seedlings that we are now stocking at
Forest Heart ecoNursery.
Back to bush Foods and the bounty of this land is
considerable. Bush food must haves that you should plant in your yard include:
Midyim (Austromyrtus dulcis) a great low growing shrub/groundcover with
attractive weeping foliage and tasty white berries, fresh from the bush – kids
love them; Lillypilly’s (Syzygium spp.) are edible all edible, if you are
hungry enough, but from our local ones the Riberry S. Luehmannii, is not only
bountiful, but tastes good raw and even glaced in a sugar syrup; Davidson Plums
(Davidsonia spp.) although not strictly local, are spectacular foliage
specimens with their large leaves and large beautiful looking plum like fruit.
However they are a tad sour, but nothing that a few spoons of sugar can’t fix
to make a great jam or syrup; Plum Pine (Podocarpus elatus) also produce a
juicy succulent, plum like fruit with a pleasant pine taste and again,
fantastic for jams and syrups. Native Tamarinds (Diploglottis spp. and Mischarytera
lautereriana) are sour but tasty delights that make great syrups, cordials,
jellies etc…Native herbs we stock include Native Celery (Apium prostratum),
Pig Face (Carpobrotus glaucescens) , Native Mint (Mentha satureioides) and Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).
There’s never been a better time to plant out and manage your garden for food and for fun, so remember Don’t Panic, Just Plant It!
ps. check out our great range of vegetable seedlings available from .50c each for 4 or more!
As the Covid19 pandemic rolls across the globe and the
reality of our vulnerability to diseases without borders sinks in (for some of
us…), it’s a good opportunity to remember that not so old saying “think globally
but act locally”. By that, I mean we need to have a global outlook – we’re only
one earth and we all need to pull together to look after her and to resolve our
global problems, but it’s also a good
time to consider localising some / many aspects of our economies and high on
this list of priorities has got to be growing our own food locally and in-turn
looking after this little share of earth that we call home (our true source of
all true wealth). And before you ask …
no I’m not having flashbacks to the 60’s (born in 69’), the Age of Aquarius,
peace love and rainbows etc… This is simply how the world works and its about
time we grew up and caught up with this… rant over (for now).
In this time of great adversity for the health and wealth of
people, it’s heartening to see a few positive outcomes including a
strengthening of our local communities (while keeping a respectful distance, of
course) through the support of our small business’s at least those who have been
able to adapt and stay open. Another interesting outcome has been the growing
interest in self and shared reliance when it comes to growing food and gardening
and growing plants in general. Vegetable seedlings have become worth their
weight in gold (I wish) or at least their weight in toilet paper (apparently
the second most valuable commodity after gold in a global pandemic?) Gardens
have never looked so good as the home isolation brings us back into contact
with that lovely bit of earth that we call home and we all should be treating
like our own precious little bit of Eden…literally!
Anyway, this is supposed to be a promotion of our business
of some sort, so time to get off the soap box and fill you in with what were up
to at Forest Heart ecoNursery during Covid 19. We’ve reduced our hours for this
period from 9-3 Tuesday to Friday and 9-2 on Saturdays. We operate a clean open
air premises and are practising social distancing and increased hygiene
practices. We can offer no contact purchasing and delivery options, just visit
our web site www.forestheart.com.au.
We offer the best range of local native plants, cultivars, bush foods, fruit
trees, mulches, fertilisers and much more and as of this week were also
supplying our own range of vegetable seedlings. So when it comes to Pandemic
lockdown, don’t panic, just plant-it!
By Spencer Shaw
When it comes to re-establishing native vegetation we tend
to concentrate on the planting of trees and shrubs and if we’re lucky maybe a
few Lomandra. But to truly re-establish a diverse ecosystem we must help establish
all the groundcovers too such as grasses, herbs, small shrubs and ferns.
Groundcover plants are crucial in providing a safe home for ground based
animals such as skinks, frogs, snakes, bush rats, antechinus and of course a
whole host of insects (don’t say yuk, think of them as Bird Food!) Groundcover
plants are also crucial in providing the food resources such as seed, fruit,
leaf and tubers to everything from birds, butterflies and beetles right through
to wallabies and kangaroos(if you’ve got a really backyard). Groundcover plantings can be very rewarding
for you if you love your native fauna because they can be very rich in the
resources they provide and in effect act like a magnet for native fauna in your
Planting native groundcovers in your own backyard (as well
as trees and shrubs) is often even easier than in a big revegetation projects because
the small plants are vulnerable to weed competition and your input with mulch
and weeding can be vital in establishing native groundcovers. Control of groundcover weeds is crucial while
establishing native groundcovers, for example lawn grasses such as couch,
carpet grass and kikuyu need to be eliminated and subject to ongoing control
through blanket mulching and or weeding. Once well established though, native
groundcovers can outcompete and shade out the weeds.
