Dragonflies as pest control in your garden.

Dragonflies are a useful insect for organic pest control in the garden as both larvae and adult dragonflies are voracious predators other insects. An adult dragonfly will pluck white cabbage butterflies and other flying insects out of the air and will lay its eggs in any established water body. A dragonfly larvae spend life under the water surface predating on mosquito wrigglers and other aquatic organisms until the next season when it will crawl out of the water and shed its adolescent form, taking to the air.

To attract dragonflies to your garden, establishing a pond is the only way to go (considering half of its life cycle is spent underwater). The pond should have a fair number of various aquatic organisms for the larvae to feed on, and any healthy pond will. If you’re only just establishing a pond it can take quite some time for a range of aquatic insects to populate the water by themselves. You can speed this process up by spiking your pond water with water from an already established and aged pond. Of course having an abundance of aquatic vegetation will only help as most aquatic insects require plants for food and shelter.

Update of the Garden @ Sunderland St

It’s been a wet week at Sunderland St, and the backyard has been loving the rain. All the ponds are full (and overflowing) and the plants are growing like crazy. Only the chickens seem upset by the weather – but an addition of dry sugar cane mulch to the pen cheered them right up.

The food forest in the west strip had no trouble soaking up the extra water. The bean arch is now heavy with our “Newcastle” strain of purple beans (ask us for some seeds, they grow like crazy!)

We’re not harvesting 3 types of beans and 4 types of peas, but there’s no waste as we’ve been seed saving like crazy – letting the beans and peas dry in the pod or on the vine getting the next generation of beans and peas ready for action.

Another useful permaculture tool we’ve been growing is the good old choko. It’s a tough vine with a large fruit of perhaps below average taste 😉 and a habit of choking out the plants it climbs. This could be trouble in your backyard, but it’s great news in an area of lantana. We’re currently trialing them in the chook pen – hopefully they will have a shot against the chickens.

The banana is loving life. All the water it could ask for and plenty of intense sunlight in the suntrap it lives in.

The east strip is coming along well. The Kangaroo apple is bursting with energy and new growth.

Adding a Frog Pond to your Garden

A pond in your garden can be very attractive whilst also providing habitat for native amphibians. The sound of frogs in your garden at night is very soothing, but the pond needs to be a reasonable distance from your house and your neighbour’s, as the frogs can be quite noisy at times.

It is usually good to choose the lowest part of the garden to ensure a natural setting and water flow but placement can be relatively flexible. Half shade is preferable, with plants around the pond for shelter. A pond that gets no sun will stagnate and lose its inhabitants quickly. Make sure you wait at least two weeks before adding frogs to ensure that the chlorine has evaporated.

To control mosquito larvae, get native Gudgeon from a fish hatchery or White Cloud Mountain Minnow from an aquarium shop. These fish will breed in your pond. Never introduce Plague Minnow (Gambusia) which is potentially a pest and will readily eat frog spawn instead of ‘mossie’ wrigglers. Should you have pets, such as Cats or Dogs, or if there are small children in around the area, you can create a damp area or plant a prickly ground cover to discourage damage to the pond or frogs.

Ponds are available from your local hardware shop, along with pumps and fountains for those with the money. Alternatively, you can make your own pond by scraping out a hollow and lining it with black UV-resistant PVC or EPDM butyl (which is more expensive). If you use this method make sure you weigh down the edges with rocks. Anything that holds water and wont leech toxins can be turned into a pond such as old bathtubs and plastic tubs. Use your imagination!

Your frogs will need to be able to get in and out of the pond freely. If what you’ve used for a pond has steep edges, make a ladder from a branch or pile rocks up at one end. Piling rocks and the occasional nice-looking log around your pond will provide extra places for your frogs to hide during the day.

There are a large number of attractive native aquatic plants available which your frogs will love you for. A great place to acquire such natives is ‘Trees In Newcastle’ (TIN).

http://www.angfa-nsw.org – List of Native Fish good for garden ponds. ‘frog-friendly’

www.aquablueseafoods.com.au/native.shtml – Good Native Freshwater Fish Hatchery (NSW)

www.treesinnewcastle.org.au – Excellent Local Native Nursery