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Monday, 26 April 2021

Australian Native Grasses and Other Clumping and Interesting Perennials

 PLANTS OF THE WEEK

Common Name: Kangaroo Grass
Scientific Name: Themeda australis/Themeda triandra
Family: Poaceae
Leaves: tufted native perennial grass with greeny blue leaves to 50cm.
Flowers: -from December to April. Flowers are typical grassy flowers with large red-brown spikelets, which occur on branched stems. 
Height: 1.5m tall by 0.5m wide.
Distribution: All over Australia
Interesting fact Indigenous Australians harvested it to make bread and string for fishing nets around 30,000 years ago.
Not a lawn substitute.
Hardiness: drought resistant, tolerant of extremes in temperature.
Growing from seed: 
Source your seed from a local area so the resultant plant is well adapted to your growing conditions.
Can be dormant up to 12 months.  
Kangaroo Grass does not transplant well but success if you're trying to germinate the seeds yourself, try using square tube stock pots which air prune the roots and stop the seedlings becoming root bound. 
When planted out, water crystals and slow release fertiliser should be placed in the hole with the seedling, it should then be watered in well.
Situation: Full sun or part shade in any type of soil.
I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

Nr 2
Common Name: Matt rush
Scientific Name: Lomandra hystrix: L. longifolia
Family: Xanthorrhoeacea
Leaves: tufted grass-like perennial with dull or bright green leaves 40cm  to 1m in length. Leaf blades have very sharp edges. 
Flowers: -in summer with panicles or clusters of straw coloured bracts. L. longifolia flowers are scented.
Height: many cultivars are now available but the species usually are 1.5m tall by 1.5m wide.

Distribution: All over Australia
Interesting factThe white starchy bases were chewed by Aboriginal people especially if they needed an energy boost on long walks. The seed was pounded and made into flour or eaten whole and mixed with native honey. The strappy leaves were used to weave baskets for carrying food as well as making eel traps and nets.
  • Grows from an underground rhizome, so if the plant dies off, it can resprout.
Hardiness: drought and frost resistant, tolerant of extremes in temperature.
Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks. Can also lie dormant for up to 12 months before germinating.
Situation: Full sun or part shade in any type of soil.

Which Lomandra is best for your garden?

  • Little Con:Petite, compact, resilient, our shortest lomandra at up to 30cm, and a perfect no-mow groundcover.
  • Evergreen Baby:Slightly bigger than Little Con, compact to 45 cm. Hardy, ideal for rockeries and suited to almost all soil types. Very popular. 
  • Verday:Compact to 50cm. Tough as old boots, hardy, long-lived once established. Frost tolerant and puts up with almost any location or condition. 
  • Little Pal:Very fine slender leaves and a better performance in shady spots make this 50cm lomandra a fine addition to garden borders. 
  • Little Cricket: Long broad leaves reach to 50cm then cascade in an a generous fountain of foliage, like a mini Lomandra hystrix. 
  • Nyalla:Medium height to 80cm. Graceful, slender blue-green, cascading leaves. Good in dry spots, in full sun or shade. Frost tolerant, and robust in salt-laden winds and coastal locations.
I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

Nr 3
Common Name: Blue Flax lillies
Scientific Name: Dianella revoluta; D. caerulea
Family: Asphodelaceae
Leaves: tufted clump forming perennial growing from a rhizome; with dull or bright bluish to green linear leaves 40cm  to 1.5m in length. 
Flowers: -spring to summer with with deep blue to purple racemes. The flowers stalks are held tall above the foliage and often have branching.
Fruits: blue to bright purple berries that stay on the plants for many months.
Height: many cultivars are now available from dwarf to 1.7m including the flower spike.
Distribution: All over Australia
Interesting fact: Indigenous people ate the berries during the summer months. The strappy leaves were also woven into bags and nets. The leaf when folded was also used as a snake whistle..
Hardiness: drought and frost resistant.
Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks. Can also be propagated by division.
Uses: rockeries; bird attracting garden, native garden; bushland garden;

Which Dianella for your garden?

