Saturday, 21 September 2019

Salt, Yams and Silver Shield plants

We’re talking about salt in the Spice it Up segment, growing Oca, a root veg, in Vegetable Heroes, Plectranthus argentatus or Silver Spur flower, whichis a native ground cover that bees love in Plant of the Week plus what does Nicole Miranda and friends from Henley Green Community garden get up to at this time of year?


Is salt a spice a seasoning or something else?
Is there more than one type of salt?
Why should we use it rather than leave it out?
Did you know that culinary salts come in two basic categories - sea salt and mined salt?
All this and more about salt. I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from
Let’s find out Salt is actually a mineral, not a spice which means it doesn’t lose its flavour over time like spices and herbs do.
Salt is used as a seasoning, and is just NaCl or sodium chloride.
Most dishes that would be spiced will contain salt.
There are many types of salts on the market but they fall into two categories.
1) salts with impurities, that give a different flavour.
2) salts with different textures.
An example the first is Murray River pink salt. The colour is pink because of the minerals that the aquifer has flown through.
Rock salt is mined salt.
Murray River Pink Salt
  • Indian Black salt is also mined salt. Initially  the big chunks that are mined are deep purple to almost black in colour. However, when it is crushed, it becomes a pale pink in colour. Exudes a pungent odour.
  • this salt is a key ingredient in  'chat masala' which also contains cumin, coriander seed and asefetida. 
  • if requestingd the salted version of the drink lassi , it will contain chat masala.
All salt originates in sea water, but sea salt is evaporated from liquid ocean water, while mined salt is taken from ancient deposits left by long-dry seas.
Ian's Secret Tip: salt is cheap and heavy and added to some spice blends to make them cheaper so watch out and just buy the best.
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Oca,   New Zealand Yams Scientifically Oxalis tuberosa.
They were originally grown in the high Andes and are still a very popular variety of vegetable in South America.
It’s no surprise then that they were a staple food of various ancient cultures throughout the continent.
Oca tubers were brought to Europe in 1830 as an alternative to potato.
Potatoes were considered more versatile so that oca tuber never really caught on in any great scale.
30 years later they were also introduced to New Zealand, where there was a very different reaction.
They were adopted as a firm favourite and are still hugely popular today (and known simply as ‘yams’).
NZ Yams or Oca
  • Unlike potatoes, oca tubers can be eaten both raw and cooked.Well that’s not strictly true, I remember as schoolkids, we occasionally would bite into raw potato, but it wasn’t that nice.
So why should we grow Oca?
  • When they’re raw, they have a fresh lemony flavour with a crisp, crunchy texture not unlike the crispness of a carrot.
  • The skin is edible too and can be left on when raw. Slice them up into a salad to add some fresh zest.
  • When they’re cooked, the lemony flavour disappears and the tubers have a nuttier taste.You can cook them in much the same way as a potato — boiled, baked, fried, grilled or added to a soup or winter stew.

What Does The Plant Look Like?
A compact, attractive, bushy perennial plant with clover-like leaves to 20 - 30 cm high.
Oca tubers look like stubby, wrinkled carrots.
Oxalis tuberosa
Oca is suit to temperate and cool temperate climates for spring planting.
Cool temperate districts can plant it as late as mid-summer but spring is recommended.
Oca is resistant to low temperatures grows best in moderately cool climates but freezing will kill the foliage.
If the tubers are already established it will re-sprout.
This one is not suitable to plant in subtropical or tropical climates over summer.
Winter temperatures in frost-free areas of Queensland are ideal to grow oca. The summer is simply too hot, humid and wet.
How To Grow Oca
  • Temperatures above 28°C cause the plant to wilt.
  • Grow the oca tubers in much the same way as you would grow potatoes.
  • Tubers start forming 4 months after planting and production peaks at 6 months.
  • Oca tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH.
  • The oca plant will begin to form tubers as the days shorten and the temperature drops — in other words, in the autumn.
  • The tubers will grow in size throughout the autumn, so the longer the tubers are left in the soil, the better.
  • Typically, the best time to harvest the tubers is after the frost has destroyed all of the above-ground foliage or it naturally dies off.
  • Keep several for planting next season, by storing them in sand or sawdust.

Like the potato, the oca tuber can be stored for several months, so you’ll have them for an extended period after harvest.
Why Is It Good For You?
Each variety differs in its nutritional content, but generally they’re a great source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, iron and potassium, as well as being a source of protein.


