Thursday, 3 October 2013

Love Apples and Flowers That Go Boom

Compost Capers

So you’ve had problems with your worm farm or you’ve heard that they smell?
Did you know that the stuff you get out of worm farms helps your plants to grow and resist disease?
These worm castings also helps your soil hold onto water longer-that’s called water holding capacity. Yeah that goes up.
Australia’s been heating up so it’s going to a good idea to get more of that water holding capacity into your soil.
But hold, on, you’ve tried worm farming but the worms disappeared or just grew thin.
Well, don’t give up because Cameron’s got plenty of tips to fix things up.

Listen to this. I'm talking with Sustainability guru, Cameron Little

Australia is second only to the America making waste.
Each year every Australian produces around 800kg of solid waste.
In New South Wales, an average of 65% of our household rubbish is food scraps, garden waste and other organic matter.
The best way to reduce our food and garden waste is to convert it to compost.
Organic material that is deposited in a landfill breaks down in anaerobic (without air) conditions, releasing methane and carbon dioxide.
Both of these gases are major contributors to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
Good reason to keep on composting I reckon.
If you have any questions about a worm farming, need some help, why not drop us a line.
Or send in a photo to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll send you a copy of the Garden Guardians in return.

Vegetable Hero

This weeks Vegetable Hero is eggplants, aubergines to some and Solanum melongena to botanists.
Eggplants are a fruit?
Yes, the eggplant is botanically a berry to be precise, but we always think of it as a vegetable.
The eggplant is, or Solanum melongena, a member of the nightshade family along with the tomato and potato.
Yes, we often want to tie the words "deadly" and "nightshade" together, and the reason for this is that the leaves and flowers of plants in the nightshade family are often poisonous.

TIP:You can only use the "fruit" from the plant, which is the eggplant.

The first eggplants to reach Europe during the Middle Ages were white, oval fruits that closely resemble a hen's egg.
No surprise that they began calling it eggplant even when other colours became popular.
The eggplant was once known as the "love apple" in England because it was thought to possess aphrodisiac properties.
Early eggplants were far more bitter than today's varieties, so Botanists in northern Europe called the eggplant mala insana, or "mad apple," because they thought that eating the fruit could result in insanity.
Others even thought that eating eggplants would cause a bitter disposition, cancer, and even leprosy!
Eggplants originated in India, and have been cultivated in China from about the 5th Century BC.

Basic Guide for Growing Eggplants

Eggplant is a short lived perennial plant that is usually grown as an annual. Eggplants grow best when the temperatures are at least 250C or above.
Eggplants resent frost and so far my plants from previous years never survive the cold and I have to start all over again.

Planting times:

Eggplant seeds/seedlings can be planted in spring to autumn in tropical areas, spring to early summer in temperate zones and during late spring in cool climates.
Any spot that gets about six to eight hours of full is what you want.
That means no shrubs, trees, sheds or houses to block the sun for any part of the day.
Eggplant bushes grow to a reasonable size so don’t crowd them.
You can plant some varieties in a pot, or  plant each eggplant seedling about 30- 40cms apart from one another.
You'll probably have only room for a couple to see how you go..
Mix some pelleted chicken manure, or blood/n/bone and compost in with the soil before planting your eggplants.
The seedlings don't need to be planted too far into the ground.
Just enough so that the soil covers the roots is fine.
After the seedlings have been transplanted, give them a little water and leave them to grow.
Make sure to add a little mulch to the top of the soil to help keep moisture in the soil.
Don't overwater your eggplants as they are susceptible to root rot.
Research the different types of eggplant before choosing the species you want to plant, as some of the larger varieties will require a stake to help lend support as they fruit.
Good idea for areas that get quite warm or are prone to drought.
Your eggplants will be ready for picking in about 3-4 months when growing from seed.
As eggplants are the tastiest when they are young, most people prefer to pick them when they are about one third of their potential size.
When you pick your eggplant fruit is really up to you, as soon as the "skin" of the fruit is glossy, then it’s ready to be picked.
If the skin has turned brown then you've waited too long to pick the fruit.
They come in many colours besides the purple variety, there are white and yellow varieties, and a dwarf species whose fruits grow only three or four inches long.