  • Dianella 'Little Jess."dwarf  40cm high x 40cm wide.
  • Dianella 'Breeze" 40% larger than little Jess. 60 – 70cm high x 60 – 70cm wide
  • Cassa Blue: blue leaves;  50cm high x 40cm wide.
  • Dianella 'Tas Red' -will often get a red base in cold climates, or even change from green to green with reddish tinges at times. It has a dense tidy appearance with beautiful wide leaves and large purple berries in spring and summer,45cm high x 40-50cm wide
I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

nr 4
Common Name: Stout Bamboo Grass; Pillar of Smoke (known in the US)
Scientific Name: Austrostipa ramosissima
Family:Poaceae
Leaves: an attractive tall tufted perennial grass with a short rhizome but differs because of its culms (stems) with whorled branches. The stems are bamboo-like.
Flowers: -spring to summer with creamy-white, spreading panicle that is 8 to 50 cm long with striking long, bent awns on the seeds. Feathery feel to the flowers.

Height: 1-2.5m tall forming a sizeable clump over time.
Distribution: from south eastern Queensland to far south eastern New South Wales, with isolated spots in north eastern Queensland and central New South Wales
Interesting factused in landcare revegetation projects to attract seed eating birds and control erosion. Is an important habitat for butterflies and small birds, and a plentiful food source for wombats.
Hardiness: drought and frost resistant.
Growing from seed: Fresh seed will germinate in a couple of weeks if using smoke treatment such as wildflower seed starter. Can also be propagated by division.
Uses: bird and insect attracting garden, native garden; bushland garden; hedging for a few years, but will need replacing by pulling out the parent plants and letting new seedlings that have self-sown,
Maintenance:Mature plants can be cut back hard to just aboveground level in late winter to reinvigorate and encourage new growth. It is a relatively low maintenance species but some selective weeding may be necessary as there is potential for seedlings to spread throughout the garden.


I'm talking with Adrian O'Malley, native plant expert and horticulturist.

 


Saturday, 20 March 2021

Butterfly Gardening and How to Get Them into Your Garden

 BUTTERFLY GARDENING

Part 1: First Things First-what plants and how do they know which to land on?

Are you bemoaning the lack of butterflies in your garden?

Would you love to have more butterflies visit your garden, no matter how small or big it is?
Did you know that butterflies look for specific food plants or that they have a preferred temperature to flit about in?
The Monarch butterfly (pictured below)  was in my garden on buddleia bush 'Black Knight'  
Butterflies have a preferred range of plants so it pays to know what butterflies you have in your area and what plants they might like to feed on.

Monarch Butterfly on Buddleja ' Black Knight photo M Cannon
Steve mentions a good read  on the subject of butterflies is a book co-authored by Helen Schwencke, 
Create More Butterflies: a guide to 48 butterflies and their host-plants for south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.
Some plant suggestions to get those winged beauties into your garden are:
  • Native senna cultivars are high on the list of plants that attract butterflies.
  • Blunt-leaf Senna there (Senna gaudichaudii), but there’s also the corky milk vine (Secamone elliptica) and emu foot, (Cullen tenax) a trailing native plea vine.
  • Think also about the native finger lime, great for container planting.
  • A lot of native butterflies will be drawn to your garden if you have the right flowers for them at the right time of the year.
The further you go south, the butterfly visits will be more seasonal.
  • Migrating butterflies are driven by the season's, wind direction and amount of rainfall.
Their preferred temperature range is between 23-27 degrees Centigrade.
How  do they find what they need?

The  antenna (mainly on males) is used to detect what food is available and if other male butterflies are present.

Females, however, can also use their feet. Chemoreceptors on their legs help them to choose their food plants.

Let’s find out more
I'm talking with  Steve McGrane, horticulturist, ecological agriculturist and garden writer.