Plectranthus argentatus: Silver Shield
This week we have a native plant that has velvety leaves, sage green foliage and blue flowers.
It’s in the mint family, so it’s got square stems.
I’m not sure why some people think that only exotics come from the mint family.
Australia has quite a few members that fit into this category.
Let’s find out what’s good about this one.I'm speaking with new contributor, Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

  • Plectranthus” is a combination of 2 Greek words that mean “spur” (plectron) and “flower” (anthos).
  • Argentatus is Latin for silver.
Plectranthus argentatus or Silver Shield prefers partial shade but will grow in full sun as long as the soil’s not too poor.

Can also grow in full shade and tolerate light frosts, that’s down to -2 C.
Excellent in dry shade.
The best spot for it though is in well drained soil near trees, also a great plant for containers.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of the Snow Wood tree, please write in to

Henley  Green Community Garden Update

There are many reasons to join a community garden: learn a new skill, teach your kids where food comes from, save money, help the environment, have a reason to get outside regularly and share with others.
Chickens at Henley Green Community garden
These reasons — and many more keep the people who grow food at a community garden.
Let’s catch up with what’s happening in the local community garden at Henley.
I'm speaking with Nicole Miranda from the Happy Hens Community garden in Henley.

If you are interested in joining the community garden at Henley you need to first register your interest by filling in a form from their website
If you have any questions for me or for Nicole, please write in to

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Mulch, Coriander and Snow Wood Trees

We’re talking mulches, why and what in the Plant Doctor segment, growing those leafy herbs that go great in Asian stirfries, in Vegetable Heroes, a native tree that has the flower and the fruits to impress in Plant of the Week and Indoor plants for cooler climates in Design Elements.


Mulches,Mulches, Mulches
Here we are again, talking about mulches when you probably want to hear about something more interesting right? There’s a reason why gardeners keep talking about mulches, and that is, it’s an important part of gardening whether we like it r not.

And, there’s a right way and a wrong way to spread the mulch.
I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from
Let’s find out

Mulches are important, especially in areas that are drought affected or are experiencing water restrictions.
The mulch locks in soil moisture and keeps soil cool in warm weather.
Applying mulch can be a bit of a chore, but it's worth it in the long run.
The reverse is true in cold weather, where the mulch acts a sort of blanket and helps retain heat in the soil layer.
Mulch also acts as a barrier to weed seeds and helps with wind erosion.
Over the years the advice as to how much mulch to apply has changed.
Fine mulch shouldn’t be more than 1cm thick, but chunky mulches, can be around 5cm thick.
Remember of course, that organic mulches bring microbial life to your soil, whereas the inorganic, mostly chunky mulches are just a layer of protection.
TIP: Leave some space around the trunk of trees, as it may encourage fungal growth or collar rot if right up against the main trunk.
If you have any questions either for me or for Steve, you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Coriander:Coriandrum sativum  
You may have come across the term Cilantro in recipes and wonder what kind of herb that was.
Believe it or not, the names of Coriander and Cilantro are interchangeable to a degree.
Well it’s just a bit of a technical difference to confuse us poor gardeners.
  • Cilantro refers to the leaves of the plant and coriander refers to the seeds.
  • In Australia we call the leaves and the seeds coriander and some people even call it Chinese parsley.
  • So coriander leaf is nothing else but cilantro.
Love or Hate Coriander?
Coriander leaves
People either hate it or love Coriander because it does have a pungent citrus flavour to the leaves.
There’s even those that say it tastes like dead ants.
Would they have eaten dead ants? I think not.
Would you believe that the name coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, meaning bedbug, since the unripe seeds and leaves when crushed supposedly have a smell suggestive of a crushed bedbug?
If you’ve ever let your Coriander go to flower, you may have noticed that it looks similar to the flowers on carrots.
That’s because coriander belongs in the Apiaceae or carrot family, along with Parsley, dill and of course carrots.
On the other hand, Coriander has been grown for over 3,000 years.
Did you know that about half a litre of coriander seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen?
Because this plant doesn’t grow wild in Egypt, this suggests that coriander was grown in the gardens of ancient Egyptians.
The Chinese once believed it gave you immortality and in the Middle ages it was used as part of a love potions.
  • Coriander is an annual herb because it flowers, sets seed then dies in under a year.
So why should we grow Coriander?
Heaps of Coriander seeds are used in curries, tagines and many other Asian dishes.
In fact the whole herb, including the roots can be ground up to make Green Curry paste.
I just mash it up in a food processor when I make that paste. 

