Questions and Answers


I would like to be able to grow some flowers under our roses but I notice that the violas I planted attracted mould. Thoughts, ideas. Secrets to good growth
“Roses are much happier without anything underneath. Go with grey / silver foliage – ajuga, catmint, lavender – not anything that competes for food and water – shallow rooted plants. If you can get your roses
up high enough the possums tend to leave them alone”

Seed raising and propagating mixes

What are the best ratios of additives/ingredients if wanting to
make my own mixes?

“Depends on what you are trying to grow – either a moist or drier medium. Basically a mineral and compost mix – e.g.. for pepper berries – 2 sand to 3 composted bark (will retain moisture). Circumstances can dictate the moisture level depending on how attentive you are. For propagating keep the nutrient level lower until established.”

Vegetable structures

Are they worthwhile, necessary even, and what might a DIY one cost? How can I keep them tidy?
“Good way of preventing plants being eaten. Can be as simple as polypipe (50mm) on star pickets and covered in chicken wire or commercial netting (not the cheap thin stuff). Cheap and easy to make and also put in a gate or door and make them high enough so you are not always bending over. Can use aluminium ceiling battens (Bunnings) to strengthen the polypipe – not expensive”

Converting grass to garden

Any recommendations on the best way to:
(a) suppress grass, short of digging it all out (too much hard work)
(b) minimise grass creeping back into the garden bed without using edging such as pine logs (edging is OK for small beds but we could eventually have well over 100 m of garden/lawn edge).

“Basically this is a NO DIG Garden – layers of silage, straw, manure, seaweed, kelp, wet newspaper well overlapped and thick to stop seeds sprouting. Edge with rocks over thick wet newspaper or cardboard – this
can deter blackbirds too”.

Saving Seed

Tomatoes I’ve seen two ways – one is to squeeze the seeds onto paper towel, let them dry and save. Second is to put seed pulp into to water for 24 – 48 hrs – sieve and dry. What are your thoughts? Is one better than the other? Best time to sow seeds if you have a hothouse??
“Squeeze seeds onto kitchen paper, dry. Mark what they are with a pen. Tear or cut up the paper or plant the whole sheet into a tray. Put glass over the top to help with germination. After they emerge remove the
glass. Plant in August when you have a hothouse. Can use a heat pad on the bottom.”


I had trouble with our raised beds retaining water during the hot summer. I use sheep manure, good compost from South Hobart tip as well as my own compost. I used deep mulch as well. A lot of water ran off or went through and out the gaps in the sleepers. The soil appeared to be hydrophobic. What can I do to ensure this doesn’t happen again next Summer?
“Wicking beds are one answer. Deep watering is essential. If the soil dries out water long and slowly, maybe use a dripper to rewet first. Check the depth in the soil after watering to ensure deep water.”

Trees in Pots

I planted this grapefruit tree in a half wine barrel a couple of years ago. It is in relatively sheltered spot and it hasn’t been either under or over watered. A lime tree a few metres away in another half barrel is going well and laden with fruit. This grapefruit tree had this curly leaf last year so I cut it right back last winter. It grew back vigorously, but then the leaves started to curl again. It has had black soot on the leaves which I have sprayed. Do the panel members have any helpful suggestions?
“Grapefruit are too vigorous for a pot. Plant in the ground. Thin out the centre to let air in to help with soot. Stressed leaves won’t revive. Leave fallen fruit to ‘feed’ the plant.


Best time to mulch – with what?
“Sugar cane mulch or anything small that you can manipulate around the stems. Mulch once shoots are about 15cm high and to depth of 10cm.”


Is it bad practice to put potatoes into soil with a high nitrogen content (i.e. after it has been used for beans, peas etc) Can I plant potatoes two years in a row in the same spot?
“Try and stop them coming up by pulling them out. Too much nitrogen creates big tops and smaller crops because all the energy goes to the tops. The no dig approach of stars and manure works well with good

Ash from wood burner

What are some good uses for this?
“Cherry slugs, cleaning windows, dust bath for chooks, spread around fruit trees in Autumn, around broad beans when they are seedlings – not too thickly, less is more. The ash from smallsticks is better than from
bigger timber.”

Understorey plantings

What can I plant as an understory to Gum Trees planted in a row on a raised mound which has very dry soil?
“Check out / buy “A Guide to Flowers and Plants in Tasmania” It talks about each zone and gives ideas for understorey plantings.

Old bath tubs

Anyone had experience of growing stuff in old baths. We have with mixed results but better than sending them to the tip. “Worm farms. Use small gravel in the bottom and tilted so it drains well.”


Pruning them to get maximum yield. Is there any point to pruning hazelnuts or should they be allowed to grow unpruned? “Check out Monty Don on Utube where he talks about ‘Hazels’. He cuts them down every 7 years. Uses the growth for weaving items – fencing, baskets etc. Cut out a fifth each year (older canes). Pollination can be a
problem – need a variety for good cross pollination. Love water.”

Invasive roots

I have an Evergreen Alder that is taking over. My vegie beds are full of its roots. It seems to be very aggressive, so I’m thinking of cutting it down. Would I need to poison the stump or have it ground down to stop it from re shooting?
“Paint diesel on freshly cut surface. Repeat.”

Curly leaf rhododendron

I have a rhododendron that is quite new. The leaves are quite curled, although I think they have been that
while from the outset.

“Could be the variety”.

Holes in leaves

There is something attacking my fuschia and my calceolaria. It makes holes in the leaves. Ideas / solutions.
“Chris Read to investigate”.


Is there any way to encourage olive trees to fruit? Ours is now 9 years old and apart from a small crop in 2018 has failed to deliver.
“Start bearing at 7 years. Fruits on new growth. Kate Flint to let us know of an “Olive workshop” conducted by a lady who grew up in Israel and now lives in Cygnet.”


I want to plant some in our yard. Can you give me some helpful hints? I’ve heard I need male and female plants. Your advice please. Do need both male and female plants. They grow naturally in the rainforest when it is not too wet or dry. Like a protected environment. Male flower quite showy. Only fruit on female plant. Better propagation
success when using cuttings. Good fruit every three years.”


When is the best time to prune them? When to fertilise them – with what? What happens if they fruit but don’t ripen in time?
“If they produce too many fruit and they don’t ripen strip off most of the fruit so it can provide energy for the few that are left. Prune energetically to reduce growth when they are dormant in Winter.”

Native seed germination

General advice on germinating native seeds that we have collected (eucalyptus, melaleuca, leptospermum, etc). Our initial attempts have not succeeded, seedlings emerged but died very early.
“May need microrizal buddy. Like a warm bed for seedlings”.

Many thanks to these members for their contributions: Chris Read, Kate Flint, Anne LeFevre, Christine Bowling, Lynne Upton and Peter Laud. We appreciate your time, experience and sharing.