Butterfly Gardening

 part 2:

So you've listened to part 1 where we talked about what plants butterflies prefer, and in particular, what type of plants the caterpillars of these butterflies like to eat.
    Butterfly House Blenheim Palace, England, photo M Cannon

  • But what else do butterflies like and what should you be wary of using in your garden if you want to keep those butterflies and bees coming to visit?
What do butterflies need to survive?
WATER: Butterflies are like bees, they don't like to land on a large body of water. They want to land where their mouthpieces can take up the water. A dish of water with a stone in it will provide their water needs.
SHADE: When they're eating or laying eggs, butterflies prefer semi-shade, one of the  reasons is that they camouflage themselves better.
FOOD FOR CATERPILLARS: Don't go overboard with worry about a few eaten leaves on your citrus,, or other plants because of the odd caterpillar here and there.  Remember, that caterpillar on your citrus or some other plant, may not be doing as much damage as you think. Not all caterpillars are as destructive as say the white cabbage moth caterpillar. Identify it first, then decide to leave it alone or feed it to the chooks.
  • DON'T USE PESTICIDES, THESE ARE HARMFUL TO ALL BUTTERFLIES
Remember, the butterfly lifecycle is quite short, a mere two weeks before they pupate.
Butterflies pupating, butterfly house, Blenheim Palace, England. photo M Cannon

PLAY: Butterfly gardening pt 2_17thFebruary 2021

Let’s find out more
I'm talking with  Steve McGrane, horticulturist, ecological agriculturist and garden writer.

If you have any questions either for me or for Steve you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.




La Niña and the Kitchen Garden

 THE KITCHEN GARDEN

La Niña and your produce garden

Torrential rain is lashing the east coast of Australia as a write this while the west coast of enjoys a hot spell. Without sounding too dramatic, we’re starting off the kitchen garden segment with a topic about how the changing weather patterns are affecting the vegetable garden. At the moment Australia is in the grip of La Niña, a complex weather pattern, that bought rain for much of summer and now is causing flooding in many areas.
Last year's summer was quite different with bushfires in most parts of Australia.
Torrential rain driven by La Niña in my garden.

We’re not so much spruiking climate change, but really it’s more about what you the gardener can do to mitigate problems in the veggie patch because of climate events like La Niña.

This summer, the produce garden is seeing cooler temperatures during the day, increased humidity, and higher night temperatures because of the consistent cloud cover.

For those gardeners on clay soil, the soil is staying damp even during the drier periods. Veggies do not like their roots in constant water.

For those gardeners who haven't prepared their gardens for these events, they may find collar rot around citrus and other fungal problems in the kitchen garden.

The answer for clay soil in produce gardens is build raised beds. Not only does this improve drainage, but saves all that bending to ground level.

Powdery mildew is a problem with all gardens in humid weather, particularly when the crops are coming to their end of their production.

Toni recommends using a bi-carbonate spray to change the pH of the leaf surface so that the fungus cannot thrive. This is only a preventative measure. Once the mildew takes hold.

Bicarb soda recipe:
1/2 teaspoon of sodium bi-carbonate
450ml water
couple of drops of vegetable oil to help emulsify it.

Spray both leaf surfaces well until run-off. Re-apply after rain.Other problems can be fruit not ripening such as tomatoes staying green because of the lack of sunny days.

Dwarf beans are all descended from climbing beans when they perceive low light levels they will begin throwing out tendrils and revert to climbing beans. This can be just a run of cloudy days or overshadowing by trees or a neighbouring building.

Let’s find out-I'm talking with Toni Salter, the Veggie Lady. www.theveggielady.com 
PLAY: La Nina pt1_27th January 2021

If you have any questions either for me or for Toni you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Friday, 19 March 2021

Tonka Bean Flavour Is Great in Cooking

 SPICE IT UP

Tonka Bean
If you have thought that vanilla was a flavour all on its own, you would be wrong. Here is another bean that not only qualifies as a substitute for vanilla, but also for nutmeg.
Common Name: Tonka Bean, sometimes known as Brazilian teak.
Scientific Name: Dipteryx odorata
Family: Fabaceae
Fruit:The highly fragrant bean from a flowering tree in the pea family
Height: 25-30 metres. Grey outerbark with inner red wood.
Qualities: the presence of coumarin in the beans give the seed its odour or perfume.
Flavour: Marzipan like



Like a lot of members of the pea family that are trees, tonka beans starts as a pod on a tree. 
The pod contains a single bean which is dried like so many other spices.
It’s used in the same dishes that you used vanilla or nutmeg for, like shortbread biscuits, custards, cream brulee' and so on.

