The Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM)sENSO Tracker status has moved from ALERT to EL NINO, signalling the official declaration by the Bureau of Meteorology of El Niño 2015.


El Niño is often associated with drought in Australia. It may be cold comfort for those toughing out the current dry in parts of eastern Australia, but while El Niño certainly raises the risk of drought, it doesn’t guarantee it. Of the 26 El Niño events since 1900, 17 have resulted in widespread Australian drought. More

The most obvious effects of El Niño in Australia are:

  • Drier than average winter-spring
  • Increased daytime temperatures in southern Australia from winter onwards
  • Increased risk of frosts in winter due to dry soils and less cloud
  • Reduced snow cover and shorter season
  • Early and more extreme fire season
  • Reduced chance of widespread flooding

Is Australia the only place affected by El Niño?

While an El Niño event influences the whole world, the main effect is on the Pacific area, especially Australia, Indonesia and south-west America.

During El Niño droughts generally occur in western Pacific counties, like Indonesia and Australia.

However, other places such as Ecuador and Peru (which are normally dry areas) suddenly get a lot of rain. In the US, California is likely to experience flooding during El Niño events.

How long does it last?

In Australia, an El Niño typically develops around May/June, strengthens through September/October and November to peak over December/January, then starts to decay in late February with weather conditions returning to normal around March. More

What can Gardeners do?

Gardeners need not fear end to their hobby or passion. In fact, this provides a tremendous opportunity to increase your horticultural knowledge and to grow plants more suited to your local conditions. Even plant collectors should be able to keep their specimens thriving by addressing simple cultural practices.

  • If selecting new garden plants, use a database system like the Waterwise Plant Selector.
  • Select plants based on their suitability to your climate, soil and water availability – sometimes it may be a local indigenous species, sometimes it may be a non-native plant.
  • Read books and magazine related to your local region.
  • Listen to radio gardening programs where presenters are local to your region.
  • Watch television programs where presenters are local to your region.
  • Mulch, mulch, mulch – this helps conserve water in the soil and minimises soil evaporation. If too deep it may prevent rainfall from reaching the soil and roots.
  • Use water retention products in your soil to help conserve water and reduce usage – look for products based on ‘coal-humus’, coir fibre, peat, compost, etc.
  • Position plants based on water need – high water use plants should be placed in one location so it’s easier to look after them; locate low water plants further away from the house as they need less care.
  • Look at the contour of your property – in low lying areas plant your water loving plants; in high areas or slopes plant your low-water loving plants.
  • If irrigating your lawns, remember to water deeply but less frequently to encourage roots deep into the soil where they can tap into moisture.
  • Provide a shading structure (e.g. shadecloth) over high-water usage plant so that transporation is reduced which in turn reduces water need.
  • Provide wind breaks to reduce transporation and evaporation. Grow hedging plants or erect structures.

These are some of the more popular techniques used to reduce water consumption in the garden. There are many others.

[Compiled by Paul Plant, Editor subTropical Gardening magazine]


Fruit Fly Solutions

December 9, 2014

There are a number of pests that cause much frustration and anger to home produce growers of tomatoes, capsicums, peaches, plums, mangoes, oranges, guavas, avocadoes, pawpaws and most other fruits. The guilty pest is none other than the fruit fly.

There is estimated around 4000 species of fruit fly but only 350 species which cause economic damage to crops. There are 280 native endemic species to Australia, but only 7 species that cause damage to crops.

The two major fruit fly concerning gardeners are:

  • Queensland Fruit Fly (Bactrocera tryoni
  • Mediterranean Fruit Fly (Ceratitis capitata)

A great resource for fruit fly identification –


There are a number of strategies available covering lures, baits,

Traps – these attract the flies so gardeners and farmers can monitor the pest population. Some use an attractant with an insecticide, others just attractant. Liquid attractants such as fruit juices and proteinaceous solutions are used to both attract and kill the flies (by drowning).

Attractants – food based attractants tend to attract both male and female insects. Pheromone attractants tend to attract only male flies – are generally based on Cue lure (CUE) and methyl eugenol (ME).


