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Green Space Our Place Our Volunteers Voice

Years of service recognised Gardeneers raise funds TAFE students’ work experience Issue 18 March 2018

Front Page: Little Taccas volunteer Ingrid Clark engaging Evalyn in nature play. Back Page: Seeds from the Metroxylon sagu, Sagu Palm.

In this issue: • From the Editor - Page 2 • Volunteers recognised for years of service - Page 3 • Around the Gardens - David Warmington - Page 4 • Exploring the evolution of plants Page 5 • Friends’ Calendar of Events Page 5 • Friends’ night walk at wetlands A possible insect problem in the tropical rainforests - Page 6 • Gardeneers raise funds for Botanic Gardens - Page 7 • Exploring our rainforest - Page 8 • TAFE students gain work experience - Page 9 • Feathered Friends - Rufous Owl Page 9 • Birds’ legs and feet - Part 3 Page 10 • Afternoon of weaving, sharing and laughter - Page 11 • Jabiru News - Page 11 • Critters in the Gardens - Page 12 • International Students team up with Green Space Our Place - Page 13 • Coral fungi - Page 14 • Abundant produce with little effort - Page 15 Editor - Volunteers Supervisor, Louisa Grandy Proof readers - Michelle Walkden and volunteers Sandy Long, Jenn Muir Contributors - Botanic Gardens Curator David Warmington; Volunteers Barry Muir, Jenn Muir, Dr David Rentz AM, Peter Shanahan, Lois Hayes and Tom Collis.


From the Editor

tagxedo 2018

Welcome to our first issue for 2018, During our Christmas celebrations, which seems some time ago now, we recognised our volunteers and their years of service. It is always a proud moment for me when handing out certificates, especially with some of the Down ‘n’ Dirty members with whom I’ve worked alongside since the early years of this program. This year we have been creating new partnerships with a number of groups, offering support to international volunteers (page 13), local TAFE students (page 9), ARC Disability Services, Good Start to Life (GSL), St Johns Community Care, Red Cross, as well as having discussions with Clontarf for future endeavours. We have started yet another supervised program. Under Christian’s supervision the ‘Weedbusters’ will target general weeds around our reveg sites as well as, for example, Lantana and Japanese Sunflower control on Mt Whitfield and ring-barking Leuceana – a weed tree at Aeroglen. If you want to know more, please contact us. In this issue Botanic Gardens curator David Warmington talks about the latest Titan arum ‘event’ from tuber to flower (page 4), and entomologist Peter Shanahan raises readers’ awareness of a possible insect problem in our tropical rainforests (page 6). The Friends of Cairns Botanic Gardens have been busy already this year with a full list of guest speakers planned (page 5) and the ‘Gardeneers’ have been selling plants at their weekly trolley sales and and their pre-Easter plant sale (page 7). We have a new contributor this issue, Tom Collis, one of our Jalarra Park volunteers, who has offered to write about rainforest plants - ‘Exploring our rainforest’ (page 8). Thank you Tom. Edible gardens are becoming popular throughout Cairns; keep an eye out for an article in our next issue. In the meantime, if this is something you are interested in, give us a call.


Volunteers recognised for years of service At our annual Christmas celebrations we paid tribute to the dedication of our volunteers. Last year many Down ‘n’ Dirty members reached their first five years while Sugarworld Friends’ members have been acknowledge for 10 years of service. We also celebrated Jude Friesen who reached 25 years of service.

5 Years

Del Van Mierlo volunteers with

Cairns Botanic Gardens’ Down ‘n’ Dirty group and is a member of the Friends organsing the Shop Friends’ members and Visitor Guide Friends’ members.

Sandy Long is dedicated to the Down

‘n Dirty group and Cattana Wetland Jabirus as well as supporting the magazine as proof reader.

Pat MacConnacher

is one of the regualars at the Down ‘n’ Dirty volunteer group and always assists the Friends at the Carnival on Collins event.

Leonie Sequeira is also a dedicated

Down ‘n’ Dirty member, providing morning tea each time she attends.

Peter Hunt began with the

Down ‘n’ Dirty group and the original member of Little Taccas children’s nature activities program and last year joined the Tracks ‘n’ Trails group.

