Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Sweetness of Autumn


Whether or not you’re into permaculture, there’s plenty of things to be done in the autumn garden. Working conditions aren’t quite as unpleasant, plus all the seed and bulb catalogues fill out post boxes or inboxes if we’re getting them via email.

Who can resist all the new varieties of seeds and bulbs but what must we do first?
Various online websites, garden magazines and gardening books, tell us when to plant this or that.
The reality is, those timeframes are very generalised and it's knowing your seasons and responding to the climate in your district, which indicates when it's the time to plant certain crops.
Of course, if you're a beginner gardener, there are some basic rules that you need to know.

Listen to this….. with Margaret Mossakowska from Permaculture North


Of all the least attractive or glamorous tasks in the garden, working the soil is one of them.
You can make the task easier by planting green manure crops as Margaret suggested.
Green manure crops make the task of digging and fertilising a whole lot easier, because you let the green manure crop do the work for you.

You don't have to dig them in, just lay them on top of the soil and let the worms do the work for you.
You also can just rake them into the top 10 cm of soil if you prefer.
If you have any questions about the Autumn garden why not drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675, and I’ll post a CD in return.


Stevia  (Stevia rebaudiana)

Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that stay sweet, even after the leaves have been dried.
Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.

So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.
Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.
So what does Stevia plant look like?

Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like.

Where Will It Grow?
Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn.
Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C.
Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant.
Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy.
Adding a layer of compost or your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.
Stevia plants also hate being water-logged and don't overwater it.
HOT TIP:Stevia can grow in a pot.
By the way, I’ve grow my stevia plant in a pot for several years now without any problems and it’s survived several bouts of dry hot summers and lack of watering during spells with a house sitter.
But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.
During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant.
 Which Fertiliser?
Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content.
Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.

HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter.
Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.
If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.

How do you store Stevia leaves?

If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secauteurs before stripping the leaves.
TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevia goodness and sweetness as do the leaves.
 If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning).
These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates.
In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop.
Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey.
Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option.

I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.
So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a  warm day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand,  in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.

Why are they good for you?

 Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.

Some suppliers for you to source your Stevia. and


with landscape designer Louise McDaid

photo: Real World Gardener


Today starts a new series on dry gardening around Australia.
We’re not talking cactus and succulents specifically or gardening with only hardy native plants.
The idea behind this series is that summers are getting warmer so we need to look at how we garden, and what we can do to preserve our precious plants.
Let’s find out what this is all about.

It's important to know what type of soil you have.

Once you work that out, you can set about improving it (if it needs it) which will save you years of headache in the years to come.
Poor sandy soils and waterlogged heavy clay soils are just two that need to be improved.

If you ignore this step, your plants will refuse to grow well, and you may end up spending too much money on fertilisers and pest control products to overcome soil deficiencies.

Plants that grow in the wrong conditions, tend to be stressed and easily succumb to pest and disease.

If you’re looking at a large garden and thinking, how am I going to achieve that better soil profile?
Don’t think of doing the whole garden at once. Start working on a small corner by giving it the right amount of mulch and compost.
Then gradually work your way around the garden over several months. Look it may even take a couple of years, but at least you’ve started.

If you have any questions about this week’s any trees on your property, send it our email address, or  you can write in for a fact sheet.



Many sedums are grown as garden plants around, because they have interesting and attractive appearance and can be quite hardy.

The various species differ in their requirements; some are cold-hardy but do not tolerate heat, some require heat but do not tolerate cold.

It's no surprise that Sedums are considered to be a stand-by perennial.

In Autumn, upright stalks carry flowerheads of pink red, yellow or ochre, the colour deepening through as the flowers age. A bee and butterfly favourite.

For the most part, absolutely trouble-free - aphids may be a problem if it is grown in shadier conditions.
In winter some varieties down right down and the life cycle starts again when tiny little foliage "cabbages" appear by late winter or early spring, and develop into a tidy low mound by summer.

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