To harvest the pods, they are picked when fully mature and have fallen to the ground.  Then they are broken open with a hammer to reveal a wrinkled oblong 2.5cm seed.
When this bean is cut in half lengthwise, it has a creamy white centre.
  • These beans are placed in the sun to dry, activating the enzymes within the bean.
  • But did you know this bean has been banned in America since 1954 because of the coumarin present? Coumarin is also present in cinnamon and that's not banned!
Tonka beans may be grated like nutmeg before adding to a recipe or soaked in warm water or milk to infuse the flavour.
  • Tonka is a strong spice, so only use in similar proportions to nutmeg.
I you wish to grow the tree yourself, it's a very pretty flowering tree suited to the tropics and sub-tropics. Not a tree for frost prone areas. The plant itself is not available for sale in Australia, but you can buy the seeds from overseas sellers.



I am talking with Ian Hemphill from www.herbies.com.au
Let’s find out more
PLAY: :Tonka Bean_20th January 2021
If you have any questions either for me or for Ian you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

Everything From Billy Buttons, Everlastings, Flannel Flowers and Kangaroo Paws

PLANT OF THE WEEK

Some plants you just love their flowers, some just have fabulous leaves, but here’s a plant, even though on the small side, packs a punch with bright golden flowers and grey leaves that would fit into any style garden.

Scientific name:Craspedia globosus syn. Pycnosorus

Common name:Billy buttons, drumsticks.
Flowers:  golden-yellow tennis ball like spheres made up of tiny flowers on long stalks 80cm-100cm
Leaves: a rosette of grey green leaves above an underground rhizome.  
Interesting fact: Billy Buttons were part of the flower arrangement that were presented to medal winners of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Hardiness: tolerates light frost and extended periods of dry weather. Don't like wet weet.

Billy Buttons are very famous for being very long lasting cut flowers, their bright yellow spherical flowers can be dried like other native daisies and used in floral arrangements for months.

In areas with high humidity, treat them as an annual as they will succumb to fungal problems. Easily grown from seed but use wildflower seed starter to break the dormancy of the seed. 
Let’s find out more
I'm talking with was Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.
PLAY: Billy Buttons_13th January 2021


PLANT OF THE WEEK
Rhodanthe chlorocephala
Paper daisies
Some people call them paper daisies, some call them everlastings but as we say on Real World Gardener, don’t be fooled with common names because they are most often applied to an array of plants.


Scientific name: Rhodanthe chlorocephala
Common name: pink & white everlasting
Family: Asteraceae
Flowers: from winter to spring, daisy like flowers 1-6cm in diameter, composed of white or pink papery bracts. Heads normally appear singly, but tip pruning will encourage branching to produce multiple flower heads.
Position: full sun in well drained, even sandy soils. easily propagated from seed. Best sown in late autumn or early winter.  If conditions are right, they will self-seed, otherwise collect the seed when the flowers turns into a fluffy head.Store the seed head in a paper bag until next season.

Whatever you call them, it’s something even beginner gardeners can grow to pretty up their patch.

Australia's version of meadow planting can be easily achieved with these paper daisies or
everlastings. All you need to do is scatter 1 gm of seeds per square metre and rake gently into the soil. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days if kept moist. Expect a carpet of flowers as you would see in Western Australia.
Rhodanthe chlorocephala subspecies rosea is the most widely grown subspecies and is commonly known as “Pink and White Everlasting”, “Rosy Sunray”, “Pink Paper-daisy” and “Rosy Everlasting.”
The flowers can be dried like other native daisies and used in floral arrangements for months.
Let’s find out more, I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.