25 Ye ars

Jude Friesen (second from right) collected her 25 Years of Service certificate from the Green Space Our Place team, from left, Christian Cluver, Sarah Gosling and Louisa Grandy prior to Christmas celebration proceedings. Jude has been a member of the Friends of Cairns Botanic Gardens since 1992 and volunteers her time assisting with the Gardens’ Plant Collection Database. As a Cairns Birders representative, Jude also provides support and advice at Cattana Wetlands. Despite living in Sydney, Elaine Spicer, comes to the Down ‘n’ Dirty group every time she is in Cairns.

Max and Wendy Bryant joined

the Friends of Sugarworld Botanic Gardens Inc. committee which meets on a regular basis.

10 Years

Friends of Sugarworld Botanic Gardens Inc. has been in operation since 2007 with the following members continuing to meet on a monthly basis for the past 10 years: Fran Lindsay, Jim and Joan Hill, Rhonda Wallace, George and Merelene Lisha, Myra Jensen, Don Mapleson and John Mann.

Ric Streatfield is a regular attendee of

the Down ‘n’ Dirty group in between his extraodinary travel expiditions which he will be speaking about at the next Information Session.

Ingrid Clarke has been a well known

face at the Down ‘n’ Dirty group and has also worked behind the scenes from the very beginning of the Little Taccas group, and attending when she can last year.

Sandy Long receiving his five years’ Certificate of Service from General Manager Community, Sport & Cultural Services, Linda Kirchner. 3

Around the Gardens Curator David Warmington

Labour of love Once again one of the original Amorphophallus titanum plants, affectionately known as ‘Spud’, put on a grand display at Cairns Botanic Gardens in January this year. Last time it flowered in 2016 the inflorescence reached 2.83 metres, an Australian record, with the tuber weighing in at 45kgs. The tuber now weighs close to 90kg and we were expecting another record breaking flower. We had even looked up the Guinness Book of Records to find the tallest record which is 3.1 metres grown in Gilford, New Hampshire, USA. However for unknown reasons the flower developed relatively quickly compared to others. Within approximately five weeks after emerging from the soil the spath opened as maturity was reached. Although still a magnificent sight at 2.4 metres and attracting thousands of people eager to savour the reputed smell of the Corpse flower, it fell short of any world record. We now look forward to the leaf emerging as this surely will be of massive proportions.

Curator David Warmington, above, with the Amorphophallus in full bloom on display in the Watkins Munro Martin Conservatory.

Gardens' staff member Dean Henley (right) pots up the Amorphophallus titanum, affectionately known as 'Spud', ready for the growing season.


Calendar of Events 2018 April 11:

Evironmental scientist, Dr Geraldine McGuire - Rainforest Bounty - products made from rainforest fruits.

May 9:

Ingrid Marker – Cassowary Keystone Conservation. Ingrid is the onsite manager of Garners Beach Cassowary Facility, Mission Beach. Her talk will cover what is being done to conserve these magnificent birds and the dangers they face in their natural habitat.

June 13:

Barry Muir - ‘Rainforests - What makes them tick?’.

July 11:

Dr David Rentz MA with his annual Moth Night.

Exploring the evolution of plants ‘Ancient Plants’ presented by Barry Muir, pictured top right with Friends’ committee member Sarah Warne, explored the evolution of plants from single-celled organisms and algae to more complex species and ultimately to the flowering plants. The talk was enjoyed by over 70 people as it was presented at the Green Space Our Place ‘Volunteers Information Session’ and again in the evening at the Friends’ AGM / Wednesday Garden Talk. The emphasis was on those plants that have persisted, virtually unchanged, since those ancient times and many of which can be found today in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.

Annual General Meeting results: President, Val Schier; secretary, Megan Lilly; treasurer, Coralie Stuart; membership, Jenn Muir; publicity officer, Lorraine Smith; shop, Del van Mierlo; general committee members: Meredith Gawler, Michael Hyde, Sarah Warne, Barry Muir. Vacant position: vice president.

August 8:

Peter Hitchcock. Topic to be confirmed.

September 12:

General Manager of Sea Turtle Foundation, Johanna Karam – “Sea Turtles”.

October 10:

Russell and Mary Spanton – “The Story of Vanilla”. Port Douglas vanilla growers will talk about the vanilla industry and how they developed their product.

November 14:

Dr David Rentz MA and his annual Night Walk in Cairns Botanic Gardens. Please note: All events will be held at the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre from 6pm. 5

Friends’ night walk at wetlands A joint night walk at Cattana Wetlands was held in February by Friends of Cairns Botanic Gardens and Cairns Aquarium Society.