The great thing about many groundcovers is that they are easy to grow yourself by either directly transplanting around your garden or establishing in pots to plant later. Plants such as Native Plumbago ( Plumbago zeylanica), Native Violets (Viola banksii), Pennyroyal (Mentha sp.), Creeping Beard Grass (Oplismenus spp.) and Pollia (Pollia crispata) are just a few of our local native groundcovers that you can propagate easily through cuttings & runners. Native Grasses such as Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), Barbed Wire Grass (Cymbopogon refractus), Native Sorghum (Sarga leiocladum) and Poa (Poa labilardieri) are easy to grow from seed or transplant as seedlings. All the plants listed above are available through Forest Heart ecoNursery.
Our place is buzzing (or should that be tweeting) with a huge
diversity of small birds at the moment including Red Brow Finch, New Holland
Honey Eater, Golden Whistler, Red Backed fairy Wren, Lewin’s Honey Eater, Whip Birds and many more. None of
our plantings are much older than 11 years but the dense
plantings of groundcovers and low shrubs near the house provide home and food
for these little critters and so many more.
What is the most under-rated threat to Australia’s native wildlife?
Sure, we know about foxes, cats, wild dogs, weeds, habitat fragmentation and
even climate change … the list goes on and on, but a serious threat that we
don’t consider for the significant threat that it is, is ourselves in a
Just in the last month, 100’s of possums, bandicoots,
wallabies and many more of our native wildlife’s lives have been cut short on
the roads around the range, as our speedy convenience of getting from A to B
meets the more easy going pace that the rest of nature follows, with often
Fortunately (not sure if that’s the right word) this level
of carnage seems to only occur for a short period every year. Perhaps it’s
because there’s tastier grass to be found on the roadside (late winter),
perhaps it’s mating season and animals are travelling further and crossing more
roads, perhaps it’s down to us driving a bit crazier in spring! A bit of
speculation perhaps, but either way the result appears to be an increased death
toll, as the weather warms up.
The problem for the driver like yourself is that the
wildlife can appear to want to be hit… There you are, minding your own
business, zooming along a picturesque country road and see a wallaby crossing
the road, you may slow down a bit, but accelerate again as it jumps to leave
the road. However at the last minute the wallaby hooks back across in front of
you and hey presto, there’s a dint in your bumper and a dying wallaby on the
road. Why? Put simply the dodge, weave and back track technique has worked well
for the wallaby in evading predators for millions of years of evolution and
worked perfectly fine against dingo (and before that the thylacine), however
the speed , size and weight of our vehicles is something wild animals have
little or no defence against.
The only way we can try and reduced the road carnage is
through your awareness of where there may be wild animals on the roadside and also
that they may irrationally jump out in front of you! I know there are some
special individuals who swerve to hit animals on purpose, but for the rest of
us, if we drive according to conditions and reduce our speed in bushland areas,
we can try and reduce the road toll. However if you do hit an animal and it requires
medical assistance, contact the Australia Zoo wildlife Hospital 1300 369 652.
With Spencer Shaw
Next year will be the 10th anniversary of Myrtle Rust being brought into Australia. Note that I say “brought into” Australia, as the terminology usually used is “arrived” or “was first detected”. The latter could be taken as inferring that Myrtle Rust arrived in Australia all by itself. This is clearly not the case; Myrtle rust was brought into the country as result of the global trade and travel networks of human activity. We brought it here and we also need to be the ones responsible for preserving the amazing species diversity of Myrtaceae that has evolved in this land and is now threatened by Myrtle Rust.
So just how are we going to preserve the diversity of Myrtaceae in Australia? I can only speak of our personal experiences in observing the life cycles and propagation of our local Myrtaceae in SE QLD, but I think we are onto something. And that is, that preserving species that are threatened by Myrtle Rust, can be tackled at a grass roots level (or at least at a tree and shrub level – pardon the pun), through the work of nurseries propagating Myrtle Rust resistant plants.