PLANT OF THE WEEK

Flannel Flowers: Actinotus helianthi
Here’s one for the lover of all things flowers, this little sub-shrub is in flower for most of the year.
The flannel flower is one of the most recognisable Australian native flowers and Adrian says it's a very tactile plant because of the soft woolly feel of the grey-green foliage.
The creamy-white flowers occur in clusters, and the entire plant has a soft woolly feel because of soft white hairs.
Looking like a daisy, but it’s not in the daisy family, instead it’s in the same family as the carrot, dill, celery and parsley.
Scientific name: Actinotus helianthi
Common name:Flannel Flowers
Family: Apiaceae
Flowers: a simple daisy flower flower with cream to white petals (bracts) tipped green. Flower size varies depending on soil conditions in which it grows but can be 3-8cm. Peak flower is Spring, with spot flowering throughout the year.
Leaves: Grey green and woolly to the touch because of the soft hairs.
Hardiness: tolerates light frost, dislikes wet feet. Avoid watering the leaves to prevent fungal problems. Grows naturally in sandstone country where soil is a bare couple of cms.
Maintenance: Tip pruning will give you more side branching and more flowers. Cut off spent flowers with snips or secateurs. Tidy up the plant by cutting off dead or yellowing foliage.
Height: up to 1.5m but in the natural habitat,  Adrian has only seen flannel flowers growing to only around 80 cm.
Flowering occurs mainly in spring to early summer (September to December) and is followed by fluffy seeds in a globular head.
But how did it get its strange name common name?
Botanists associated the flower to the soft woolly feel of er flannel.
Let’s find out more
I'm talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.


PLANT OF THE WEEK

Kangaroo Paw: Anigozanthos spp

This next plant is the floral emblem of Western Australia where it has grown for millions of years.
The flowers, which bloom mostly in the spring and summer, are covered with a very thick, soft fuzz, making them look almost like velvet.
It’s also bird attracting and once a favourite of gardeners.

Common Name: Kangaroo Paw

Scientific name: Anigozanthos flavidus
Family: Haemdoraceae
Flowers: spring and summer are main flowering times. Fine coloured hairs cover the flower giving it, its flower colour. Flowers are a distinct shape which can only be described as that of a kangaroo's paw! Cultivars known as 'Bush Gems" come in all colours of the rainbow.
Hardiness:Develop a blackening of the leaves in humid climates, known as inkspot disease. Cut it down to ankle height with clean secateurs to renew the growth if this occurs.
Uses: Mass planted in borders, in cottage gardens, native gardens, rockeries and containers.
Make sure you find a good colour form as it is great bird attracting garden plant that can be a feature at the back of beds.

Remove the dead flower stems and their associated foliage after flowering.

Let’s find out more
I am talking with Adrian O’Malley, horticulturist and native plant expert.


Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Tight Topiary and Climbing Spinach

 TOOL TIME

Topiary Shears

During the warmer months of the year, your garden can start looking like a jungle because it’s growing so fast.
More so because of la nina bring welcoming rains to drench the parched soil.
What things can you do in the garden to tame it somewhat other than a short back and sides?
Have you thought of a bit of topiary?
You don't have to go all out and doing something like in this photo, although it is rather nice.

You could just do a few simple balls on a stick instead. 
But what tools help you do the job properly?

Normally you need to do the trimming fairly regularly and you're trimming the newer growth. 
Older wood may need a nip with secateurs.
  • The single handed topiary shears are great for small jobs such as perfecting that topiary ball. Topiary shears are similar to sheep sheers. (pictured)
  • Two handed topiary shears are a lightweight hedge shear usually weighing less than 1 kg. 
  • The blades are straight and vary between 20-25cm (8-10 inches) in length.
  • There's also battery operated one handed shears.
Starting your own topiary from scratch like the balls in the photo,  you need to choose the right type of plant that responds well to topiary. 

