Sunday, 28 July 2013

Aphrodisiac's Guide to Gardening

Compost Capers

Improving your soil is so important for a healthy garden.
You might be lucky and already have great black soil, but for most gardeners we’re either battling sandy soil or heavy clay.
It’s true that sometimes you just can’t get enough of your own compost to make any difference unless, that is, you employ some willing helpers I am talking.with Cameron Little

Now you know that as earthworms burrow through the soil, they consume large quantities of soil and fresh or partially decomposed organic matter from the soil surface.
Earthworms their droppings or casts as they go about their business which is invaluable nutrients for your plants.
As earthworms travel up and down and through out the soil, they mix soil from the different soil layers with plant and animal debris from the soil surface.
This mixing helps to make more nutrients available for plant growth, and helps to create a better soil habitat for all soil organisms. I
f you’ve got any questions about worms, or worm farms, why not drop us a line. to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675,  or post them on Real World Gardeners facebook page, we’d love to hear from you.

Vegetable Heroes;

Asparagus or Asparagus officinalis is from the Liliaceae or lily Family.
Asparagus is a perennial plant that is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor areas.
The name “asparagus” comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot.
It’s been around for at least 2,000 years.
In the 16th Century, asparagus gained popularity in France and England. 

Asparagus is often called the “Food of Kings” because King Louis XIV of France loved eating Asparagus so much that he ordered special greenhouses built so he could enjoy asparagus all year-round.
According to some, Asparagus is considered an Aphrodisiac, possibly because of its shape more than any other reason.
There have been asparagus recipes found in Arabian love manuals as far back as the 16th century, and experts say you need to eat it over three consecutive days to get the full effect. Heh Heh.
Did you know that Asparagus was so highly regarded in England that the thought of setting up a colony in Australia  without asparagus was unthinkable, so seed was included in the list of vegetables carried by Sirius, one of the ships of the First Fleet?
During the 1900"s asparagus appeared in many Australian seed catalogues.
What is Asparagus exactly?
The plant consists of a crown that is actually an underground stem from which asparagus spears shoots
The roots are called rhizomes (pronounced rye-zomes).
The spears, grow to about18-25cm long and 1.5-2cm wide, with many small, bumpy, triangular scales (called bracts) at the top of the stem.
Well you might be thinking where can I buy Asparagus to grow?
In fact, do I buy seed, or tubers or what?
I’m here to tell you all that. You can in fact buy Asparagus seed, including Purple Asparagus seed from online companies such as Green Harvest.
But now’s the time to buy something called Asparagus Crowns, and you can buy these from some supermarkets, farmers markets and from mail order and online.
 I bought two crowns some this week from my local market, they were the Mary Washington variety.
 In temperate and sub-tropical districts, plant Asparagus crowns from August right through to November.
When to Plant:
In cool temperate zones, you have from September until November, and unfortunately for arid zones, you had June, July, and will now have to wait until January.
This is one of the plants that don’t really belong in a vegetable patch, because the crowns last for many years, like rhubarb crowns, and need to be left in the one spot. Normally, your veggie patch gets a makeover every 6 months or so, -not that good for the crowns of these plants.
  • So find a sunny spot in the garden where you don’t mind some veggies growing there year after year.
  • Preferably with soil that’s been given some Dolomite and heaps and heaps of compost and complete plant food.
  • Plant you Asparagus crowns in furrows about 20 cm deep and 30 cm wide.
  • Place the crowns onto a small mound in the centre of the furrow, so that the roots point down at about 45°, spread the roots out carefully. Backfill with compost to a depth of 7.5 cm.
  • Space the plants 45cm apart, with 1.2 m between rows.
  • Fill in the trench gradually as growth progresses.  Doesn’t sound too hard does it?
  • In spring Asparagus will grow long and slender with soft fernlike foliage.  Don’t cut any spears in the first Spring, because this is when the crowns are developing.
  • Asparagus produces both male and female plants.  Female plants have small poisonous red berries and don’t produce as many edible shoots as male plants. 
  • During Autumn and Winter the tops will go yellow and brown off, cut off the old tops about 7.5 cm from the soil surface.
  • Try to keep the berries from falling on the ground, as they will germinate and choke the bed.
  • Apply a generous dressing of compost and well-rotted manure to feed the bed for its spring flush of growth.
  • Then top with a thick hay mulch.
  • The next Spring light cutting of spears can be done for the first month of the growing season, with normal cutting taking place each following year until late December. 
  • Don’t cut any more after late December so that plants have enough time to build up their growth reserves for winter. 
  • In the following years, mulch the beds thickly with compost and manure in late winter.  Remember patience in the early stages will help to get a life span of 15 years or even longer for your asparagus.
  • Spears are harvested in two ways which gives them a different colour. White asparagus is grown below the ground and not exposed to light. When harvested it is cut below the surface before being lifted out of the soil. If spears are allowed grow in sunlight they turn a green colour. 
  • For green, only hill about 10cm (4”) and allow the spear to grow 15cm (6”) above the soil, making sure to cut the spear just below ground level.  Green asparagus is recommended.
  • Asparagus is most delicious when the time between cutting and serving is kept to a minimum.
  • When you’re cutting the spears, do it carefully to avoid injuring the crown.  Farmers harvest by a rule-of-thumb, if the spears are thicker than a pencil cut them before the spears branch, usually at approx. 20 cm high, if they are skinnier, leave them to develop and feed the crown.

