WILDLIFE IN FOCUS
The onset of winter brings the star of the season, one of our winter migrants, the Spangled Drongo, into our neighbourhood.
Whilst most migrating birds have spent the summer in Australia avoiding the cold in the Northern Hemisphere, this bird has been to northern Australia and Papua New Guinea for breeding.
Going against the general flow of traffic it comes to spend the winter with us arriving in March-April and stays until September-October.
Let’s find out more...with ecologist Sue Stevens
Not only is the Spangled Drongo a bit of a comic, it’s also a great mimic of other bird calls as well.
Said to be the only one of it’s kind in Australia, although I’m sure you might think you saw a couple of these at your local watering hole.
If you have any questions about Spangled Drongo or have a photo to send it, drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.
VEGETABLE HEROESWell it’s TIME FOR VEGETABLE HEROES Cymbopogon citratus or Lemon Grass in Poaceae Family has a wonderful lemony scent and taste.
Lemongrass is used to add lemony flavour to soups, stews, curries and vegetable and rice dishes.
Lemongrass other uses to, apart from making it into tea.
The herb is also used in perfumery and to make various cosmetics, including soaps, lotions and creams.
Lemongrass is also blended with resins and other herbs for use as incense and is added to potpourri mixtures.
Due to the presence of certain volatile oils in the leaf, lemongrass is also used as a natural insect repellent.
Where does Lemongrass come from, well it’s a perennial grass native to India where they use the leaves in cooking.
In fact in in India, it’s mostly used as an antirheumatic, and antiseptic, drinking it-lemongrass tea of course.
What Does It Look Like?
Lemon grass has slender stalks about a 30cm long that feel slightly rough to the touch.
Lemon grass grows in a bushy clump and has long narrow pale green leaves.
In fact it grows in grass-like clumps to 1 m tall.
Cut back the old leaves in early Spring to strengthen the bush as well as tidy it up.
You can’t go past growing a clump of Lemon Grass in the vegetable garden, because it’s got a good influence on all the plants around it and the vegetables will be much more flavoursome.
Where to grow it?
Lemongrass is adapted to hot wet summers and dry warm winters, is drought tolerant and will grow on a wide range of soils but prefers rich, moist loams.
It dislikes wet feet but it does like regular watering in summer.
If it’s at all damaged by frost in cooler areas, the tops shouldn’t be cut until all danger of frost has passed.
This helps to protect the centre of the plant from further cold damage.
An idea if you’re in cool temperate zones its to grow it in pots that can be moved under cover for winter.
Lemongrass can be easily propagated by division and when you pick the Lemon Grass to use in cooking or teas, cut off the bottom part leaving just the roots - put this piece into a glass of water and it will shoot very quickly. You can then replant it and this will ensure that you always have Lemon Grass in your garden.
Lemon Grass tea in summer is extremely refreshing.
Help! My lemongrass is taking over my vegetable garden.
Dig it out and start again but this time put it a bottomless pot.
Why is it good for you?
Lemon Grass can be drunk as a tea as it has a tonic effect on the kidneys.
Lemongrass is a mild sedative. Try it for your insomnia, or when you are under stress, or even if you need help to calm a nervous or upset stomach or to relieve headaches.
It is good for the skin as the oil contains Vitamin A.
If you’re into aromatherapy, add a few drops of Lemon Grass oil to your bathwater.
For those with skin problems drinking the tea regularly will help and it will also give your eyes a bright clear look as well.
COOKING with LEMONGRASSThe leaves can be picked at any time of the year and the stems can be used fresh or dried..
For cooking use the stalks only and pick the thick, light green ones that feel firm and aren’t dried out and wilted.
Cut off the woody root tip of each stalk until the purplish-tinted rings begin to show and remove the loose, dry outer layer(s). Also, if the top of the stalk is dry and fibrous cut this off too. When using it in cooked dishes, bang it with a cleaver to bruise the membranes and release more flavour.
Put a handful of the leaves into the saucepan when steaming or simmering chicken or fish to give a delicate but delicious taste of lemon. It can be used in many dishes as a substitute for lemon.
To store fresh lemon grass, wrap well in clingfilm and refrigerate, it will keep for up to three weeks.
Certainly an easy plant to grow in your garden and lots of benefits as well.
AND THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO SEGMENT for TODAY!
DESIGN ELEMENTSwith landscape designer Louise McDaid
No dig gardening you might’ve even heard of and wondered what it was all about.
The fact is the idea has been around for almost 80 years!
No dig gardening is exactly that - gardening without digging the soil – perfect for when you have rocky soil, or soil with too many rocks to remove, or if you have an area that’s just rock with no soil at all – the idea is you create your own soil, mostly used for veggie growing
No-dig gardening is a method used by some organic gardeners.
Nobody is really sure where the idea first started –possibly in when a Mr Masanobu Fukuoka started working on this idea in 1938, and began publishing it in the 1970s calling it "Do Nothing Farming."
Two pioneers of the method in the twentieth century included F. C. King, Head Gardener at Levens Hall, South Westmorland, in the Lake District of England, who wrote the book "Is Digging Necessary?" in 1946 and a gardener from Middlecliffe in the UK, A. Guest, who in 1948 published the book "Gardening Without Digging".
No-dig gardening was also promoted by Australian Esther Deans in the 1970s, and American gardener Ruth Stout advocated a "permanent" garden mulching technique in Gardening Without Work and no-dig methods in the 1950s and 1960s.
PLANT OF THE WEEK
Persimmons are in fact a functional fruit with many edible uses.
They’re orange and can be put into your kid’s lunchbox unpeeled, and can be eaten sliced or whole like a pear.
You can dice and freeze them, adding them to a smoothie as a thickener.
They can also be dried, changing them from a crisp consistency to a soft, date-like, chewy texture. Eaten this way, they are deliciously sweet and taste more like candy than dried fruit.
Persimmons can be grown all over Australia and are in fact commercially grown in southern Qld, northern NSW, coffs Harbour, northern Victoria, north-eastern South Australia and south-western Australia.
There are two types of persimmon grown in Australia - astringent and sweet (non-astringent) persimmon. The commercial industry is focused almost entirely on the sweet (non-astringent) types, whereas it is very common for astringent persimmon to be grown in backyards.
Some non-astringent varieties are Fuyu, Jiro, Izu and Suruga.
Newer varieties have glowing orange-red sweet fruit which can be eaten in a hard mature condition.
Persimmons are a deciduous small tree with great autumn colour. They need only a low chilling requirement for even bud break.
Persimmons bud up in September and flower in October so may for the most part avoid late spring frosts causing damage to flowers and fruit.
Soil-Persimmons can be successfully grown on a wide range of soils from light sandy loams to heavy alluvial clays. Preferred soils are light, well-drained sandy loams or loams.