Think buxus species, lilly pillies, or the common myrtle,  (Myrtus communis) are great starting points to kick off your topiary garden.
Between each trim, step back and look at how you are progressing so it ends up symmetrical

Let’s find out what needs doing.
I'm talking with Tony Mattson general manager of www.cutabovetools.com.au


If you have any questions either for me or for Tony you can email us Realworldgardener@gmail.com or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.

VEGETABLE HEROES

 Malabar spinach

Is your spinach wilting in the heat or succumbing to all sorts of pests and diseases?

  • Ever thought of trying Malabar Spinach?

It’s also called Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, vine spinach, or Malabar nightshade?

Doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard of it before because you’re about to find out.

  • The one we’re focussing on is the red stemmed version or Scientifically it’s Basella alba 'Rubra'.

Malabar or Climbing Spinach originates in India but is also found naturally in Africa and other parts of Southeast Asia.

  • Did you know that an extract of the fruits of the red stemmed version of -Basella alba ‘Rubra’, have been used for hundreds of years as deep red dye for official seals and a natural form of rouge in cosmetics?The juice from the berries is so intensely purple that it puts beet juice to shame.A bit like Dianella berries I think.
  • In some countries, this juice is used as a natural food colorant for agar (vegetable "gelatine") dishes, sweets, and pastries.

Why it’s called Malabar spinach because it was first discovered in the Malabar region-on the south-west coast of India in dense tropical jungles, along coconut and pepper plantations.

  • So what does this spinach look like?

For lovers of all things romantic in the garden, you can’t go past another plant with heart shaped leaves even if you want to eat it.


  • Malabar spinach is a climbing plant not even related to true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) but grows large succulent heart shaped leaves that are a bit like spinach in taste.
  • The leaves are quite a bit more waxy to my way of thinking.I would describe it as crunchy and juicy when raw. The taste is slightly peppery with a bit of a citrusy flavour with hints of earthy spinach to it.
  • It’s not bad to eat, some say even delicious to eat, but I can’t say I use it a lot in cooking.More of an attraction in the garden with the leaves and the purple flowers followed by black berries.

The upside is that if you like your Spinach, this one’s is easy to grow and is much better suited for summer growing than Spinach itself.

When your lettuce and other salad greens are wilting, because Malabar spinach is a twining succulent (stores water in the leaves and stems), you’ll have plenty of greens for your salad.

Where to Grow

Malabar spinach does best in warmer areas from the tropics to warm temperate areas, where it can easily grow a 10cm per day.

In the tropics, Malabar spinach can grow 2-3 metres and wide and has small white-tinged pink to purple flowers in the leaf axils.

  • This plant isn’t frost tolerant and in temperate areas doesn’t grow anywhere near as tall as in tropical areas. In cool temperate districts, I would treat this plant as an annual, but yes you can grow it too!
  • If you’ve grown this plant before, you would know that the plant seems to die down in winter then re-shoots again in late spring. So don’t go thinking you’ve killed it at the end of autumn.

Why not try planting Malabar spinach on a trellis to make a backdrop for a display of other dark-leafed cultivars like—purple-stemmed sugarcane, black-leafed cotton, aubergine-coloured beets, kale, and Swiss chard.

Straight species Malabar spinach has yellowish stems and green leaves and looks nice enough, but it's the red-stemmed cultivar 'Rubra' that really stands out.

Red and green are opposites on the colour wheel and the combined effect is always a bit dramatic. The red veins in the leaves make it more so.


When the flowers are fertilised, small, attractive, single-seeded purple berries will grow.

It does self seed somewhat and I was able to gift seedlings to many of my friends.

How Does It Grow?

Basella alba grows best a humus-rich, sandy loam in full sun but will produce larger juicier leaves if grown in partial shade..

It grows easily from seed that has been sown in situ or you can start it off in a punnet.

Saving seed is easy too:

Simply dry the entire fruit and use it for planting the following year. Just make sure you store it dry in maybe a paper envelope.

