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Gardening

The Essential Guide to Greenhouses

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The Essential Guide to Greenhouses
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Alumy Creek Angus - Stud Angus Sires Tenterfield - Top of the Range Angus Genetics

The Essential Guide to Greenhouses

 

For many gardeners, a greenhouse is a transformative addition to their gardening practice, providing a controlled environment that can significantly extend the growing season and offer a sanctuary for tender plants. Whether you’re a novice looking for basic guidance or an experienced gardener aiming to optimise your space, understanding how to effectively use a greenhouse is key.

Why Invest in a Greenhouse?

A greenhouse offers numerous benefits that make it a worthwhile investment for any gardener:

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  • Extended Growing Season: Most notably, a greenhouse allows you to start your growing season earlier and extend it later into the fall. This is especially valuable in cooler climates where frost can limit outdoor growing options.
  • Protection from Elements: Your plants are shielded from severe weather conditions such as heavy rains, strong winds, and hail. Additionally, it provides a barrier against pests and roaming animals.
  • Versatility in Planting: Greenhouses enable the cultivation of plants that wouldn’t typically thrive in your local climate, including exotic fruits, flowers, and specialised crops.

Choosing the Right Greenhouse

Selecting the right greenhouse depends on your needs, budget, and available space:

  • Lean-to: Attached to a side of your house, these are great for space-saving and utilise the heat from your home, reducing energy costs.
  • Freestanding: These structures stand alone and can be built in various sizes. They provide flexibility in terms of location and usually have better light exposure.
  • Cold Frames: Smaller than traditional greenhouses, cold frames are a good option for beginners looking to protect a few plants from frost.

Materials Matter

The materials used in construction directly affect its efficiency and durability:

  • Glass: Traditional and aesthetically pleasing, glass greenhouses offer excellent light transmission but can be expensive and fragile.
  • Polycarbonate: This is a more durable and insulating option than glass, though it may yellow over time, reducing light transmission.
  • Plastic Film: An economical choice, plastic film is easy to replace but needs to be changed every few years due to wear and tear.

What to Grow in Your Greenhouse

The beauty of a greenhouse is that it can support a wide range of plants. Here are some categories to consider:

  • Vegetables: Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and leafy greens thrive in the stable conditions a greenhouse provides.
  • Herbs: Basil, chives, parsley, and thyme can be grown year-round in a greenhouse environment.
  • Flowers: Start annuals like marigolds and petunias early or grow tropical flowers like orchids.

Optimising Your Greenhouse Setup

To get the most out of your greenhouse, consider these tips:

  • Temperature Control: Install a thermometer to monitor the inside temperature. Ventilation is crucial; automatic vent openers can be a useful investment.
  • Humidity Management: Too much humidity can lead to mould and plant diseases. Ensure adequate air circulation with fans and keep the soil well-drained.
  • Shelving and Layout: Maximise space by using shelving units. Plan your layout by placing taller plants at the back and smaller ones in front.

Greenhouse Maintenance Tips

Regular maintenance is key to a successful greenhouse:

  • Cleaning: Clear gutters and ensure downspouts are free from debris. Wash the interior and exterior of the greenhouse to maximise light.
  • Check for Damage: Regularly inspect for any structural damages or tears in the covering and repair them promptly to maintain an optimal environment.
  • Pest Control: Keep an eye out for pests and manage them using natural methods, such as introducing beneficial insects or using organic pesticides.

Seasonal Considerations

  • Spring: Start seedlings early and prepare for transplanting as the weather warms.
  • Summer: Focus on ventilating the greenhouse to prevent overheating and shade plants if necessary.
  • Fall: Begin to winterise the greenhouse by installing heaters if needed and planning for cold-tolerant crops.
  • Winter: Use the greenhouse to protect perennials and to start vegetables early for a spring harvest.

Conclusion

A greenhouse can be a delightful and productive extension of your gardening hobby. It not only enhances your plant-growing capabilities but also provides a peaceful retreat. With proper planning and maintenance, a greenhouse can transform your gardening experience, yielding abundant harvests and beautiful blooms regardless of the whims of the weather outside. Whether for pleasure or practicality, the investment in a greenhouse continues to enrich the lives of gardeners around the world.