Insects use different signals to tell them when to emerge from their pupal stage; this was not an early spring but a disengagement of the insect-plant relationship. These events happened slowly over at least two decades An interesting topic within the talk, hosted by David and pointed to a lack of enough pollinators to keep the Rentz and Peter Shanahan, was the decline in insects forest healthy, with the numbers of insect host plants world-wide. possibly diminishing as well as the numbers of the Peter expands on this topic in the following article. recycling insects also apparently diminishing. A possible insect problem Insects are the most important creatures on the surface of the planet; nearly all of the flowering plants need in the tropical rainforests them for pollination. These include large insects and Peter Shanahan BA (Biology) very tiny ones as well as ants and midges and many When I first moved to Kuranda in 1985 I set up my others. The animals and many birds of the world also insect collecting lights which consisted of a white need the plants pollinated to produce their food; that mercury vapour lamp, a black light and a UV light. Like also includes us. all entomologists I checked them several times during A large loss of pollination could result in massive the night and before I left the house I put on a pair of essential food loss and starvation for most species of safety goggles and stuffed cotton wool in my ears. The land animals including the insects that need host plants mass of insects was enormous and it took me a long in their larval stages. time to check those sitting on the sheets and resting on Simply said, without insects there will be very little life nearby vegetation. on the surface of this planet. In other words, a major I considered this normal as it was very much the same as extinction event. I had experienced when collecting in the rainforests of Recently an article was published in the Scientific my homeland Papua New Guinea. American Magazine referring to a German study that Then about nine years ago I noticed that there was an monitored insect mass over a twenty-five year period. obvious drop in the volume of insects attracted to the They found that there had been a loss of 75 per cent of lights. Over the next nine years to the present I was flying insect mass over the period of the study. Other aware that the decline was continuing until there are now studies in Europe and North America reported a demise very few insects at my lights, with some species missing in the number of insect eating birds. in numbers including the very obvious Christmas and Recently a number of interviews on the Australian ABC Long Horned Beetles. with university professors and other professionals also Other collectors were noticing similar effects. We reported a loss of insect mass. talked about it but were unable to pinpoint the cause As I mentioned we don’t know the exact reasons for this. suspecting that the shortening wet seasons and the We have some personal ideas but until we research this longer dry seasons resulting in near drought conditions, we will not know to what extent it is taking place and plus the fact that many trees were flowering at the wrong what is the specific cause. Myself and others are hoping time of year, may be the cause. that the severe rains of this year’s wet season may help The fact that some trees were flowering earlier than but we will have to wait until the next wet season to see normal was scary because the insects that pollinated if here is any change. them were still in their pupal form resulting in lowered But for now, I no longer need the goggles and cotton pollination of flowers or possibly in some cases no wool; there are too few insects at my lights to bother me! pollination at all! 6

Gardeneers raise funds for Botanic Gardens Gardeneer Lois Hayes The Friends’ Gardeneers have been meeting regularly on Wednesdays for over 25 years, propagating and selling plants to raise money for the Cairns Botanic Gardens. We are a dedicated group of Friends’ members consisting of eight people who are kept very busy from one sale to the next. Each person brings their own special skill set, horticultural expertise and knowledge to the mix of what makes up the Gardeneers. This group grows plants for three major sales each year, the pre-Easter sale, Father’s Day sale and Christmas sale, as well as a weekly trolley sale. The proceeds go back to the Cairns Botanic Gardens for the purchase of new plant collections such as the latest acquisition, Tassell Ferns, on display in the Conservatory. On Wednesday mornings the trolley sale offers an assortment of plants situated outside the Friends House. We have been fortunate that Rae has joined us to be the ‘trolley sales girl’ as this enables the rest of us to get on with other jobs behind the scenes. We are also appreciative of our newest member, Norma, who previously volunteered with the Down ‘n’ Dirty group and Friends Shop. Behind the scenes, Nanette, Mary, Val and I, propagate cuttings and seeds which first go into the mist house. When they strike, they are potted on either into their selling pots or an interim sized pot before then going into the shadehouse to grow. If they are outdoor plants then they are soon taken to the open sun section for sun hardening while the shade loving plants are left in the shade house.

A large variety of plants were sold at the pre-Easter plant sale on Sunday and despite the heavy rains customers were waiting at the gate to purchase plants. Pictured above: Wally sorting plants; right, Lois and Rae with a customer at the Wednesday morning trolley sales; below, sodden Gardeneers’ Wally, Rae and Rod.