Now here’s a big tip:
Coriander seedlings
  • Always grow coriander from seed, sown in the exact spot you want it to grow as it absolutely HATES being transplanted.
  • Transplanting coriander stresses it so that it goes straight to seed and then it dies. And you never get any leaves at all!
  • Coriander gets a has a big taproot as it grows so growing it in a pot won’t work either, it’ll go straight to seed as well.,
For sub-tropical and arid zones, you have August to September;
And in temperate districts, sow the seeds from September until the end of November,
In cool temperate zones, October to November,
  • Sow your seeds about 1 cm deep, cover them and keep them moist.
  • Coriander takes a couple of weeks to germinate, so go do it after my program.
  • Coriander grow fairly big, about 50 cm or 2 feet tall. 
  • You want about 5 cm between the plants if you grow it for the leaves.
Big Tip: Grasshoppers don’t like coriander, so plant it around the spinach to stop the grasshoppers eating holes in the leaves.
Coriander flowers attract beneficial insects
Leave a few plants to go to seed, yes, on purpose so you have a continuous supply.
When your plants are big enough, take the leaves off from the base of the plant.
Just make sure the plant is big enough to cope and leave some leaves on it so it can continue to grow.
As soon as that flower stalk appears, your coriander plant stops making more
  • Just remember when coriander plants get stressed, or in hot weather, or once they reach a certain age, they stop making leaves and instead start growing a tall flower stalk.
  • Another reason as to why you should let some coriander plants go to flower, is that coriander flowers are an important food source for beneficial insects, especially little parasitic wasps and predatory flies.
TIP:To attract many beneficial insects you want lots and lots of coriander flowers why not sprinkle some coriander and parsley seeds through your other vegetables under your fruit trees and in any other place you can fit them.
Keep watering and feeding your coriander plants well, and wait for the flower to develop and set seeds.
In hot weather this may take as little as 4 - 6 weeks from when you first put the seed in the ground.
Fresh cilantro (coriander) should be stored in the refrigerator in a  a container or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.  
Use as early as possible since it loses flavour and nutrients quickly if kept for longer periods.
  • Harvesting coriander seed is not too hard. All you need to do is wait till the flower heads are dry. There will be enough seed for the kitchen and enough to plant out more in the garden.
Thai Green Curry Paste
50g coriander seed
25g cumin seed
1 whole blade mace
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
9 garlic cloves, chopped
9 shallots, chopped
15 coriander roots, chopped, plus a handful of coriander leaves
19 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
250g galangal, chopped
5 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed, inner stalk chopped
5 lime leaves, stalks removed and leaves chopped
100g shrimp paste
handful basil leaves
Heat a dry frying pan and add the coriander and cumin seeds, mace and nutmeg. Roast until they begin to colour and release their aromas. Remove from the heat, then grind to a powder in a spice mill or blender.
 Put the garlic in a blender or pound using a pestle and mortar, then add the shallots, coriander roots, chillies, galangal, lemongrass and 2 tsp salt. Finally, add the lime leaves, shrimp paste, basil and the ground spices, then whizz or pound until you have a smooth paste.

Why Is It Good For You?
Coriander contains no cholesterol; but is rich in anti-oxidants and dietary fibre which help reduce LDL or "bad cholesterol" while increasing HDL or "good cholesterol" levels.
The herb is a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
It’s also rich in many vital vitamins like folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin- A, beta carotene, vitamin-C that are essential for optimum health. 
Coriander is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K

Parachidendron pruinosum: Snow Wood Tree.
There are some plants, be it trees, shrubs, perennials or annuals, which don’t make it into the mainstream of plant shops, not even online.
Snow Wood fruits after opening.
Whether it’s because people aren’t aware of its existence or because it’s hard to propagate in large number, the fact remains, it’s just not out there.
But there are plenty of good reasons why you should grow a Snow Wood.
Let’s find out I'm talking with new contributor, to "plant of the week" segment,  Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.

The fragrant flowers are pom-pom like heads, greenish-white or golden yellow and darkening with age.
Flowering time is October to January. The fruit pod matures from February to June .
Fruit pods are very attractive, twisting when they split open to reveal black shiny large seeds and look a bit like acacia fruit pods. 
Seeds are black, shiny and mostly flat, oval in shape. 
Germination tip:Scarification of the seeds helps germination, which is slow but fairly reliable.
Seen in Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney near the Moor building.
Pararchidendron pruinosum is an Australian rainforest tree naturally occuring from the Shoalhaven River in New South Wales to Herberton in north Queensland. 
Also found in New Guinea and Indonesia.
If you have any questions for me or for Adrian or would like some seeds of this tree, please write in to

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Mind Your Beeswax, Rhubarb and Wattle

Join host Marianne and guest Margaret Mossakowska to find out about using beeswax in the Good Earth Segment, growing crowns in Vegetable Heroes. Touching base with a local community garden and a national emblem in Talking Flowers.


Household Uses of Beeswax
Honey isn’t just the only thing that beekeepers produce.

  • Beeswax is a by product of honey making.

