Monday, 25 August 2014

Bananas Bandicoots and Bushes


Most Australians would have you believe that they know what dug those holes in their lawn.
Long Nosed Bandicoot-Perameles nasuta
Some say it’s lawn grubs, others say it’s worms coming up for air and leaving piles of dirt.
Bandicoot isn’t what comes to mind when these gardeners see fresh conical shaped holes with teaspoon sized piles of dirt in their lawn every morning.
Would you believe that most Australians have never actually seen a bandicoot!
Let’s find out what about these piles of dirt and holes. I'm talking with ecologist Sue Stevens

Bandicoots are a gardener’s best friend because they eat spiders, cockroaches, a variety of insects, snails and most importantly their favourite food – the black beetle & beetle larva known as curl grubs. 
These grubs feed on the root system of your lawn causing dieback or brown patches.
Bandicoots are effectively aerating your lawn so that it will grow with renewed vigour during spring.
Bandicoots cause no long-term damage and are beneficial to lawns and gardens.
Remember that Bandicoots are protected and are currently under threat due to both habitat loss and predation.
If you live in a bandicoot territory and you have a suitable food source, you will have bandicoots in your yard.
Once the food source has gone, they will move on.
If you have any questions about Bandicoots, send in a photo, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


You may not have heard of Chervil before, or if you’ve seen it at the garden centre, though, “that looks like Parsley, so why do I need to grow it?

First of all, let’s find out what Chervil really is.

Would you believe that Chervil has been around for about the last 2000 years?
It was introduced to Europe by the Romans and used by the ancient Greeks as a rejuvenating tonic.
 The tonic recipe includes dandelion, chervil, watercress and water and was made during the winter months when many types of fruit and vegetables were out of season or hard to find.
Chervil being rich in minerals and vitamins was a good substitute.
It was once called 'myrrhis' because the volatile oil you get from chervil leaves has a similar aroma to  'myrrh' as in frankincense and myrrh.

Quite different to Parsley already don’t you think?

Legend has it that chervil makes one merry, sharpens the wit, bestows youth upon the aged and symbolizes sincerity.
Did you know that eating a whole plant of Chervil is supposed to get rid of hiccups?
I wonder if anybody uses it today?

Botanically it’s Anthriscus Cerefolium
Chervil is a member of the: Umbelliferae or Carrot family and its leaves look a bit like carrot tops.

Young green leaves, smell similar to Anise, and when picked before they lose their pungency can be preserved in vinegar.
Chervil is a warm herb. That means that it doesn’t overwhelm other spices and tastes.

Chilli on the other hand is a hot herb or spice if you prefer.
There are two main varieties of chervil, one plain and one curly.


Growing chervil, is quick because it will be ready to harvest in 8 weeks – Chervil is cold hardy, so you can use it during the winter into spring months.
Treat chervil much like parsley.
Like most herbs, chervil is a perennial in cooler climates, but in warmer climates, it’s more of an annual, occasionally biennial. (meaning in might regrow for you for 2 years.)
Chervil grows to about 40cm high and 25cm wide and  has a more delicate, nutty flavour than Parsley.
In some parts of Australia, the temperate and cold zones, you can have 2 sowings of Chervil a year.
Sow the winter chervil in late summer and the spring chervil from late winter onwards – the best results seem to be 2 days before a full moon – don’t ask me why, because I don’t know.
Choose a sunny spot for your winter chervil and a semi-shady spot for your summer chervil.
If you want to sow now, it will have to be in some sort of igloo or mini-greenhouse because the ideal temperature of germination is about 130-180C.
Chervil seeds need light to germinate so don’t bury them with soil or potting mix.
Germination is slow, just like Parsley taking usually occurs 2-3 weeks but can take even longer.
TIP  To speed up germination the night before sowing, pour boiling water over the seeds in a shallow saucer and leave them to soak overnight.
In really cold districts  protect your chervil in the winter with a poly tunnel and you’ll be able to cut herbs all year.
Another Tip
Best sow chervil in situ as seedlings don’t transplant well – they sometimes bolt when transplanted..
Sow seeds about 5mm deep and in rows 30cm apart and thin plants to 30cm apart.
Why is Chervil best in winter?
Because Chervil isn’t heat-tolerant, in warm and arid districts, you Chevril will probably bolt to seed in Summer because of the  heat.

Chervil is one of those herbs that doesn’t mind partial shade and the soil needs to be fertile and fairly moist.
Chervil will grow in any soil but dislikes being too wet although it does need water, it won’t like being in badly drained soil.
If you let your Chervil flower which it’ll do in Summer, on top of the light-green, lacy leaves, will appear umbrella-like clusters of white flowers in on tall stems up to 60cm tall.