Back in 2011, when Myrtle Rust arrived in SE QLD, you could have been forgiven for thinking that nurseries were the only source of Myrtle Rust and that going near a nursery was potentially dangerous to you own health! Sure, nurseries could potentially speed the spread of Myrtle Rust due to interstate plant transport, but once established in NSW it was only a matter of time before trillions of microscopic spores blew across the landscape and spread rapidly to colonise whole new areas. To try and stem the tide, Biosecurity then quarantined a few nurseries, but the horse was well and truly bolted. Overnight the Myrtle name was tarnished, as the fear of Myrtle Rust spread. Some production nurseries disposed of all their Myrtaceae stock rather than trying to manage the disease, as the potential damage to their business from growing Myrtaceae outweighed the cost of throwing them all away. For those who persisted with growing Myrtaceae fungicide regimes became compulsory – although I’d argue that they mask the problem rather that treating it. What I’m trying to get to, in a an albeit circuitous way, is that nurseries were perceived as the problem, when in fact I believe that nurseries and horticulturalists (native ones in particular) have the tools to help assist in preserving the Myrtaceae species that are under threat.
Luckily in Australia, Myrtle Rust has yet to have a significant impact on the dominant tree and shrubs of our woodlands e.g. Eucalypts, Corymbia, Angophora, Lophostemon, Melaleuca, Leptospermum (although locally on the Sunshine Coast we have observed some impacts on Melaleuca quinquenervia).However, many of our rainforest Myrtaceae have been significantly affected. These include Gossia spp, Lenwebbia spp, Rhodamnia spp, Backhousia spp. Rhodomyrtus psidioides, Uromyrtus lamingtonensis, Decaspermum humile, Archirhodomyrtus beckleri and Acmena smithii. These species have been affected to varying degrees, with populations and individuals within species showing variable degrees of susceptibility. Species such as Rhodomyrtus psidioides are bordering on functionally extinct, with the majority of individuals struggling to maintain foliage, let alone produce flowers or fruit. At the other end of the spectrum, species such as Austromyrtus dulcis and Acmena smithii (which have only shown susceptibility over the last few years) only appear to be affected under irrigation in nurseries and not affected (at least as much) when planted.
Personally, given nearly 10 years of observations of Myrtle Rust and its impacts on our flora, I believe the only real hope for assisting in the preservation of Myrtaceae species that have demonstrated that they are vulnerable, is to assist those individuals and populations within a species that are demonstrating resistance and resilience. We (nurseries, horticulturalists, nature lovers in general) can assist these species by actively searching for, identifying and then propagating and cultivating those individuals. This cultivation whether it be in gardens, farms or revegetation projects will then assist their resistant and resilient genes to spread through their populations. Resistance to Myrtle Rust does appear to varying degrees within the species listed above. For example, in Acmena smithii vulnerability appears to be the exception, but Archirhodomyrtus beckleri is about 50/50 in our area. Our cultivated Rhodamnia dumicola and Gossia acmenoides can keep good leaf cover but are yet to produce viable fruit. Rhodomyrtus psidioides, which as mentioned before, appears to have very limited resistance across the majority of its population is really struggling.
Species that we have personally had success with so far include Decaspermum humile and Lenwebbia sp. blackall range, both of which we have selected and propagated from resistant individuals. We’re also working on a few Rhodamnia spp. – so fingers crossed there too! Another observation we’ve made is that if plants that have been affected by Myrtle Rust and can be nurtured to produce flower, fruit and then seed, then the resulting seedlings appear to be more resistant than their known parent.
Nearly 10 years on, there is still talk about addressing Myrtle Rust on a national level and mainly just that – talk. Cynical as I am (usually) I don’t rule out how much we could be doing on a national level including: stopping the next “myrtle rust” type disease from being brought into the country; co-ordinating on a national or at least state level work with nurseries to select and breed myrtle rust resistant stock; and perhaps given the potential resources federally we could do the research that can help understand resistant genetics and maybe genetically engineer resistance into species that we would otherwise lose.
For the time being, however, the real action is taking place out in the bush as evolutionary processes select those individuals that are resistant Myrtle Rust to survive and reproduce. The best that we can do for now is get behind nurseries and horticulturalists who are passionate about our native flora. They are the front line in preserving our vulnerable Myrtaceae species. For 10 years we’ve seen major impacts to our rainforest ecosystems through the damage to Myrtaceae species and the loss of flowering and fruiting abundance they provided for our fauna, let’s hope we can improve that situation somewhat over the next 10 years…