Did you know that beeswax is an important ingredient in moustache wax and hair pomades that make hair look sleek and shiny?
Well, we’re not going into that so how else can we use beeswax around the home other than for making beeswax candles?
Beeswax food wrap

I'm talking with Markaret Mossakowska of
Let’s find out

Did you know that you can also coat things with beeswax, like hand tools, cast iron pieces and shovels to prevent them from rusting out.
You can even rub beeswax on the wooden handle of your shovel to help protect against wear and tear.
NSW amateur beekeepers associations
The ABA currently has 20 clubs/branches around NSW.
There are also a number of areas where new clubs are being started.
If you need any help finding a club near you, please contact the ABA Secretary.
For listeners outside NSW there’s also a national body,
If you have any questions either for me or for Margaret you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Rhubarb  or botanically Rheum x hybridum.
Do you think of Rhubarb as a fruit?
  • You wouldn’t be the lone ranger on that one, because we’re used to eating it mainly in deserts, such as Rhubarb and apple crumble, or Rhubarb and Apple pie or strudel. 
  • But did you know that rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, which means it’s a member of the vegetable family.
  • If that’s a bit Confucius, in 1947, in the United States, a New York court decided since it was used as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.
  • Of course 5,000 years ago Rhubarb was used for medicinal purposes when Chinese people used the dried roots as a laxative. This is the Chinese variety of Rhubarb.
  • Different varieties of Rhubarb have different medicinal uses.

So what is Rhubarb?
Add caption
Rhubarb-the vegetable used as a fruits, is an herbaceous perennial.
Herbaceous because it dies down in winter except in warm climates, perennial because it regrows  from year to year.
Rhubarb has short, thick Rhizomes –the underground horizontal stem part of the plant.
The leaves are sort of triangular shaped and crinkly with small greenish flowers.
What we all like to eat is the long, thick (and tasty) petioles or stalks.
How do you prefer to eat your Rhubarb?
In sauces or pies, you can actually eat the stems raw in a salad or stewed.
Perhaps Rhubarb and ginger muffins or for something savory, how about rhubarb with pork or chicken with baked rhubarb?
Rhubarb crowns can be bought and planted in September if you live in, sub Tropical areas,
Temperate zones; July to September-October .
Cool temperate districts August to November in and for once, arid zones have hit the jackpot and can plant Rhubarb from July right through to February. Can’t get much better than that.
In temperate and cool climates the above ground parts of the plant completely withers away during the colder months, so don’t be alarmed, your plant hasn’t died it’s just dormant.
Unless of course the winter has been warmer than usual and you’re growing it in a pot.
It’s probably still got leaves and is flowering now.
Rhubarb crowns
But apart from that,you can buy the dormant crowns now and plant them right now.
Rhubarb can be grown in pots as long as the pot is large enough, say 30 cm wide.
In fact there’s a variety called Ruby Red Dwarf that’s perfect for potted gardening because it has short thick stems that are bright red.
IMPORTANT TIP: In case you think you can also eat the leaves-DON’T.
The leaves contain oxalic acid and are toxic.
There’s no safe method of using them in cooking at all.
A few vegetables have oxalic acid but in this case the concentrations of oxalic acid is way too high and it’s an organic poison and corrosive.
Other toxins may also exist.
Rhubarb is usually propagated by planting pieces or divisions of 'crowns' formed from the previous season.
Dividing Rhubarb for re-Planting
If you have a friend that grows rhubarb, ask them to make divisions by cutting down through the crown between the buds or 'eyes' leaving a piece of storage root material with each separate bud. 
This is a good way to share your plant with friends.

  • Divide your Rhubarb in Autumn or winter when it’s dormant but here’s another tip- not before it’s at least five years old.
  • Rhubarb is a heavy feeder, that means needs lots of fertiliser during the growing season.
  • Use large amounts of organic matter like cow manure mulches applied in late autumn and work that mulch carefully into the soil around the crowns.

Tip:Use only aged manures, not something fresh from the paddock, or you will get fertiliser toxicity which will stop the plant from thriving and you might even risk losing your rhubarb plant.
  • During the active growing season you will also need a side-dress of fertiliser using some sort of complete fertiliser at three-monthly intervals do this also after you picked off some Rhubarb stalks for dinner as well. 

You don’t have to dig up your rhubarb plant, as it’ll last for 10-15 years. So plant it in a place that’s permanent, otherwise choose the pot alternative.
  • The biggest question people have about rhubarb is why aren’t the stems red yet?