Rod and Wally work very hard in the weeks before each sale digging up, washing, trimming and labelling rhizomes (gingers, heliconias, costus) from the gardens ready for sale. For sale day we start working Saturday to set up for sale on Sunday. After the sale, when everything is packed away and the money is counted by midafternoon, it’s always nice to have a little drink and nibbles to unwind and celebrate our hard work and discuss our day, but by this time we are all pretty exhausted. In the following weeks we sort out the stock we have left, which hopefully isn’t too much, and then get busy propagating new and interesting plants for our next sale. 7

Exploring our rainforest

Tom Collis Jalarra Park Volunteerss

Blue Quandong - Elaeocarpus grandis Blue Quandong, Elaeocarpus grandis, trees are found in the rainforest along the east coast of Australia from Cape York to northern New South Wales. Specimens can reach heights of 35 metres and are often seen growing above the rainforest canopy. The scientific name Elaeocarpus grandis means ‘large olive-like fruit’ referring to the round blue fruit. The tree has distinctive leaves that change colour to bright red as they age and have a serrated edge. The fruits are an important food source for many rainforest animals including Wompoo Pigeons and Spectacled Fruit-bats that eat the fruit directly from the tree high in the canopy. Quandong fruits that fall to the ground are eaten by Cassowaries, Musky Rat Kangaroo and Bush Rats. In the Wet Tropics Blue Quandong fruit were eaten by Indigenous people and although nutritious, its flavour is quite tart. Seeds from the Blue Quandong are very slow to germinate usually needing up to nine months in a seed tray before the first shoots appear. Because of their great height they are not usually recommended for growing in suburban gardens but they are important trees for rehabilitation of rainforest.


TAFE students gain work experience

Feathered Friends

Rufous Owl During March TAFE Horticulture & Land Management students spent a couple of days gaining work experience with the Green Space Our Place team. Above: Brushcutting Mt Whitfield’s fire breaks; below: clearing mud from the Green Arrow track surface.

Above, TAFE students, from left, Gordon Carlin, Harley Mabo, Tristan Quigley, Down ‘n’ Dirty volunteer Alex Edwards, Lisa Thomas, Jasmine Raymond, Codie Glasser, Billy Godwin, Dylan Rose and Alessandro Pascucci. Insets: Codie (right) and Lisa (left) working in the Bamboo Garden.

Sometimes when you walk through the forest or a public park that still boasts some old hollow bearing trees, you’re not alone. Hidden among the foliage, there may be a pair of eyes watching Patrick De Geest your every move. In North Queensland, those eyes often belong to a Rufous Owl. Rufous Owls are active at night and roost during the daylight hours, hiding among the leaves of the canopy, often with the remains of last night’s partly eaten prey still grasped in their enormous talons. On the odd occasion an owl roosts on a bare branch during the day honeyeaters and other birds of the forest seize the opportunity to mob it mercilessly. Concealed by leaves during the day and obscured by the dark at night, it’s often easier to hear a Rufous Owl than to see one. Their main call is a soft woohoo, which may be repeated up to four or five times, and which carries through the forest or suburbs to advertise that an owl owns a territory there. Other calls include an eclectic range of pulsating trills, a sheep-like bleat, squeals and a low moan. Their diet is equally eclectic. Rufous Owls occasionally catch roosting birds, but usually take large insects, especially stick insects, either in the air or by crashing into the foliage. They also snatch possums from the branches, fruit bats in flight, and terrestrial mammals as they feed on the forest floor. Where large hollow-bearing trees remain in the parks and gardens of Cairns these silent predators still breed amongst us. Look out for their white, ghostly young fledging in October or November. They are surprisingly hard to spot against a white paperbark tree. If you find one please report it on This information may one day save the life of a tree and the chicks in the nest. By John Peter and Golo Maurer 9

Adaptations to exploit food sources:

Birds’ legs and feet - Part 3

Jennifer H. Muir

In this issue of Green Space Our Place we continue discussing adaptations of birds’ legs and feet. In December 2017 we looked at walking, climbing and running legs and feet. Now we look at some wetland adaptations. In nature, adaptation and diversity rule. Wading birds tend to have long, widely spaced toes for walking or running on soft mud without sinking into it. Many species of birds are associated with wetlands and foreshores, so there is much competition for food in these habitats. The evolution of diverse anatomy in wading birds has reduced this competition by enabling more varied feeding methods, though it limits some species to particular parts of the wetland.