 

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Gardening

Create a Lush Fern Garden with These Shade-Loving Plants

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Create a Lush Fern Garden with These Shade-Loving Plants

 

If your garden is protected from the sun, consider transforming it into a mini fern rainforest. Ferns evoke the essence of rainforests with their earthy aroma and prehistoric charm, creating a calming and otherworldly atmosphere. These low-maintenance plants are not only beautiful but can outlive many other plants, adding texture and rich green hues to the damp and shady parts of your yard, making your garden lush and luxurious. With so many fern varieties to choose from, here’s a guide to get you started.

Growing Ferns in Your Garden

Ferns thrive in part to full shade and prefer rich, earthy soil reminiscent of their rainforest origins. Ideal soil for ferns is well-drained and nutrient-rich from decaying leaf matter. In warmer parts of Australia, protection from all sun may be necessary, while in cooler regions, shielding them from the harsh afternoon sun is sufficient. Ferns are predominantly perennial, allowing you to divide and propagate them in spring or autumn to enhance your shady garden areas.

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Understanding Fern Types

All ferns are vascular plants, growing from spores rather than seeds or flowers. While many ferns grow directly from the ground, like bird’s nest ferns and autumn ferns, others thrive on rocks or trees.

  • Lithophytes: Ferns that attach themselves to rocks.
  • Epiphytes: Ferns that grow on trees, fences, or man-made structures, drawing nutrients from decaying leaf matter and animal droppings caught in their leaves.

Epiphytic ferns are particularly versatile, making them excellent for planting on fences and structures within your garden.

Ideal Plants for Your Fern Garden

Australian Tree Fern

For gardens with ample shade, the Australian tree fern is a stunning choice. With its large canopy and elegant single trunk, this fern can bring a piece of the rainforest, like the Daintree, to your backyard. It can grow between 5 and 10 metres tall, so ensure you have sufficient space for its fronds to spread.

Staghorn Fern

The staghorn fern is a classic choice that remains stylish. As an epiphytic fern, it can attach to trees, fences, or even the exterior walls of your home, making it perfect for covering unsightly areas or adding texture to your garden’s fence line.

Bird’s Nest Fern

With apple-green, shiny leaves that can reach 1-2 metres in height, the bird’s nest fern is ideal for pots or planting in the forks of trees to maintain a rainforest aesthetic. These ferns also make excellent indoor plants, provided they are kept out of direct sunlight and in well-draining soil.

Elkhorn Fern

Similar to the staghorn fern, the elkhorn fern can be attached to trees or walls, adding a prehistoric touch to your garden. This low-maintenance fern thrives with ample shade and occasional compost for nutrients.

Soft Tree Fern

Native to eastern Australia, the soft tree fern, also known as the man fern, features bright green fronds forming a feathery canopy that can grow up to 15 metres tall. This fern is perfect for filling large, shaded spaces. Its trunk also provides an excellent base for growing epiphytes like elkhorn ferns or native Australian orchids.

Hen and Chicken Fern

Also known as mother spleenwort, this New Zealand native fern boasts feathery foliage that cascades beautifully, remaining lush year-round. It thrives in part-shade and should be protected from direct sunlight, adding elegance to the dappled shade of your garden.

Autumn Fern

To introduce colour variation among your ferns, consider the autumn fern. Its triangular fronds transition from pinkish to coppery before maturing to bright green, offering a stunning contrast of autumnal oranges and greens to enhance your garden’s visual appeal.

Baby’s Tears Ground Cover

A rainforest garden isn’t complete without a charming ground cover. Despite its melancholy name, baby’s tears is an excellent ground cover for shady garden areas. It can also be grown in pots and along pavers, adding a delicate touch to your fern garden.

By incorporating these diverse fern species, you can create a serene, rainforest-like garden that thrives in the shade, offering beauty and tranquillity year-round. Whether you have a large backyard or a compact space, these ferns will transform your garden into a lush, green haven.

 

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Gardening

Top six House Plants for Your Home

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Top six House Plants for Your Home

 

Indoor plants offer numerous benefits, from purifying the air to enhancing your home’s aesthetics. However, choosing the right type of house plants and understanding their care can be challenging. Here are six excellent choices for indoor environments and tips on how to maintain them.

Calathea

Known for its striking leaf patterns, the tropical Calathea loves humidity. It’s important to allow its soil to nearly dry out to a depth of about 5cm before watering thoroughly. This ensures the plant stays hydrated without becoming waterlogged.

