Sunday, 12 January 2014

Seasonal Gardens, Cooling Gardens

The Good Earth

Are you finding that it’s too hot to garden most days?
Or are a wise old owl, up at the crack of dawn,  getting things done in the garden. Maybe you’re waiting until early evening to do those gardening things.
Whichever it is, here’s some tips for what really needs doing in the summer garden.
Let’s find out what these important tasks are…I'm talking with representatives, Margaret Mossakowska and Lucinda Coates.
You don’t have to convert to permaculture, just take in a few suggestions to make your garden more efficient. After all, followers of permaculture got their ideas from somewhere else, like IPM or Integrated Pest Management, that is practised by many crop farmers and orchardists so they can reduce their reliance on pesticides.
If you have any questions about mulching, or IPM, why not drop us a line to. or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, why not drop us a line by sending in your question to or by post to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675

Vegetable Heroes

THIS WEEK’S vegetable hero and its Cucumbers. or Cucumis sativus..
Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year.
Cucumbers are a member of the gourd or cucurbita family and have been grown for 4000 years!
Cucumbers were widely eaten throughout Asia and Europe by the 6th and 7th centuries A.D
Did cucumber start off in India? No-one’s really sure.
Some pretty famous people have been known to be fans of cucumbers, even cucumber pickles.
Take, Julius Ceasar, he ate them everyday, Cleopatra, thought cucumber pickles help her skin complexion, and other pickle lovers included George Washington and Queen Elizabeth 1.
Would you have thought that Cucumbers are one of the world’s favourite vegetables?
I would’ve said the tomato, but there you go.
When is the best time to grow some cucumbers?
Cucumber plants do best in all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally need temperatures between 15-33°C. Cucumbers are happiest when the average temperatures are around 210C
For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world.
Sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring and early Summer for cool temperate districts, spring and summer for arid and temperate zones districts, from August until March in sub-tropical areas.
Only the cooler months for tropical areas-so April until August unless you’re inland.
And where can you grow these delicious cucumbers?
You need to pick a sunny, well-drained spot, because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant, that needs full sun.
Cucumbers also want a decent amount of growing space in your garden.
If you’re short on space, try growing them up vertically on a trellis or even on some netting, perhaps a tomato trellis?
In fact, growing up a trellis would be a great way to avoid all the mildews and moulds that cucumbers are prone to in still humid weather.
There’s also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in pots.
Try Mini White- one of the most popular.
Grow it for yourself and see why.
The 10cm long fruit and is best picked when young. Gives you lots of fruit per plant and it’s burpless  Or you could try Cucumber Mini Muncher as well.
If you’re in Adelaide, go to the shop in the Botanic Gardens.
How to Grow Cucumbers
The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils.
As long as your soil is well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
Add in plenty of organic compost and fertilisers like chook poo or cow manure.
I’ve seen an idea where you make mini mounds, wet the soil first and then drop in 4 -5 seeds into the top of each mound.
Mulch the mounds so they don’t dry out but not too much or you’ll be wondering why nothing is germinating, that’s because the seed has rotted away.
When your seeds have germinated, pick out the strongest couple and throw away the others so you don’t get overcrowding.
Water regularly at the base of each plant – keeping leaves dry or you risk powdery mildew disease – and feed every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
Look for white to grey fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves become brittle then start to die off.
There are some types of cucumbers that resist this disease for a time anyway.

You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole milk to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.
Sudden wilt is a disease is caused by pythium fungus and causes the entire plant to die and wilt. Look for root rot. This disease usually happens in poor draining soil, so add organic compost to the soil before planting to improve drainage.
Growing your cucumbers in pots and raised beds, can help this problem.
Verticillium wilt, is a fungal disease called by the Verticillium fungus. Symptoms include wilting leaves and brown discoloration of the stems and roots. You’ll typically have to open the stem to see the problem. Eventually, this disease will cause the entire plant to wilt and die. This problem often lingers in the soil where tomatoes, potatoes, chillies, and other members of the nightshade family have been planted.
Crop rotation is important to avoid this disease. There’s no spray of any kind for this problem. Leave the garden bed empty for quite a few months before planting again.
Who out there hasn’t tried a cucumber that’s tasted bitter?
I’m sure some time in your life, that’s happened hasn’t it?
There’s seems to be a few theories for bitterness in cucumbers
One theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
Usually the bitterness accumulates at the stem and below the surface of the skin of the cucumber.
According to this theory it’s a genetic problem.
Newer cucumber hybrids seem to have fewer problems with bitterness.
I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin.
Found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress, and can make the fruit taste really bitter.
The concentration of these compounds varies from plant to plant, fruit to fruit, and even within the individual fruit itself.
Did you know that the ability to taste detect bitterness or cucurbitacins also varies from person to person.
Even insects have varying preferences for cucurbitacins- the compounds attract cucumber beetles but repel other insects, such as aphids and spider mites.
Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!

By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.

Just like zucchinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after. Cucumbers should be ready at about 50-60 days and picking fruit often stimulates more to start growing. Some of you probably have realised that if you pick your cucumbers when they’re quite small, this is when they’re at their sweetest.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.
They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy
Why are they good for you?
Cucumbers have lots of Vitamins C but why you should eat them is because the silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, you know, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
Cucumbers have some dietary fibre and Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin.
So eat them quick in sandwiches  salads or juice them for healthy glowing skin!

Happy CUCUMBER growing everyone!

 Design Elements

with Landscape Designer Louise McDaid
2013 was the hottest year on record and 2014 is tipped to be just as hot if not hotter. How can we cool off without it costing us too much?
The garden is the key and you need to plan a cool garden, not cool as in groovy or fab, but cool as in temperature.
Over the next four weeks, we’ll be discussing different ways and designs that you can incorporate into your garden to make it more cool.
Let’s start off with part 1….click on the link to

Lots of great suggestion that you can start with in your garden, whether it be planning a new pergola, adding a simple water bowl with a miniature water lily, or planting up some more trees.
Green has got to be the coolest garden colour but you need different greens so that when you look out into the garden it’s not uninteresting.
Next week, part 2 is this series will be about what flower colour or foliage colour constitutes a cool or cooling garden.

Plant of the Week-Poinsettias

Plants are clever things, and over the years adapt different ways to attract pollinators to compensate for lack of flower size, such as have a modified leaf that looks like part of the flower.
Quite a few plants do this and no-one knows why they evolved that way instead of growing bigger flowers.

Euphorbia pulcherrima or Poinsettia is a evergreen shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–4 metres.
It’s partly or completely deciduous in cold areas.


The coloured bracts—which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white or marbled—are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colours, but are actually modified  leaves.

The colours of the bracts are created through photoperiodism, meaning that they require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least 5 days in a row) to change colour.

At the same time, the plants need bright light during the day for the brightest colour.

For Christmas production in Australia, plants are kept in the dark with heavy curtains in glasshouses to get the right amount of darkness to colour up.

They’re also sprayed with a dwarfing compound to keep the small so they suit table decorations at Christmas time.

Of course as soon as people plant them in the ground, they shoot up to their natural height.
The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the centre of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia.

The poinsettia is native to humid areas in southern Mexico

Just remember that Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant when choosing a site to plant out into the garden.
They will grow outdoors in temperate coastal climates.
Poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a small child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect.
Plus poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. You might want to keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves. Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.

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