Why is it Good For You?

Asparagus is low in kilojoules, without fat or cholesterol, but has fibre.
Asparagus has B group vitamins  as well as folate.
A serve of asparagus has ¼ of your RDI of vitamin C.
Asparagus has potassium to help keep our blood pressure healthy.

Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
On last week’s design elements we mentioned that we always have some parts of the year when there’s a bit of a hiatus-nothing much in flower in the garden, and we’re looking around for something the zhoosh it up, and make it more appealing.
We then talked about what exotics fitted the bill for all year round colour. Now it’s the turn of native plants..

Of course you don’t have to all native or all exotic because many plants fit into either category.
The trick is to put those plants together that like similar conditions, and have similar  or contrasting leaf shapes. So spiky leaved exotics with spikey leaved perennials, and little green leaves of exotics with little or similar shaped leaves of natives. Or go for that contrast.

Plant of the Week

Narrow spaces are fairly limited in what can grow there.
You’ve probably seen too many times when people squeeze Murrayas, Lilly Pilly’s and other large plants into borders or spaces of less than ½ a metre.
They then have to continually prune them back because they quickly outgrow their space.
This new release is narrow by nature but not boring.

How about a Banksia for those narrow spaces?

The flower heads are made up of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of tiny individual flowers grouped together in pairs. The colour of the flower heads usually ranges from yellow to red. Many species flower over autumn and winter and for this reason are great for the winter bird attracting garden.

The fruits of banksias (called follicles) are hard and woody and are often grouped together to resemble cones (which they are not ­ true cones are produced only by conifers).

The  flowers of Banksias have plenty of  nectar and pollen for a wide range of bird species-like honeyeaters and, as well as many insects.
Mammals like sugar gliders, and pygmy possums are also pollinators of Banskia flowers, being attracted to their musky odour that comes out in the evening.
Fruit also provide a seed source for cockatoos
General Growing Information:
Banksias usually grow best in well drained soils in a sunny position.
People are afraid to prune Banksias because they think of them as being a bit tricky.
If you’re not sure what type of Banksia you have, then only light pruning.
If you know your Banksia has a woody rootstock (lignotuber) then it can be heavily pruned.
Only low phosphorus fertilisers should be used if at all. I’d recommend Blood n Bone.

The parent plant Coastal Banksia or Banksia integrifolia var integrifolia grows very well in coastal areas and can tolerate salt spray.
Coastal Banksia is very adaptable to any soil-ie sandy and clay loams and any type of pH .

In Victoria, from Sale to Bairnsdale, Banksia integrifolia grows along the roadside  in the low-lying, swampy areas.
Plants are frost tolerant.


Banksia integrifolia Sentinel  is a selection of Banksia integrifolia, var Integrifolia
Grows to around 2metres x 1 metre.

Banksia integrifolia Sentinel, will also grow in moist soils, as long as waterlogging is not long-term.
Compacted and high-clay-fraction soils probably won't be suitable for reasonable growth.
Although some people would dispute that.
Coastal Banksia is a very tough plant can cope with short periods of dryness, moderate frosts, front line salt, saline soils, wind and some shade.

his plant has dark green very leathery stiff leaves with a silvery underside. And grows to about 10 metres eventually.
The pale limey green to yellow flowers open from autumn to winter.
The flowers are described as a dense cylindrical spike made up of many small individual flowers that are supposedly fragrant, but certainly rich in nectar.

TIP: Banksia integrifolia flowers occur on two year old wood.
So note down when you pruned your plant, otherwise you might end up missing out on flowers for years and be wondering why.

Not enough Banksias are planted in peoples gardens for whatever reason. But this one ticks all the boxes for size, shape and something for the birds, bees and small marsupials in your garden.Go on, plant a Banksia today.

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