Today, I’m featuring a new release seed called Eggplant white Star. This is a compact plant that will suit pots, and small gardens. Available from Yates seeds.

Why not try ROSA BIANCA?
this' ones' an Italian heirloom with heaps of fruit that are  rosy lavender and white heavy teardrop shaped fruit with a mild flavour.

Beautiful red-orange fruit, round to 7.5cm, lots of fruit in 65-85 days.

For cooler districts, why not try the funny soundying UDUMALAPET
Yellow-green teardrop shaped fruit with vibrant lavender stripes, best eaten small at 8cm.
A peculiar variety called the snake eggplant produces narrow, elongated fruits up to a foot in length with their ends curled up like a serpent's tongue.
Why is it good for you?
Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fibre, potassium, manganese, copper and thiamin (vitamin B1).
Eggplants are a top source of vitamin B6 and just 75g provides a whole day’s supply.
Also have folate, magnesium and niacin.
Eggplants are great for the waistline because they’re low in calories and fat and are 95% water.
Eggplant is a nutrient dense food, which will help you feel full, and there are only 20 calories in one cup in eggplants.
Go the eggplant.

Design Elements

with Louise McDaid
 Last week, Design Elements explored the structures in the Seeability garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show. This week, because the garden was so cool, Louise, discussed the planting.
Seems like it was an age away already!
The SeeAbility Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower show was designed to raise awareness of eye health and the effects of sight loss. Four different sight conditions were represented conceptually through distinctive planting and hard landscaping.



What an inspirational garden. Listen to this….

The central tree in the design was Sorbus (showy flowers and berries, cool climate) – it had slate paving radiating out around it. This idea could be easily replicated in a home garden, a tree in paving breaks up the expanse of hard ground covering and also offers shade, keeps it cooler, softens. Choose tree for your area.
Central area planting:
·         Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’, named Chelsea’s Plant of the Year - quite narrow leaves that are blue/green and feather giving it a delicate effect. It isn’t prickly like other mahonias. Others are available in Australia – does best in cooler areas,  architectural style plant with bold foliage shape and bright yellow winter colour from late autumn through winter.
·         Structural form from clipped buxus balls
·         Another tree used Gingko biloba (Maidenhair tree) – butter yellow leaves in autumn – lovely (female have smelly fruit)
·         Dark foliage from Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing and Heuchera Obsidian
·         Carex elata 'Aurea' with golden foliage contrasting against red leaf Heuchera
·         Thalictrum 'Black Stockings' – black stems pink flowers
·         Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley) small sweet white flowers

The other trees in the design were Hornbeam trees (cooler areas), they were planted in the garden beds. In your garden, trees in a garden bed provide canopy for some shelter from hot sun, height to the overall design, screening, habitat
Hornbeam border:
·         Tiarella ‘Crow Feather’ and Alchemilla mollis – white and yellow
·         Asplenium and dryopterus ferns – bright green
·         Digitalis ‘Pams Choice’ – white with dark throat
·         Pittosporum Tom Thumb – evergreen shrub clipped in a ball
·         Heuchera ‘Electric Lime’ and Black Mondo grass – really contrasting ground covers

Cylindrical border:
·         Yellow colours from - Achillea Moonshine, Anthemis 'Sauce Hollandaise'
·         White flowers  - Allium 'Mont Blanc', Iris ‘Immortality’, Geranium ‘Melinda’
·         Three different euphorbias for lime green colouring, different foliage texture (Euphorbia charachias wulfenii, Euphorbia polychroma, Euphorbia pasteuri)
·         Sambucus Black Lace and Geranium Black Beauty for dark foliage contrast

Blade border:
·         Red foliage – Acer Bloodgood and Atriplex hortensis 'Rubra'
·         Allium Atropurpureum – dark claret coloured flower and Angelica 'Atropurpurea', Aquilegia 'Black Barlow'
·         Foliage form by hostas - Hosta Halcyon (blue green) and Hosta June (lime centre with green edge), Hosta Green Mouse Ears (rounded shape)
·         Also Golden Oregano for colour – and Verbascum bombyceferum for bold foliage and yellow flower
·         Yellow flowers - Aquilegia crysantha 'Yellow Queen' , Phlomis Russeliana
·         White flowers - Clematis 'Beautiful Bride’, Verbascum 'Flush of White
·         Crimson/pink flowers - Astrantia 'Hadspen Blood, Sedum autumn joy
·         Blue flowers - Salia 'Viola Klose and Nepeta

If you want  to see more of the garden other than the photos that I’ll put up on my website, go to
Move your mouse over the garden image on the website to see how it might look if you had an eye condition, and find an explanation on the eye condition below it.