Black-winged Stilt can’t submerge to feed like their relatives that have partly webbed feet (eg Red-necked Avocet). This lack of swimming ability is compensated for as Black-winged Stilts are not restricted to fresh water. They are also found on brackish wetlands, marine estuaries and tidal mudflats thus widening their feeding opportunities and diet.

Jacana Jacana (aka Lily Trotter) takes this anatomical adaptation a step further with an exceptionally long hind toe (about 75mm). With three very long front toes and the even longer rear toe (photo above by Barry Muir), the bird’s weight is more evenly distributed enabling it to feed and live in a specialized habitat – floating vegetation on freshwater wetlands where they spend most of their lives. When the water surface is densely covered with lily pads or similar floating vegetation, Jacana can access food that few other birds can (less competition). Life’s not that clear cut however. The limitation for Jacana is, of course, that they need lots of lily pads to survive and if these are removed from the wetland, their specialized feeding habitat (niche) is gone or reduced and there’s little reason for the birds to remain there.

Red-necked Avocets feed in fresh, salty or brackish waters, marine tidal inlets and foreshores. These, pictured below, are at Roebuck Bay, Broome, WA. Widespread through Australia, though uncommon in the north, they range inland when rains fill the saltpans. Red-necked Avocet toes are more webbed enabling them to swim well to reach and feed in deeper water than can the stilts. In deeper water avocets ‘upend’ with head down into the water and tail up like a duck, looking like white triangles on the surface. In the shallows avocets feed as they wade, mainly sweeping their part-open, distinctive upturned bills from side to side through the shallow water or soft mud. They also stir the water or mud with their bill, or ‘puddle’ with their feet. See June issue for more about water birds.

Black-winged Stilts (top right) have a different adaptation that effectively ‘controls’ their feeding space. Like the Jacana, their very long legs are longer than those of other waders, but the Black-winged Stilt’s toes are shorter than those of the Jacana. The longer legs enable these Stilts to wade and feed in deeper parts of shallow waters widening the area in which they can feed, but as their feet are only vestigially webbed, they rarely swim and 10

Red-necked Avocets




We invited Rosie from ‘Weave n Art’ along for an afternoon in April to teach our volunteers coconut palm weaving. Despite a little frustration, there was lots of laughter with everyone leaving with their own woven basket. Rosie’s aim with these workshops is to make people aware of just how useful the coconut tree is in many tropical places like Cairns. Rather than destroy the leaves when coconut trees are cut down, we can weave many different things out of the leaves. “Once someone has learnt the basics of weaving coconut leaves, the craft can be such an enjoyable, relaxing and social activity,” said Rosie. “It is a very social activity; gathering around in the company of others to weave, sharing a bit of food and of helping and admiring each others’ work are some real pluses about this fun activity. “Of course, if one chooses to be in their own space while weaving, as many would prefer, it is quite ok too! “My hope is to see people in Cairns weave their own shopping baskets to take to Rusty’s market or as handbags.” Pictured: 1. Lyn Mason, 2. Rose and Leonie Sequeira, 3. Rosie - ‘Weave n Art’ (middle) with Leonie (left) and Jenny Parsons, 4. Joel Groberg and Gail Winters.


Afternoon of weaving, sharing and laughter

Jabiru News

Cattana Wetlands Jabiru volunteers have been working hard at keeping on top of the extremly quick growth of the wet season. If you enjoy picking up a brushcutter or doing a little weeding in a lush environment, give us a call 4032 6648. With the new masterplan in place there will be many new projects underway such as resurfacing the pathway around Jabiru Lake, updating of signs and bird hides and making it more accessible for all. 11

Critters in the Gardens -

Dr David Rentz AM

Tau Big-headed Cricket

If you wander around the Gondwana section of the Cairns Botanic Gardens and look closely you might see little mounds of dirt like this (Fig. 1). These are made by males of the Tau Big-headed Cricket, Cephalogryllus tau (Otte and Alexander). The Tau Big-headed Cricket is a common rainforest cricket in our region occurring from the coast around Cairns to Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands. If you go out on wet nights you will hear the very loud calls of males as they sing from the entrance of their burrows. Have a listen: naturenoises/10466004004/in/album-72157636917906914/. The cricket is very sturdily built (Fig. 2) with the hind legs quite muscular and suited for burrowing and with sharp spines used for repulsing invaders. The wings are very short and not used for flight. Their sole purpose is for sound production (Fig. 3). The structure of the wing has evolved for producing the precise song that will be heard and responded to by females of the species.