Some products on the market (details as per respective product information):

Cera Trap – food based protein liquid. Attracts male and female Queensland and Mediterranean flies. Quantity needed: 80-120 traps per hectare; or 1 trap per tree in domestic gardens. Each trap lasts 3-4 months.

Eco Naturalure – food based attractant with spinosad insecticide. Attracts male and female of both Queensland and Mediterranean flies. Quantity needed: 7mL product to 43mL water sprayed onto nearby surface. Each spray lasts 7 days. Needs to be reapplied after rainfall if surface was rained on.

Eco-lure Fruit Fly Trap – wick impregnated with pheromone attractant and malathion insecticide. Attracts male Queensland fruit flies only. Quantity needed: every 500 m apart. Lasts for 6 months.

Fly Bye – liquid based on native oils to attract male Queensland fruit flies only. Quantity needed: 20mL liquid as a wet trap to drown and dehydrate flies; 4 traps per hectare. Refill liquid as needed.

Wild May – liquid based on native oils. Attracts male Queensland fruit fly only. Quantity needed: 20mL liquid as a wet trap to drown and dehydrate flies; 4 traps per hectare. Refill liquid as needed.


Goodenia ovata

August 25, 2014

Botanical: Goodenia ovata Common: Hop Goodenia Family: Goodeniaceae Goodenia is a genus of about 200 species, almost all of which are confined to Australia although a few occur in the islands to the north. Goodenias exhibit some of the best horticultural attributes as garden plants, however they are not as widely cultivated or available from […]

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Allamanda laevis

August 25, 2014

Botanical: Allamanda laevis  Common: Shrubby Allamanda Family: Apocynaceae   Native to Brazil, this is one of the many shrub species of Allamanda. It is a very popular garden and landscape plant in Brazil and one of the showier species in the genus, which deserves to be more widely grown in Australia. Allamanda laevis is initially […]

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Hovea acutifolia

August 17, 2014

Plant of the Month  Purple Pea Bush – Hovea acutifolia Native to parts of Queensland and New South Wales, this forest fringe plant produces masses of purple pea-shaped flowers from later winter to early spring – right now! It is fast growing and generally short lived. Dimensions: 2m high x 2m wide This plant loves […]

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Issue 34 subTropical Gardening magazine

February 24, 2014

Issue 34 is out!  Australia’s leading gardening publication has released issue 34 in print. The iPad version will be ready shortly. Highlighted articles as featured on the cover include: Coastal Elegance Collecting Plants Flowering Trees Lush Tropical Darwin Vanilla Garden Design Spiky Eco Living Edibles And of course, that is just the tip of the […]

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Best Garden books 2013

January 16, 2014

EDITOR’S CHOICE 2013 Here are the top 10 books reviewed by the editor in 2013 as seen on page 9 of Issue 33 subTropical Gardening magazine. Australian Rainforest Fruits By Wendy Cooper [Issue 31, p. 88] Birdscaping Australian Gardens By George Adams [Issue 32, p. 88] Garden Escapees become Environmental Weeds By Bruce Tinworth [Issue 30, […]

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Phyllanthus cuscutiflorus

January 4, 2014

Botanical: Phyllanthus cuscutiflorus  Common: Pink Phyllanthus Family: Euphorbiaceae From the moist lowland rainforests of the Iron Range to Mulgrave River growing alongside streams, comes this hardy shrub to small tree (3-4m tall). The dense habit, impressive flushes of new growth and pendant flowers that cover almost every inch of the plant have made this plant […]

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Torch Ginger

November 2, 2013

Etingera elatior Synonym: Nicolaia elatior Undoubtedly one of the most stunning tropical plants within the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. Native to the monsoonal tropical forests of Indomalaysia, it has been found to be both tolerant and flowering in subtropical districts such as Brisbane and further south to Sydney. The more ‘southern’ the location, the more care […]

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Trailing Abutilon

October 2, 2013

Trailing Abutilon (Abutilon megapotamicum) This subtropical shrub from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay is known to reach two metres tall but is more commonly seen as a low growing trailing plant cascading over embankments or in hanging baskets. The plant has soft woody stems making pruning easy. It is easily pruned to shape – the more […]

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