There’s good news and then there’s bad news.
  • The good news, stems stay green for the first few years on some cultivars, but they will eventually turn red.
  • If you have bought a crown that claimed it would be red-stemmed and you’rs isn’t, there is a simple answer.
  • The soil is too acidic so add lime.
  • One of the main reasons for acidic soil around the rhubarb is when the leaves dye down and are left to decompose on the soil, they acidify it.
  • On others, especially those grown from seed, they will always be green and this is because seed grown rhubarb isn’t always reliably red, even if the seeds came from a red stemmed parent plant.
  • So the bad news for you is that these plants will always be green.
If you really want red stems, and I don’t advocate adding red food colouring to the cooking, either look out for a friend or neighbour with rhubarb that has red stems, and ask for a piece or order some red ones now.
You don’t have to be online, there’s nothing wrong with the post and all companies will be happy to post a catalogue to you free of charge.
There isn’t much that goes wrong with Rhubarb …although some districts may get mites in the leaves or borers in the stem.
Unless you are growing plants in really heavy clay, you won’t get crown rot either.
Some varieties for you to try-and I’ll bet you can’t decide which one-I’m still thinking.
Rhubarb-Big Boy and Mount Tamborine-originally from Queensland and almost never seen in the supermarket-they reckon that the large stems are too big for the shelves.
Rhubarb Cherry Red and Winter Wonder-grown by market gardeners in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland. Sometimes seen at farmers markets.
Why is Rhubarb a vegetable Hero?
The good news is that rhubarb is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol.
It’s also a good source of Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese.
So Apple and Rhubarb Crumble for you then?


When a community garden sets up in your district are you excited or non-plussed?
What things do they get up to anyway?

Let’s find out. I'm talking with Nicole Miranda from the Happy Hens Community garden in Henley.
If you are interested in joining the community garden at Henley you need to first register your interest by filling in a form from their website
 Feel free to tend to the Henley Green Community Garden at any time.
We meet every Friday from 10am - 12 noon Monday from 9 - 11am and Sunday 3 to 5pm
at Henley Green Community Garden
If you have any questions for me or for Nicole, please write in to


Wattles:Acacia species.
Family: Mimosaceae, 1, 000 species out of 1350 worldwide originate originate in Australia.
Australia's Acacias have a huge range of flower and leaf shape. Some have fern like foliage, others have leaves like they should belong on a gum tree. 
Flower colour is mainly yellow, followed by cream, but one outstanding cultivar has red flowers.
Acacia leprosa "Scarlet Blaze."

Most of the species flower during the end of winter or the beginning of spring. The most common Acacia, the Golden Wattle (Arcacias pycnantha) is found in the South Eastern parts of Australia, and the hotter and drier climates.

Acacia pycnantha or Golden Wattle tree, is a shrub of about 4-8 metres. 
Vase life:4-6 days.
I'm talking with Floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini of
Video was recorded live during broadcast of Real World Gardener radio show on 2RRR, 88.5fm Sydney.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Jacky Winter, Loofahs and Alocasias

We’re talking about a small brown native bird with a lovely voice in Wildlife in Focus, growing something we can use to wash with; in Vegetable Heroes. Choosing a tropical look in plant of the week and getting back into indoor plants in design elements.


Jacky Winter:Microeca fascinans
If someone asked you what bird sings loudly from high trees that sounds like a whistling call "chwit-chwit-chwit-queeter-queeter-queeter", would you hazard a guess or be completely in the dark?
This bird happens to be Jacky Winter and is almost sparrow like in its appearance, weighing only 15 grams.
Jacky Winter
Let’s find out more?
I'm talking with Dr Holly Parsons from

Native to Australia, Jacky Winter is widespread in open woodland , preferring bare ground, rural towns and peri-urban areas.
An insect eating bird that dars out from its perch onto open ground but then flies back to that same perch or perhaps another nearby.
Very acrobat in the way they chase their insect prey.
Jacky Winter builds a cup shaped nest which is often positioned on a dead branch so it blends in better.
Bird Calls:
Bird call recognition can be tricky, especially if there’s no chance of seeing the bird, but have no fear.
There are apps for your mobile phone which allows you to record the call and it will identify it for you.
There’s even one called Shazam.
 If you have any questions for me or for Holly email us at
you can write in to 2RRR PO Box 644, Gladesville NSW 1675


Loofah or Gourd: Lagenaria siceraria
Gourds, not Gawd but Gourds those funny shaped vegetables that provide more that just food.
 from the Cucurbitaceae family.
According to one website there is a claim “that Gourds are the worlds most versatile vegetable?”
  • Did you know that Gourds have been around since 7000 BC and are thought to originate from Africa not far from the Sahara or even India? 
  • Here’s something you didn’t realise, Because seed can germinate after 7 months in seawater, it’s thought that the spread of this plant was from just floating around in the ocean.