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Cyclamen

Cyclamen are wonderful for adding a splash of colour during the colder months. They thrive in cool, draft-free areas with some morning sunlight. Check the soil moisture; when it’s nearly dry, immerse the pot in water for about 30 minutes for a deep, even watering. This care routine makes it an ideal indoor plant.

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant)

A favourite in modern decor, the Swiss Cheese Plant is celebrated for its lush foliage and unique perforations. As a tropical understory plant, Monstera prefers dappled shade over direct sunlight and likes moderate moisture. Check the soil moisture to about 5cm deep; if it feels dry, it’s time to water.

Zanzibar Gem

The Zanzibar Gem is renowned for its durability and sleek appearance, with shiny, deep green leaves. Often described as ‘almost indestructible,’ it’s perfect for those who might forget to water their plants. It can endure long periods without water thanks to its tuber, which stores moisture effectively.

Peperomia

Peperomia plants flourish in humid conditions with indirect light and moderate watering. It’s better to err on the side of under watering to avoid root rot, making it a low-maintenance choice for indoor gardeners.

Succulents

Ideal for those who prefer low-maintenance gardening, succulents need careful watering. Inside, they miss the early morning dew found in their natural habitats, so it’s crucial to water them when the soil is dry. Proper watering will keep them healthy and thriving indoors.

Each of these plants offers unique qualities and benefits, making them great additions to any indoor space. With the right care, they can transform your home into a more vibrant and healthier living area.

 

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Gardening

Planting seeds vs young plants

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Planting seeds vs young plants

 

Gardening is a cherished activity that connects us with nature and provides a sense of fulfilment. Whether you’re planting a vast vegetable garden or simply adding some colour to your patio, the initial decision between starting with seeds or young plants is crucial. Each method has its advantages and challenges, influencing the garden’s success, cost-effectiveness, and personal satisfaction.

Planting Seeds

Starting a garden from seeds is often seen as a rewarding, albeit more challenging, approach. One of the most compelling reasons to choose seeds is the sheer variety available. Seed catalogues and stores offer a much broader range of species and varieties than you can typically find in plant form at a nursery. This variety allows gardeners to explore rare or unusual plants that are often not available as starts.

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Cost is another significant advantage of seeds. A packet of seeds usually costs less than purchasing individual plants and can yield a much larger number of plants. For those looking to cover a large area or grow multiple specimens, seeds are an economically sound choice.

However, seeds require patience and a controlled environment, especially in their initial stages. They need proper soil temperature and moisture levels to germinate successfully. Some seeds have specific requirements, such as light exposure or pre-treatment processes like stratification or scarification, to encourage sprouting.

Timing is also crucial when planting seeds. Most seeds need to be started indoors in late winter or early spring to have mature plants ready for the growing season. This means you’ll need space for a seed-starting setup, which could include trays, soil, grow lights, and a heat mat.

Planting seeds vs young plants

Seeds

Planting Young Plants

For those eager to see their garden flourish quickly, buying young plants or “starts” can be the better route. This method offers instant gratification and reduces the wait time for seeing blooms or harvesting vegetables. It’s particularly appealing for beginners or those with less time, as it simplifies the gardening process by eliminating the uncertain early stages of seed growth.

Young plants are also less vulnerable to environmental threats like pests and diseases that can easily affect delicate seedlings. Since they are more developed, they can compete better with weeds and tolerate more extreme weather conditions.

Purchasing plants can also offer a sneak peek at the results. You can see the plant’s health, form, and in some cases, flowers or fruits already forming, which eliminates the guesswork and variability of seed-grown plants.

Planting seeds vs young plants

Young Plants

Considerations for Choosing

The choice between seeds and plants may depend on several factors including the specific crops, the growing season length in your area, and your level of gardening experience. For crops that take a long time to mature, such as tomatoes or peppers, starting with plants might be necessary in cooler climates. Conversely, fast-growing vegetables like lettuces or annual flowers are typically easy and cost-effective to grow from seed.

For hobbyists and those who enjoy the full gardening process, starting from seeds can be deeply satisfying. It allows a gardener to be involved in every step of the lifecycle of their plants. Meanwhile, those looking for a more straightforward, less time-consuming approach might prefer starting with young plants.

Whether you choose to plant seeds or young plants, both methods can provide immense satisfaction and bountiful results in your garden. Consider your goals, resources, and the time you want to invest in your garden as you decide, remembering that each method offers its own unique set of rewards and challenges.

 

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