Fern friends

Fern friends

Our region is home to a huge variety of native ferns, ranging from stately tree ferns down to delicate maidenhairs. These plants enjoy our acid soils and high rainfall year-round, so its no surprise to find native ferns popping up in the garden.

Any shady, moist area is likely to be colonised. Fern spores are so small that they blow in or are carried on peoples shoes. Spores need a consistently wet surface for fertilisation and germination to take place ferns are a primitive plant that relies on external fertilisation, rather than the internal method used by flowering plants. The tiny, flat growing plantlets that result are often overlooked or mistaken for some kind of moss. If conditions are right, they will surprise us by suddenly throwing up a new kind of frond the adult fern plant.

Most ferns can be transplanted, provided you take the maximum amount of soil and disturb the roots as little as possible. Keep watering the plant, preferably with rainwater, until youre sure it has established. Only transplant to a site that enjoys the same conditions as the old small ferns need bright shade, moisture-retentive soil and protection from frost and wind. Ferns really are plants of the forest floor. They like to grow in the leaf litter and the still, moist air at the foot of trees, and you will have the greatest success if you reproduce those conditions.

Potted ferns will generally thrive in a mixture of equal parts well-rotted cow manure, leaf mould, coconut fibre and coarse sand, with some water-holding crystals in the mix. Feed ferns lightly a few slow-release granules or a sprinkling of composted cow or sheep manure. All varieties will appreciate being mulched with leaf mould; if you made some last year, now is the time to spread it around.


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