Gourds are a bit of a mystery as to why they grow some many shapes, textures and sizes.
A bit like the mystery that evolved in my garden.
Mystery in my garden
  • I couldn’t remember planting loofah and when the vine grew I noted the somewhat different yellow flower, almost like flowers of cucumbers but not.
  • Then when this long green fruit grew, I thought, maybe I mistakenly planted zucchini.
  • When quite a number of these fruits grew to about 30 cm long, I decided to try one. It was horrible, in fact more than horrible, yuk. 
  • Then a friend visited and pointed out that I was growing loofahs.
  • Ah yes, now I remember.
  • She said the only time to eat them was when they were really small because after that they become bitter. Got it.

Loofah of course is in the gourd family.
Did you know that that some loofahs or gourds can grow to as long as 2m?
They are so easy to grow, whether you are a gardener or a beginner, gourds have something to offer everyone.
If you can grow pumpkins, then you can grow gourds.
You may even have fun discovering the different shapes and colours.
When to sow
  • In tropical climates, they grow all year round, so those gardeners can have 2 crops of gourds every year.
  • For the rest of Australia, it depends what part of Australia you live in, normally from Spring (mid September to early December) after the danger of frost has passed.
  • In temperate climates, sow the seed when temperatures are around 200C to 300C.
  • In colder climates this means waiting until summer weather has come.

Text books say that to grow Gourds or loofahs, soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water.
I don’t remember doing this so it mustn’t be essential.
Sow the seeds in mounds of well composted soil about 30cm ( a ruler length) apart. 
The seeds should be planted around 2 cm deep.

Growing luffa requires a certain amount of patience.
 It's not a typical garden plant.
It grows slower than most gourds.
Add some organic pellets of fertiliser to the planting hole, and back fill with some more of the same fertiliser.
The Loofah vines can grow 30 feet(10m) long over the course of a growing season but you can trim it.
  •  Once the fruits form it may take a long time to fully develop fibre and dry for harvest.
Then the work of picking, peeling, and cleaning happens late in the year.
Luffa needs about 140 to 200 or more warm frost free days, depending on the location and variety grown.
  • Mine grew into winter then my friend said, bring them inside and dry them.
  • If you’re interested in growing loofah in Cool temperate areas, start the seeds off in pots, well before the last frost, that way you can extend your growing season.
  • It needs lots of sun, warmth, water, good root nutrients, and a large strong trellis.
  • The vines will grow on the ground on a well drained weed-free flat surface but tend to produce curved loofahs.
  • Luffa can also be grown in pots as can all other Gourds, but make them at least 30cm wide.
  • It’s also a good idea to stop the plant growing when it reaches about 1.5m by pruning off the tip.
  • This also increases the number of Loofah fruits that you get off your vine.
When the weather heats up, add layers of sugar cane mulch or something similar so the plant doesn’t dry out. Or you may lose your Gourd or in this case Loofah!
  • Tip: Gourd plants don’t transplant that well, so either use one of those pots made from coco peat, or a jiffy pot, that can be planted into the soil, or plant them where you want them to grow.
Because they’re a climbing plant, train the stems onto trees, over fences, that garden shed, or frames with 15cm mesh netting.
If your area doesn’t have high rainfall of between 800-1200mm per year, don’t worry, you still can grow gourds as long as you keep them well watered.
To keep them growing well, add a liquid feed of fish emulsion, or worm tea every three weeks.
One problem you may get, and it’s the same with pumpkins is lack of fruit set.
The separate male and female flowers may come out at the wrong time, or it’s cloudy, windy rainy when they come out, and that will mean the mainly bee pollinators won’t visit them.
Try some hand pollination. That’ll work.
Hand pollination is a very simple procedure.
It simply involves shaking or tapping pollen from the male flower (that you have picked) over the female flower. You can pollinate several female flowers with just one male flower.
It’s very easy to tell male from female flowers as the female flower will have the small gourd shape below the flower, and the male flower grows on a stem without the ball shape below the flower.
The flower, by the way is a single perfumed white or yellow flower that opens in the evenings and only lasts for one night.
Vines will start growing fruit after 3-4 months,

When to pick your loofah is the big question.

If the skin feels loose like it will come off easily, then it's ready.
The loofah gourd will also have changed from green to brown  or even yellow and feels a lot lighter.
The skin feels loose and thinner when they are ready to pick.
  • In my case it was hanging on and staying green, so my friend said ,it’s big enough, time to let it dry inside the house. If it feels like it can be peeled easily then it’s ready.