Fig.1 Disturbed dirt indicating cricket burrow beneath

To see a male cricket up close involves digging up a burrow because the crickets don’t venture outside the burrow very often. Digging up one of these crickets must be done carefully as the males make a quick retreat to the depths when threatened.

Fig. 2 Adult male Cephalogryllus tau.

Bandicoots often attempt to dig out the crickets with mixed results. They seem to be more successful when digging burrows located on the lawn margins where there are fewer tree roots. Juvenile crickets are often found in the burrows with the male. It is known that these crickets show some parental care. But these habits have not been studied extensively and there is a tidy research project awaiting some enterprising person with a shovel and some time. Fig. 3 The tegmen or top wing. Note venation.

If you carefully trace the call of the cricket, you will find its head positioned slightly below the burrow’s entrance (Fig. 4) with the antennae protruding and waving back and forth like a radar beacon to alert the owner of potential danger. The loud calling song is performed within the burrow and is amplified by the shape of the burrow. Males call to attract females and to declare territory. 12

Fig. 4 Adult male singing just below surface of opened burrow.

Gapforce International Volunteers

International volunteers team up with Green Space Our Place

Ready to attack Aspidistra weed at Saltwater Creek

Planting at Aeroglen

A very wet first week greeted the Gapforce International Volunteers who teamed up with Green Space Our Place in February. This is the first time we have partnered with this company and despite the heavy rain followed by hot conditions, it was a successful two weeks with future plans made for further groups in May and September. Gapforce combine travel and volunteering attracting young people from Europe and United States of America. This group was involved in all aspects of the Green Space Our Place program such as weeding at Cattana Wetlands and ‘Salties’ reveg site, track maintenance, bamboo clearing and mulching.

Working with cold mix on Mt Whitfield 13

Coral Fungi


Barry Muir

oral Fungi are so-named because many (but not all) tend to resemble some form of marine coral. Coral fungi are noted for their exquisite colours, with white, cream, grey, blue, purple, orange and red all being common. Some are simple coloured ‘stalks’ like those pictured right. These fungi are known as ‘clavate’ forms (Latin clavus – a club). Many of these are brightly coloured, often in yellows or reds, and grow on soil amongst deep leaf litter and mulch. This yellow species, about 10 cm tall, appears from time to time in the Botanic Gardens’ Freshwater Lake garden beds. They are decomposers, turning plant debris into soil and food for green plants.

The coralloid forms are highly varied from cute little branched forms like this (left) to messier forms. This pale pink species grows a stalk like the clavate fungi, then the top forms a flat “plate” and another branch or several branches grow out of the edge of the plate, looking a bit like antlers. This type of coral fungus is not common in the Gardens but is found from time to time in Flecker Gardens below the viewing platform at the head of the Rainforest Gully near Goodwin Street.

One of the messier forms makes masses of antlerlike tangles such as that pictured right. Some of these grow little coral-like masses from a common stalk, like a broccoli, but quite often they consist of hundreds of individual stalks all growing closely together in a clump. They are also decomposers turning plant and animal debris back into food that green plants can use. This cinnamon-brown type can be seen most wet seasons growing on soil and mulch in the Tropical Fruit section of the Gardens, especially near the Dragon Fruit plant. Coral fungi reproduce by spores, as do the other fungi, but unlike the bracket fungi which have gills or pores (see Green Space Our Place December issue), coral fungi have fertile structures bearing spores covering the upper branches surface. 14

Louisa Grandy

Connecting with Nature - Part 4

Abundant produce with little effort T


he No-Dig gardening method is one of the easiest ways to install a vegie patch and the best time is


ne wet season four years ago I began to dig the earth, excited at the prospect of creating my own vegetable garden, only to discover the soil was hard and didn’t allow much water penetration. I was then shown the No-Dig garden method. What a discovery! Nature does the work for you! Apparently it was developed in the 1970’s and is a matter of creating layers of organic matter that rot down into a nutrientrich living soil – a great solution for hard or poor soils.

as straw, lucerne hay, dried leaves, and nitrogen in the form of manures. As you place down each layer water lightly to assist with the breaking-down process. Step 1: Edge the area with old sleepers (please avoid chemically treated wood) or use bricks or any material that will contain the soil when it is built. Start with a small area and expand as you become confident with the process. Step 2: Lay down newspaper about a half centimetre thick or cardboard to smother any weeds, ensuring you overlap the pages so there are no gaps for weeds to grow through, and avoid coloured print if possible. Add some lime and water well so that it begins the process of breaking down.

