Thursday, 10 January 2013

All Things Shady

The Good Earth

Have you been able to give your garden enough water in this summer's heat?
Watering your garden isn’t wasteful if you do it in the cool of the evening or early in the morning.
Did you know that if it’s windy, just hand water the urgent cases of wilting. Using sprinklers that throw water high into the air on a windy day loses about 40% of the water.
Another tip is to keep the pressure low on sprinklers allowing the droplets to be bigger and not get evaporated so quickly.
What about your veggie bed? Veggies need daily watering in hot weather because if you don’t, lack of enough water can cause the bottom of tomatoes to turn black (blossom end rot), lettuce to turn bitter, and beans, zucchinis and other flowering crops to stop producing.
Has the summer heat turned the leaves of your vegetables brown and crispy? Has the sun baked the tomatoes on the vine? Have the beans turned up their toes and gone to god? All these things may have happened despite your efforts to supply plenty of water in the early morning or cool of the evening.

The hot midday sun is unforgiving and in a lot of areas in Australia, you might have even decided to give up growing veggies in the hottest months. Here’s an idea from the Permaculture Institute to help your summer garden. I'm talking with
with Penny Pyett, Permaculture Director-Sydney Institute.

If you thought that growing veggies in the shade was a silly idea, I hope this has changed your thinking to, “I’m going to give it a try.”
If you already grow veggies in the shade, drop us a line , we’d love to hear which veggies you tried in the shade and how they went. Send in a photo or drop us a line to. or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes;

  • What is Malabar Spinach? Ever heard of Ceylon spinach, Indian spinach, vine spinach, and Malabar nightshade?
  • 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, and an extract of the fruits of the red stemmed version of -Basella alba ‘Rubra’, has been used for many centuries as a carmine dye for official seals and a natural form of rouge in cosmetics.
  • Malabar spinach is a vigorous vine and is in fact not related to true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) but grows large succulent heart shaped leaves that are said to be 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.
  • Some say, delicious to eat, and is just like real Spinach, perhaps a bit more “earthy.”
  • To my way of thinking it's an acquired taste.
  • The upside is that Malabar Spinach 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Malabar spinach can grow 2-3 metres or eight to ten feet tall and wide and has small white-tinged pink flowers in its leaf axils.
  • When the flowers are fertilised, small, attractive, single-seeded purple berries will grow.
  • The juice from the berries is so intensely purple that it puts beet juice to shame. A bit like Dianella berries I think.
  • It's used as a natural food colorant for agar (vegetable "gelatine") dishes, sweets, and pastries. Malabar spinach does best in warm, tropical areas, where it can easily grow a 10cm per day.
  •  This plant is not 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!
  • 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.
  •  I had saved some seed, but there must’ve been some moisture in the jar because they had become all mouldy.
  • The red-stemmed cultivar of Malabar spinach comes true from seed.
  • Luckily, when I was renovating my veggie bed, I noticed quite a few small seedlings in one corner of it that looked like-in fact were seedlings of Malabar Spinach. I remember from last year that once it starts to take off it can grow about 30cm in a week!
  • 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 metal spiral, but I think it’s going to outgrow that real soon. Whoops!
  • 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!
  • 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 stirfries & 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!

Design Elements:

with Louise McDaid, Landscape Designer
  • In November of 2012, Design Elements did a series on the Potted garden, and now we’re following that up with how to maintain your potted garden in tip top condition.
  • Watering your potplants is number one in keeping them looking healthy.But how often?
  • What to fertilise with? Should you you use organic fertilisers or stick to granular, controlled release prills?
  • How often do you need to re-pot?
  • What if the pot's too big?
  • All these questions are answered in the podcast.


 There should be plenty of ideas to get you started if you’re a beginner gardener, and some tips for those of you who’ve been doing it for a while.

Plant of the Week:

Dichondra spp

Does your garden slope in some places where it’s just impossible to mow? Do you have a shady patch under a tree where the lawn has never grown properly and mostly dies off each winter.Wouldn’t you prefer a nice green thatch of closely hugging groundcover that you never need to mow instead?
  • 20091213_5015 Dichondra repens - Kidney Weed
  • Dichondra repens has bright green small kidney shaped leaves and can grow in 80% shade so is used as a lawn substitute where no lawn wants to grow.
  • It has a tight hugging habit and is about 10cm high and 50cm wide, but not suitable for high traffic areas.
  • The first, Dichondra repens or Kidney weed is in the Convolvulaceae family, so might give you some idea of its colonising habit.
  • I once planting out some Convolvulacea in a contained garden bed, then decided it needed it wasn’t working.
  • Several days of pulling out the underground rhizomes, I vowed never to plant anything from this family again.
  • Dichondra repens is a small, prostrate, herbaceous plant native to New Zealand and many parts of Australia. It is commonly known as kidney weed in Australia and as Mercury Bay weed in New Zealand. Dichondra repens is found occasinally in forests, woodlands and grasslands, it also inhabits suburban lawns. The plant has a creeping habit, with roots forming at the nodes.
  • Dichondra repens will also grow in full sun, so if you have an area that gets shaded in winter and sun in summer, this plant could be a good option.
  • This particular Dicohondra is a pest in bushland, that’s why it’s called Kidney Weed.
  • Only grow this plant if you live away from a nature reserve or bush. It can also invade other parts of the garden where you don’t want it, and a suggestion might be to contain it with garden edging.
  • Dichondra repens will only take a light frost, otherwise is extremely hardy and will grow in all areas of Australia that don’t get a heavy frost.
  • In summary, Dichondra repens is good for difficult to mow areas where you don’t walk on it that much. Kidney weed, closely hugs the ground forming a dense mat and can take a lot of shade as well as full sun.
  • The second variety is Dichondra silver falls. Silver falls is a wonderful trailing plant that grows well in full sun. Dichondra argentea 'Silver Falls' is perfect in hanging baskets and potted gardens where it can be allowed to trail down over the side.
  • "Silver Falls"copes well in full sun and handles drier conditions than Dichondra repens.
  • Originally from dry areas from Mexico through to Texas as a hanging basket plant Silver Falls will cascade down for up to 2m in ideal conditions making it a spectacular curtain of silvery green leaves.
  • An excellent plant when allowed to trail over rock walls it is grown for the foliage although it does have small flowers.
  • Dividing and propagating:-Plants can be grown from seed or propagated by root division in early spring or early autumn. Sow seed in a seed raising mix in a tray, surface sow and tap down lightly to ensure good contact withe the soil. Water with a seaweed fertiliser and then keep moist until seed germinate, usually within 2 weeks. Transplant or 'pot up' after plants reach a reasonable size. Grow on until ready to plant out. Plants are a little slow at first so be patient, the long trailing silvery foliage of Dichondra 'silver falls' is well worth the wait.
  • Care is minimal, prune back in spring to keep in shape, these plants like a well drained position and a general purpose slow release fertiliser in spring.
  • A little extra water in summer in dry periods as needed, but don’t over water.
  • Dichondra repends or Kidney weed is readily available from all garden centres as is Dichondra, ‘Silver Falls.”
  • The big tip is, if you’re expecting a heat wave, water all areas of your garden including those shady areas that also become quite dry in hot weather.



  1. way too invasive,this plant should not be promoted

  2. Love Dichondra repens! Great groundcover that thrives in a range of conditions. If it turns up where it isn't wanted then just pull or spray it out. It is stunning between paving stones or for a small back lawn. It also trails well in a hanging basket or use as a living mulch.