    Peeling Your Loofah photo M. Cannon
  • The bottom tip of the luffa pod can be broken off and many seeds can be shaken out before peeling. Seeds should be allowed to dry before storing so they don't get mouldy.
  • Peel your loofah, give it a bit of a wash under the tap and let it dry in the sun.
  • Loofahs can be kept for years as long as they’re dry and dust free.
  • "Imagine!" being able to grow your own bath sponge!
  • Yes, that’s right those expensive sponges used for exfoliating while bathing or showering-Luffa Cylcindrica?
 Are gourds edible?
Some people eat the gourd fruit when it is very young.
However as the fruit matures it has a sour, bitter taste. It’s really bad, believe me.
Apparently the young fruits are rich in Pectin and are popular in tropical Africa and Asia in stews and curries.
If you were interested in eating them •they are low in Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol, and high in dietary fibre, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Zinc, Thiamin, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.


Alocasia species
For an instant tropical feel, plants with large leaves are one of the main choices.
Some of these belong in the Alocasia family originating from a bulb or rhizome.
But will they grow in your district.
Alocasia amazonica
Let’s find out
That was Jeremy Critchley

Jeremy mentioned these varieties of Alocasi to watch out for.
Alocasia macrorrhiza, Alocasia zebrina and Alocasia amazonica, are all outstanding cultivars.
The latter has very dark green leaves with prominent veins, edged in white, while the back of the leaf is purple.
Slow growing but hates the cold.
Jeremy thinks that it looks a bit like an African mask.
Don’t be like me and forgot they die down in winter.
Luckily I didn’t throw it out.


Indoor Plants for Warm Climates
The most important elements required for healthy houseplants include light, water, temperature and humidity.
If any or all of these factors aren’t properly met, your houseplants will inevitably suffer.
You might be sweltering under the fans in the heat of a subtropical summer but what about your indoor plants?
Can they cope or is this the climate where they thrive the best?
So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.
I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

The good news is that tropical plants usually enjoy warmer conditions and don’t perform well once indoor temperatures fall below 13-16 C.
Plus they like a lot of humidity, that means at least 50%, but better at 70% or more.
Most of the tropical, ornamental indoor plants with attractive foliage & colourful leaf patterns are suitable for hot & humid climates.
For example Dieffenbachia or Dumb Cane, Dracaena, house ferns of many kinds, Tricolor plant, snake plant, Philodendron, Money plant, Syngonium etc

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Seeds, Indoor Plants and Mint with Celery

We’re talking about why some seeds fail in the Plant Doctor segment, growing a different type of celery; in Vegetable Heroes. Mint is good for you in plant of the week and getting back into indoor plants in design elements.

Plant Doctor

Why Seeds Fail.
Some say that rules are meant to be broken but in the instance of seed sowing, I say these rules are meant to be adhered to.

Seeds photo M Cammpm

Are you the type of gardener that breaks rules such as the first rule?
The first rule when it comes to sowing seed, is to sow at the correct times of the year for your district.
But there are plenty of other reasons why seeds fail.
Let’s find out why? I'm talking with Steve Falcioni from

There are quite a few good reasons why seeds can fail for example, some seeds are more sensitive to temperatures and refuse to budge if it’s not within their preferred range. 
Seeds that are old or have been stored incorrectly, say in your garden shed which heats up to over 30 Celsius in summer. 
Seeds drying out if planted too shallowly, or running out of energy because they’re planted to deeply.
Some seeds need darkness to germinate, like pansies, but others need light to germinate. Lettuce need light, for success with these seeds, just press the seeds into the soil surface.
Good drainage for great success, eg cactus and lithop seeds need excellent drainage.
This can mean if they’re sitting in the soil longer, there’s more chance of them rotting off.
So apart from old seeds, the main reasons belong in the environmental category.
If you have any questions for me or for Steve email us at


Celery Leaf is botanically-(Apium graveolens var. secalinum).
Herb-Celery Leaf , Leaf Celery or Chinese Celery.
  • Did you think there was only the celery with the stalks?
  • Maybe you’ve heard of Celeriac, well that’s a type of Celery too, but instead of stalks, it’s a bulbous root.

Well, there’s also a type of Celery that’s all leaf and nothing much else.
  • Before you say, I chuck the leaves away from the stalk celery, I say, hang on, this one tastes a bit better than those.
  • Celery Leaf looks a bit like parsley but tastes similar but slightly better than regular stalk celery!
  • Some say it tastes a little stronger than stalk celery or celeriac.
Leaf Celery has been around for a long time and was in fact used by the ancient Romans as a medicinal herb.
Supposedly, Celery seed has been used for around 3000 years as a seasoning for food.
  • Did you know that crushed celery seeds are steam distilled to make celery oil?
  • This oil is used for flavouring sauces, meats, liqueurs, perfumes, cosmetics and soaps.
Some gardeners have run out of room in their veggie bed already-full of tomatoes, Basil and whatnot.
Never fear, Leaf Celery will grow in pots because it’s a compact plant that only gets to around 20 – 25 cm.
Leaf Celery
If you live in a cool temperate district, container veggies can be moved under cover during winter.
Leaf Celery is a darker green with thin stalks and leaves that look like a cross between the Italian Parsley and the Curley Parsley.
  • Celery leaf is perfect for container gardens because it’s a cut and come again plant and is great used as a herb in stews, dressings and salads.

