How to make your own fertigation system

Ross Kemp is a member of the Rose Society of South Australia and is from Riverton, a small town in the mid-north of SA.  He designed his own fertigation system to stop pellet wastage, as he found that birds and other wildlife loved to eat them, so he’s kindly provided us with his research. “Fertigation used in home gardens is probably the most efficient and effective way of applying fertiliser to your plants. A fertigation system delivers nutrients directly to the plant by using a hose attached to the 13mm inline dripper system, with water delivering a rate of 1.7 litres per hour. The issue with fertigation is that most people need to get their head around how and why it works. Applying fertiliser by hand is possibly the easiest way that we fertilise our plants – unless you use a fertiliser cart, most people just grab a handful and…

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How to improve hydrophobic soil

. . Now that summer has arrived, here’s a surprising reason why you should consider using organic fertilisers in your garden. Most gardeners are aware that organic fertilisers stimulate soil microbes, which in turn help your plants, however you may not realise that when you use an organic fertiliser, it actually helps soil to overcome water repellence issues, and now that we’re heading into the hottest part of the year, it’s the most crucial time for getting the best out of this precious resource. The inability of soils to take up water is really down to the waxy coating on soil particles. These waxes come from either soil microbes or plant material which hasn’t broken down completely (Eucalyptus leaves are a great example). When conditions become unfavourable, microbes secrete compounds which make the soil water repellent. For sandy soils, only about 2-4 % of the particles need to be coated…

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An insurance policy for your garden

Did you know that fungi in the soil helps bacteria to survive under drought conditions, and therefore also help to maintain plant and soil health? Not only do fungi transfer signals and nutrients between plants, but they also interact with bacteria in the soil. Fungi are good at living and growing in drier conditions, but these conditions are not ideal for bacteria, as they like a bit more moisture. However new research shows that a number of soil fungi can transfer water, carbon and nitrogen to certain bacteria. Bacteria can also actively protect plants from attack by pathogens. This protection is obviously critical in times of plant stress where they are more susceptible to attack, and in dry conditions plants need all the help they can get. One species of bacteria which can be fed by fungi are the Bacillus species. These bacteria form spores to survive harsh conditions, and…

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Geoscience, Microbes & Compost

This week I want to talk about microbes and waste disposal – or more accurately composting. Last year it was announced that geoscience researchers at Penn State University in the US are finally figuring out what organic farmers have always known: digestive waste can help produce food. Although farmers here on earth can let microbes in the soil turn waste into fertiliser which can then be used to grow food crops, the Penn State researchers are trying to find a way in which edible microbes could be grown in a minimal space using human waste as a food source, so that the spacecraft wouldn’t need to take as much food into space. Obviously, I am not trying to convince you to try this at home, however it’s just another amazing example of what microbes can do. What I found so interesting was the way in which the researchers were able to optimise…

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Soil Odour & Health

As gardeners, I’m sure many of us have gone out into the garden after it’s been raining and you can smell that lovely earthy smell. You can often smell it when you turn over your compost heap. This is due to a compound called Geosmin,  which is a compound secreted by bacteria know as Streptomyces. What it indicates is a soil that is biologically active –  meaning it has a lot of bacteria and fungi in it.  Exactly the sort of thing you want to have. Geosmin is a bit of a strange compound. Humans can detect it at very low levels and we love the smell of it in the soil. Geosmin gives beets that district earthy flavour, and it is even used in perfumes to get that earthy smell. We don’t know  exactly why bacteria produce Geosmin – it may be to attract soil insect like the spring tails…

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The Importance of Microbes

We all know plants grow better in well-structured soil, but what exactly are structured soils? We know that poorly structured soils don’t allow water or air to penetrate – this is often due to compaction or over-working the soil, especially when it’s wet and waterlogged – you just end up with a sticky mess. In essence, well-structured soil is a soil where, by volume, about half is what people call soil (clay, sand and silt), and the remaining volume should be for air and water spaces, along with organic material, soil bacteria and fungi. Microbes play a huge role in producing and maintaining structured soils. . Many people think that adding organic matter to the soil will instantly give them a more structured soil, but this is not actually true. It is not until the microbes, and to some degree other soil animals such as earthworms, have delved through the…

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