I would imagine these small flowers attract beneficial insects just like parsley flowers do.
 Leaves smell faintly of aniseed and turn reddish-brown as the plant matures.
Chervil is good for all those balcony gardeners and it’ll grow indoors. Once established, chervil self-seeds, again like Parsley if you let if flower and set seed of course.

Remove the flowers from most of the plants before they open and keep watered.
The plants will self seed if one or two plants are allowed to flower.

Sow the seeds in monthly succession if you want a constant supply – it’s one of those herbs, that once you start using it, you find more and more uses for it. Just keep cutting it.
It’s used to make the famous chervil soup, delicious with crab, cream cheese, omelettes, in salads, bĂ©arnaise sauce, with all meats, fish and poultry – such a versatile culinary herb.
Why is It Good For You?
Chervil is rich in a number of different vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, iron, manganese, potassium and zinc.
Store in airtight packs and keep in a cool, dark place.
Do either buy a plant Chervil from a garden centre or sow seed.


with landscape designer Louise McDaid
This is the third in the series of “why won’t it grow at my place.”
Do all plants have a long and healthy life and is it your fault when they keel over?
That’s been a question for most gardeners perhaps some of the time.
What can go wrong is not so much the plant’s health but it’s life span. Not all plants live forever and that includes trees and shrubs not just perennials.
The climatic conditions at your place might also be a factor in shortening the life span of some of your plants even though you’ve given it all that TLC-like watering, fertilizing, pruning at the right time.
Let’s find out what this is all about.


Sometimes the problem is you’ve planted something that’s incompatible with the plant that’s next to it.
There are a few basic rules of thumb when it comes to plants to avoid near one another.
First, check that your garden plants are all about the same size and have the same light requirements. When planting taller and shorter plants together, make sure that the shorter plants are spaced far enough away and orientated so the sun will shine on them during the day.
Many gardeners solve this problem by putting the shortest plants in their own row on the edge of the garden or planted as a border planting.
Plants that need a lot of water will cause those water haters nearby a great deal of stress so plant the water haters further away.
Plants that need low phosphorous to grow like some Australian natives-Banksias, Grevilleas, Boronia etc. These are best planted in their own bed or with exotics that don't need much if any fertilising.

Boronia ledifolia


Edible bananas-Musa acuminata

In the subtropics it takes between 2 and 4 months for bananas to ripen (depending on variety, weather and other conditions).
In the cooler climate of southern Victoria for example Melbourne, with the shorter daylight hours and overnight temperature drops it takes from 5 to 6 months or more (again depending on conditions).
Did you know that bananas can grow it regions other than the tropics? They are actually the world’s largest herb, a plant, that goes on producing year after year.

I’ve seen banana plants being coddled in the south of England at Great Dixter.(photo below). These plants are protected by a surrounding hedge, as well as a stack of hay which is held together by bamboo  poles.
 Bananas are a versatile plant in any landscape. Bananas can add a lush, tropical look to any area. Although everyone knows the fruit, few people have experience growing the plant.

While it is possible to grow banana plants in cool temperate zones and have them produce fruit, it is unlikely to mature before cold weather sets in.
They can be picked early and ripened by placing in a plastic bag with a couple ripening apples. However some say that because the fruit is not mature it lacks flavour and sweetness.
Banana plants in cool temperate districts tend to produce a bunch around December/January which would have them ripen May June (well into the cold weather).
Musa acuminata is one of the best for cold climates and others like Sugar banana  Musa  paradisiaca are a good all round variety.

Banana plants are fast growing, usually putting out one new leaf once a week.
Banana plants can either form clumps by suckering or they can remain solitary.
Banana leaves, pseudostem (trunk) and fruiting stem (raceme) grow from the underground rhizome (or pseudo bulb's) top surface and the roots grow from the lower surface of the rhizome.
From the time of planting it usually takes 12 months or so to produce the first bunch, after that the bunches appear every 8-10 months.
Because commercial banana plants cannot produce seeds, they are predominately propagated from their underground rhizomes called corms or tissue culture.
The fleshy stems sheathed with huge broad leaves can grow up to 10metres in as little as 1 year, depending on variety and growing environment. After approximately six months, when the banana plants leaf formation is completed and the plant has matured, a flowering stalk emerges from the top of the plant. This flowering stalk appears as a large bud and is called the bell.  

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