When To Plant
In cool temperate districts, Spring and Summer are your sowing times.
In temperate and sub-tropical zones, you have from Spring right through to Autumn, in arid areas, the only time you can’t really sow it is in summer, and tropical districts win the jackpot, because they can sow it all year round.
How to grow:
  • From putting the seed into the ground or pot, it’ll take around 2-3 months.
  • Like most veggies, Leaf Celery needs full sun but can do alright in part shade in soil that’s not too dry.
  • You can start them off in punnets if you like because they don’t mind being transplanted.
  • Keep in mind, Leaf Celery isn’t frost tolerant.
  • Sow the very fine seeds thinly, and only 5mm (1/4”) deep.
  • Be careful not to cover the fine seeds too much because they need light to germinate.
  • For fine seeds I tend to use a light cover of vermiculite which I then mist to make moist.

They can be slow to germinate taking up to 21 days at 100C-180C, so be patient.
In warmer areas, seedlings should emerge in 1-2 weeks.

Once the seeds have germinated it’s a good idea to thin them out around 30cm (12”) apart.
TIP: number 1: Don’t let them dry out.
TIP: number 2:-If you believe in companion planting, then leaf Celery is supposed to be an insect repellent for cabbage white butterfly.
Try planting some around your Brassicas like Broccoli, Cauli, and Cabbage.
TIP: number 3 and now for the Celery Seed.
If you leave your Celery leaf over winter, the plant will bolt to seed in Spring.
What can you do with that?
Apart from replanting fresh seed, the seeds are actually edible.
Ever heard of Celery salt?
What you can also do is grind it up in your mortar and pestle with a little sea salt. Better than from the supermarket shelf.
Plus you can enjoy the dainty white umbels of flowers.
After a couple of months, pick leaves as you need them to put in soups, stews, stocks and sauces.
A few leaves go well in salads with a strong blue cheese or some or cured meats.
Why is it good for you?
The leaves are brimming with five times more magnesium and calcium than the stalks. They're also a rich source of vitamin C and antioxidant’
The good thing is Leaf Celery is low in carbs, and has even a small amount of fibre


Mint:Piperita officinalis-Peppermint: Mentha spicata-Common Mint or Spearmint
Even non gardeners would be familiar with the mint herb and many would have imbibed peppermint tea, and perhaps even eaten after dinner mints.
But which mint helps you sleep and which mint helps with a sore stomach?
Let’s find out
I'm talking with was Simone Jefferies, naturopath and herbalist of 

A herb that grows well where it is a bit damp and shady.
Simone says, "mint has a sense of humour, because in Simone's garden, it pops up almost anywhere, including cracks in the pavement. "
Peppermint tea
You can easily buy peppermint plants as well as the many other different varieties of mint.
There are many types of mint: eau de cologne mint, mojito mint, ginger mint, and banana mint.
Banana mint sounded quite delicious and may be an ideal addition to ice cold water on a warm summer’s day.
Benefits of Mint
Peppermint Mint is a calming and soothing herb that has been used for thousands of years to aid with upset stomach or indigestion.
Mint is a mild sedative and can be used just before going to sleep as a calmative.
Cooking with Mint
Mint Sauce-handful of mint, add some sugar, vinegar and boiling water.
Add to steamed peas.
Tabbouleh: 1/3 mint; 2/3 parsley, cracked wheat, spring onions, cucumber  (if desired.)
If you have any questions for me or for Simone, please write in to


Indoor Plants:  Introduction
Did you know that NASA has carried out a Clean air Study to figure out which plants help to clean the air in our homes and offices?
Selection of indoor plants about to be potted up. photo: M Cannon
These plants are best at cleaning the air to eliminate toxins.
Toxins like benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
So let’s find out more in this new series on indoor plants.
I'm talking with Julia Levitt, Landscape Designer and Director of

Indoor plants not only look attractive, brighten up gloomy areas and generally improve our moods, but they also have an added benefit of cleaning the air.
Those chemicals that I mentioned are all common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted into the air in our homes by everyday items such as furniture, carpets and common household appliances as well as air fresheners, hair products and nail polish. Wow!
If you have any questions about indoor plants why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675