The ideal time to create a new No-Dig garden bed in the tropics is in the wet season, giving it time to Step 3: Cover the area with pads of hay / straw. You decompose over a couple of months. It won't take long can use pea-straw or lucerne, however crop-straw is to break down if it is a good wet season. usually less expensive than lucerne or pea-straw. Water If you wish to wait until it’s time to plant before in lightly. beginning the process, plant your seedlings into pockets Step 4: Then apply a layer of organic fertiliser. You can filled with soil or compost to support them while the use any farm manure, new garden is chicken (offers the Abundant produce - paw paw, Ceylon breaking down. highest in nitrogen), If you already have a vegie patch it may be full of wet season veg and herbs such as Ceylon spinach, that runs wild, along with Thai coriander and sweet basil that self-seeds. Weed out and cut back what you don't want and begin the No-Dig process.

spinach, parsley, coriander, lettuce varieties and tomatoes.

If you are starting out new, ensure you choose an area with plenty of full sun. After a few years of using this method my garden now contains a rich friable soil with, what feels like, little effort. Here’s a tip: if you are getting a few 'chewies' make up a solution by simmering garlic and chili, then strain into a spray bottle. You will need to spray after each time it rains. Or you can check your plants daily and squish any grasshoppers or caterpillars.

The No-Dig Gardening Method: This gardening technique is much like composting. You will need a good mixture of carbon materials such

horse or cow; or blood 'n' bone.

Step 5: Add another layer of loose straw about 20 cm thick and water. Step 6: Add another layer of manure and again, water lightly. Step 7: You can continue adding layers until you have the desired height, remembering that it will drop as it decomposes. Towards the end add a layer of compost and then complete the garden with a layer of hay to protect your compost against the rain and heat of the sun. Water well and allow to break down naturally ensuring it is kept moist. You can use any materials in your layers such as dried leaf litter or grass clippings; just ensure you add lime to help it decompose. Lime also prevents weed seeding (if you use lawn clippings or weeds as a layer) and pathogens from spreading. Occasionally top up with compost, straw and manure to ensure height stays 30-40 cm high. Always water in the morning. Enjoy your healthy rewards!


Friends of the Botanic Gardens, Cairns: Membership details email or telephone 4032 3900. Contributions: Please submit articles (must be volunteer or nature based) by May for the next quarterly publication in June. Please note articles are subject to editing. Email:

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Interested in Volunteering? There is something to suit everyone. • Friends’ Visitor Guides • Public Relations & Shop assistance in the Friends’ House • Tuesdays - Cattana Wetlands Jabirus 9am-noon • Tuesdays - Esplanade ‘Sandpipers’ - 9am-noon • Wednesdays - Botanic Gardens Down ’n’ Dirty Volunteers 9am-noon • Wednesdays / Fridays - Mt Whitfield Tracks ‘n’ Trails 9am-noon • Thursdays - Stratford Nursery - 9am-noon • Thursdays - ‘Weedbusters’ • Fridays - Saltwater Creek ‘Salties’ 9am-noon • Weekends - Botanic Gardens Visitor Enhancement volunteers • Children’s Nature Activities Program - Little Taccas Interested in becoming involved with your local park, reserve or trail in your community? Contact us to be registered as a Council volunteer and be involved in beautifying your park (enhance planting, weed management, litter clean-up), reporting on issues (graffiti and vandalism, anti-social behaviour, maintenance issues) and building community participation (networking activities) with Council support. If you are interested in supporting any of our weekly groups or volunteering in your local area contact Volunteers Supervisor Louisa Grandy 4032 6648 or 0429 983 252.

Green Space Our Place - Volunteers Voice - Issue 18 March 2018  

A quarterly magazine showcasing articles and photographs of Cairns Regional Council's Green Space Our Place volunteer program and informatio...

Green Space Our Place - Volunteers Voice - Issue 18 March 2018  

A quarterly magazine showcasing articles and photographs of Cairns Regional Council's Green Space Our Place volunteer program and informatio...