The red-stemmed cultivar of Malabar spinach comes true from seed.

In a pot , it’s much more tame.

  • TIP: When you have a plant in season, tip cuttings will root readily in water so you can give other members of your garden club or other friends some plants.
  • Use any style of plant support you like: poles, teepees, chain-link fencing—I’m growing it up a trellis but it seems to have attached itself to a few other plants in the veggie bed.

Malabar spinach is insect and disease resistant, and that’s saying a lot; because at the moment, the grasshoppers are eating whopping big holes in my Kale and a bit of my spinach, but not touching the Malabar spinach.!

I am catching and squashing those hoppers!

Where do you get it? Plenty of those big box stores that have garden centres have it as well as your local garden centre or plant nursery.

Why is it good for you?

The succulent leaves and stem tips are rich in vitamins A and C and are a good source of iron and calcium. They may be eaten raw in salads, boiled, steamed, stir-fried, or added to soups, stews, tofu dishes, and curries. Or you can use them as a filling for quiche, omelets, or even a frittata!

Since red-stemmed Malabar spinach can lose a lot of its red colour when cooked, perhaps it is best in raw dishes.

A great way to use it is to plant it thickly in pots in spring, and when it’s growth takes off, pick the young shoots off daily for stir-fries & omelettes. Eventually it will get away from you by climbing or sprawling, but usually can be contained for a couple of months this way. The shoots are delicious & tender!

AND THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY


Friday, 26 February 2021

How to Grow Healthy Seedlings and Patty Pan Squash

 PLANT DOCTOR    

What's Going On With My Seedlings?

People have been turning to gardening in droves this year, and for one reason or another, they’re into growing their own food.
A lot of new gardeners, though, are finding it difficult to either get those seeds to germinate, or keep those seedlings going.

Here are some of the common problems:
  • Seeds germinate and grow for a while then die. Number 1 culprit is drying out.
    • Seedlings are for the most part growing in a shallow soil and all it takes is for a bit of warm weather, then unless you're there on the spot to water them, they shrivel up and die.
  • Seedlings growing in moist soil because you've somehow managed to keep them hydrated. If they keel over at this point, it's due to 'damping off.' The seedlings is attacked by fungal or bacterial infection, the end result of which is death of your seedlings.
  • Overwatering and poor airflow is another possibility.
  • Seaweed solution may help with overcoming this problem.
  • Watering with a tea with strong antimicrobial properties, such as strong chamomile or cinnamon tea may work as a preventative. 
  • Create a clean environment as possible by (a)sterilising your soil by placing it in the oven for 30 minutes at high temperatures and (b) wipe down pots and benches with a 10% solution of bleach. 
  • Seedlings just sitting with no growth for weeks are a sign of insufficient fertiliser. Water in a liquid fertiliser immediately and follow up as per dosage instructions. 
  • Although, one thing to watch out for:The seeds have germinated but mysteriously, the tops get chewed off. 
    I’m still wondering how the slug go into the closed mini-greenhouse and ate my basil seedlings.
Hopefully you’ll be inspired to get back into growing from seed and have all the information you need to get those seedlings going.

 So what help do they need? Let’s find out more by listening to the podcast.
I’m talking with Steve Falcioni from www.ecoorganicgarden.com.au

If you have any questions about seedlings, drop us a line to realworldgardener@gmail.com or write to 2rrr PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


VEGETABLE HEROES

Summer Button Squash is the yellow or green saucer shaped members of the Cucurbit family that includes pumpkins, melons and zucchinis. Cucurbita pepo.
If you don’t like the taste and texture of Button Squash, some even call patty pan squash, maybe you need to buy a different variety to zhuszh up your taste buds.

A Bit of History
Did you know that squash comes from a native American word which means eaten raw or uncooked?
No surprises that archaeologists have traced squash origins to Mexico, dating back from 7,000 to 5,500 BC.

  • In terms of nutrients, button squash give bananas a run for their money.