The seeability garden represents various eye conditions that seriously affect sight.

Plant of the Week:

Bedding Begonias, Bada Bing and Bada Boom.

Should plant growers and breeders be forgiven for coming up with corny plant names like Bada Bing and Bada Boom?

I mean really? Who are they kidding? We don’t all live in New York.

Besides, don’t let these names put you off a whole genus of plants whose uses in the garden has been for the most part, undervalued, and overlooked.

There are many types of Begonias.
1.Cane Begonias have cane like stems and vary in height from ½ metre to around 1 ½ metres tall.
Cane-like begonias grow from a central clump, shooting stems from a central clump much like a bamboo.
Larger plants grown in the garden will need staking and shelter from drying winds.
2.Shrub like Begonias have multiple stems that have plenty of flowers.
Usually these Begonias have thin brittle stems and grow no more than ½ metre tall.
These are regarded as fibrous rooted soft wooded perennials.
3.Rhizomatous begonias are those that grow quite low to the ground. In fact they spread slowly along the ground, almost like a ground cover.
These you definitely should only water once a week in warm dry weather.

Begonias are desert plants, that is they are succulents.
This means begonias are able to store moisture and need less frequent watering.
The best way to kill a Begonia is by overwatering.
Begonias grow naturally in the shaded protection of tropical and subtropical forests, and don't like frost, and most dislike direct sunlight except for some morning sun.

If you live in frost-prone areas and would like to try Begonias, then they should be grown under the shelter of shrubs or trees, under verandahs and pergolas or in containers which can be moved to protected spots, while bedding begonias should be treated as annuals.

The key to their light requirements is usually determined by the colour of their leaves, dark leaves indicates that the plant needs shade to grow well, while light leaves indicates that the plant likes a sunnier location.
There are always exceptions, like Begonia acutifolia with its dark foliage, which will grow in full sun and give a wonderful show of flowers, making a delightful garden subject.
Peter Sharpe, who was the force behind establishing Begonia beds at Royal Botanic Gardens, sydeny and led the Begonia group for over ten years.
Now Gordon Chivers heads the team as Peter has retired to Tasmania.
Peter always said that Begonias vary a bit in tolerating sun and shade.
Often when the Friday Growing Friend's group would meet with Peter to ask what Begonais to propagate that morning and he would always point to some that he originally thought of as shade lovers, that were are in fact sun lovers.
These Begonias would grow so much better when exposed to it in various amounts," he said.

Begonia x semperflorens Bada Bing  and Begonia x semperflorens Bada Boom
Both are bedding Begonias,  in the small shrub category.
Begonia Bada Bing has glossy waxy green leaves and pink, white or rose coloured flowers.
The leaves or alternate, oval shaped with an uneven leaf base and a serrated margin.
The leaves are dark green or a brownish bronze green, depending on the cultivar.
Bada Bing is bred to have a strong branching habit and lots of flowers.
These make a small rounded shrub, growing to only 25cm tall.
Depending on what district you’re in will dictate whether you can grow  it in full sun or partial shade for almost 6 months of colour.
Although bedding begonias are now grown as annuals, they’re actually perennials but the vigour has been bred out of them to get the flowers.
Bedding Begonias should last for 2-3 years.
You'll get best flowering and growth in dappled shade or morning sun positions with afternoon shade.
If you have more dense shade, Begonias will grow there , but you’ll get less flowers.

Check the light requirements of your plants by looking at the undersides of the leaves.
If they're dark, the plant likes shade; if light, it needs a bit more sun.

Big Flowers, flowers, and more flowers. We just love our flowers. When plants are in flower at the nursery they just walk out the door as they say.
Hard to resist flowering plants, and don’t resist them, just add them to your garden border, in pots and on a patio.
Why not treat yourself to a big flowered one? Go on.

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