Button squash are small veggies that look a bit like space ships with scalloped edges. 
It’s a twining vine with large, broad, spiny, lobed leaves and an angled, prickly green stem.
Squash grow to between 3 and 5cm in size, and the vines like to spread out, but will follow a trellis if they’re tied to one. 

  • Seeds can be planted individually into small holes or planted on small mounds, three to five to a mound. If you’re doing the mound method, when the seeds sprout, pinch off the weakest vines until only the strongest one is left. It’s better to pinch off the weak vines, as pulling them will disturb the roots of the strong one.
  • Like a lot of vining veggies, they take up a lot of space, but one squash plant can produce a lot of squash. Unless you’re feeding an army only plant one or two mounds of squash then.

Flowers on Squash, where are they?

Squash have male and female flowers that bees, flies, wasp or other creatures must pollinate it. Only after fertilisation, grow those little buttons.

If you got male and female flowers but not too many squash, plant plenty of flowers alongside your squash otherwise you’ll end up having to hand pollinate using an artist’s paintbrush.
Mostly gardeners start to worry when they see only male flower.
It is perfectly normal for the males to arrive first, and, they do so in big numbers.
A week or so goes by without any ladies appearing, and you are beginning to think there's a problem.

  • The female flowers usually arrive 10-14 days after you spot the first male. (Sometimes it takes a little longer than this).Once the ladies appear, there’ll only be a few at a time.
  • The male flowers greatly out-number the female flowers.
  • It’s fairly uncommon for females flowers to arrive first but does occasionally happen.

Fertilising your squash
Squash are, like most vegetables, heavy feeders and need lots of fertilizer and water.

  • Don’t over fertilize with chook poo pellets or you’ll have big plants and no squash.
  • The vining types of squash need the extra space and will invade even more space if allowed, so carefull planning may be needed.
  • Water requirements are high and you really need to be on top of keeping up the watering for your button squash during hot weather and when fruit is filling out. If you don’t,  you’re very likely get shedding of flowers and partly formed fruit.
  • Button squash grows very quickly and will start producing us in about 8 weeks.

Harvesting
Pick your button squash carefully by cutting them from the vine through their stem.
  • Did you know that button squash need to be harvested often even commercially  because of their very soft skin and so they’re very labour intensive to grow?
  • Picking should be done regularly, at least every day as the fruit develops.
  • If you leave your squash on the plants too long they’ll stop growing new ones altogether.
  • Picking your Summer squash at about 2 ½- 3 cms in size is when they’re at their most tasty.
If you plant an open pollinated type, (doesn’t have hybrid in its name) you can let one or two squash grow out until they are completely ripe and save the seeds from them at the end of the season.
Some varieties from various online seed suppliers.
There’s a French heirloom variety Squash Jaune Et Verte especially for those of you who are not convinced about the merits of growing squash. 
Picked young, the flesh is sweet and buttery and the skin cooks to lime green. Compact variety producing scallop shaped fruit over a long period. 
Takes 7 weeks from seed to harvest.
New Gippsland Seeds-Golden Ruffles Hybrid is a Yellow Button Squash- High quality button squash capable of tremendous yields. Fruit gold, often with a green end spot. Tasty and popular.
Eden seeds_EARLY WHITE BUSH SCALLOPED Known pre 1722
Greenish-white skin, with lots of round flat fruit on a bushy plant. Best when picked young. 46-60 days.
GREEN TINT

Scalloped patty pan squash, pale green, harvest 7.5cm—10cm, fine texture, medium sized bush, very productive over a long period, popular traditional variety for home gardens. 47-56 days.
Seeds per packet: 17
Why are they good for you?
Summer squash is very low in calories and high in fibre.
Button squash is rich in beta-carotene an excellent source of vitamin C, folic acid and calcium.
One cup of summer squash has nearly as much potassium as a banana!
They also contain the valuable mineral nutrient phosphorus.
Button squash are vitamin C
The darker skinned squash supply some beta carotene.
Did I say they were low in calories?
100g of squash has just between 85 and 105kJ.

THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY