Sunday, 21 September 2014

Vanilla Scented Gardening

REAL WORLD GARDENER Wed. 5pm 2RRR 88.5fm Sydney, streaming live at and Across Australia on the Community Radio Network.
The complete CRN edition of RWG is available on , just click on 2RRR to find this week’s edition. The new theme is sung by Harry Hughes from his album Songs of the Garden. You can hear samples of the album from the website


with Ian Hemphill from
The Vanilla bean orchid that this next spice comes from originates in the highland forests of Mexico, so that gives you some idea of where it grows best.
Somewhere warm and humid and where the temperature doesn't fall below 200C

But hey, don’t let that stop you from trying to grow it, after all it’s an orchid.

The plant you need to grow is Vanilla planifolia "Andrews" if you can get it.


The green vanilla bean itself has no odour or flavour.
It's not until heated that the enzyme within the bean comes to life.
Then the process begins of being put out in the sun during the day and wrapped in blankets at night for 28 days.
Let’s find out what’s great about this spice.

 To get the vanilla bean the flower must be pollinated by the Melipone bee which is almost extinct in Mexico.
For that reason, even in Mexico, each vanilla bean flower on every vanilla bean farm, needs to be hand pollinated to get the bean.
Outside of Mexico of course there's no alternative anyway.
If you buy imitation vanilla essence then you’re buying a mixture made from synthetic substances which imitate the vanilla smell and flavour.
This often contains propylene glycol which is also found in automotive antifreeze!
It’s mass produced and relatively cheap but, of course, not in the same class as true vanilla extract.
The plant usually doesn’t flower until it’s at least 3 metres tall and it can reach a size of 20 metres and more.
If you want to try to grow this orchid, you must be sure to get Vanilla planifolia-used to be called Vanilla fragrans.
The flowers are like a skinny Cattleya (that’s an orchid) flower and they’re yellow.
A friend of mine has the variegated one growing in his laundry that faces north.
Seems to be doing pretty well.
If you have any questions about growing Vanilla orchids, drop us a line to


OKRA the way to pronounce is "Oh krah" not "Aukra"
Okra is also known as Lady’s fingers.
Okra is in the Malvaceae or Mallow family and called
Abelmoschus esculentus. (A-bell-mow- shus es-kew-lent-us)
It used to be called Hibiscus esculentus so that may you give you a clue as to what the bush might look like.
Did you know that Okra is related to cotton, cocoa, hibiscus and Rosella plants?
"Okra probably originated somewhere around Ethiopia  and Okra is found growing wild on the banks of the river Nile. According to records, the Egyptians were the first to grow it as a veggie it in the basin of the Nile during 12th century BC .
And as Okra made it’s way to North Africa and the Middle East, more uses were developed.
Not only were the seed pods eaten cooked, the seeds were toasted and ground, and used as a coffee substitute (and still is).
Another amazing fact is that in the 1800's slaves from Africa used ground okra as a part of their diet, and this apparently led to the use of ground okra seeds as a coffee substitute by other southerners during the American Civil War blockades of the 1860's.
You might have also heard of a dish called gumbo. This comes from using Okra or gumbo as a thickener especially in soups.
 So what does the Okra bush look like?
Okra varies in height from 60cm to 2m high depending on the variety of seed you buy.
The leaves are heart shaped with plenty of yellow hibiscus-like flowers with a maroon throat.
In case you don’t know Hibiscus flowers, think of Hawaiian or Tahitian girls with flowers in their hair. Might also be a Hibiscus or a Frangipani.
As you know, after the flowers comes the fruit that looks like a five-ribbed small pod with a cap on it, sort of like a gumnut cap.
Much smaller than beans or cucumbers.
Pick these a week after the flowers emerge because the Okra, gets too tough and stringy after that.
I’m told the leaves can be used as Spinach.
Doubly useful.
When to sow.
So when do you grow it?
In sub-tropical districts, you can plant them in August and September and then again January and February.
In temperate climates, sow seeds in October through to December,
Arid areas have between August and December to sow seeds directly into the soil.
Cool temperate districts, for you, the advice is to grow them in a greenhouse, but I discovered a blog from Adam whose from a cool mountain climate and Adam says “Okra does indeed grow in the cool areas, it just needs a bit of help to establish.
Adam puts an old plastic milk bottle over the plant until it fills the bottle, then away it goes.
Just pick the warmest part of your garden.
You’ll get a small crop if you have a cold Summer, but should have heaps is the summer is warmer. Thanks Adam!.
Finally for Tropical districts, you’ve won the jackpot this week, because you can grow Okra all year round!
Growing Okra
Okra seeds germinate reasonably well, but will be helped along if you soak them in a shallow dish of tepid water for 24hours.
This will soften the hard outer seed coat.
Pick a spot that gets full sun and has plenty of compost dug into the soil.
One thing that Okra detests, and that’s wet, boggy soil or soil with poor drainage.
Okra will also be set back if you get a cold snap in your district.
Either sow the seeds directly or into punnets for later transplanting.
I have heard that they don’t like being transplanted that much so you could try sowing them in pots made of coir, or make them yourself from newspaper or toilet rolls.
A very permaculture thing to do.
Because they grow as a largish bush, space the seeds or seedlings if transplanting, about 50cm to a metre apart.
Water your Okra fairly regularly, and if your soil is too hard or clayey, grow some Okra in a pot no problem.
By the way, Okra are partial to high amounts of Potash.
During the growing period, water in lots of liquid fertiliser, such as worm tea and add handfuls of compost.
Tip pruning will also give you a bushier plant with more flowers and more Okra pods.
In warm areas of Australia, your Okra will be ready to pick in 10 weeks. In cold temperate zones however, it may take as long as 16 weeks.
Pick your Okra when they’re small and certainly before they get bigger than 10cm in length. Around 5 – 10 cm length is best.
Tip: Okra pods are referred to as mucilaginous.
What does that meant? Ughhhh! This can make them a bit slimy in cooking, so if that bothers you, don’t slice them, keep them whole.
Alternatively, add a couple of drops of vinegar or lemon juice.
I’ve also read that you should avoid growing Okra where you’ve had tomatoes, capsicums or potatoes growing previously.
For different varieties of Okra, go to
Two varieties I found online in Australia, are Okra Clemson Spineless, a bush that grows to 1 ½ m and Okra red Burgundy. Red Burgundy has red pods on a vigorous 1.5m tall plant with green leaves and attractive bright cherry red stems.
Why are they good for you?
Okra contains lots of valuable nutrients, almost half of which is in the form of soluble fibre, and a half of a cup of okra contains about 10% of the recommended levels of B6 and folic acid.
By the way, Okra has black seeds inside the pod. Don’t feel you have to remove them because you don’t. The seeds add flavour to the cooking.
The fibre is in that mucilage.
How about trying a mix with peppers and eggplant! Or grill it on the BBQ! :) try it !! grill it on its side for 2 minutes each!its yummy!!!!


with landscape designer Jason Cornish
A few weeks ago, the topic of pool conversions covered a couple of different ways of going about it.

There’s the aesthetic and environmentally appealing pond conversion.
Sounds great, and then there was the more expensive filling in with landfill conversion.
This conversion though is a bit different and focuses on reusing the space in another way.

Let’s find out what this is all about.

As Australia seems to be getting drier, this conversion seems to have the most merit.
One thing that should be mentioned with the pond conversion, yes you have all the beneficial insects and pond life that come to your pond, but the evaporation will be even higher than with a normal pool, because of the plants 

Where there once was a pool is now a rainwater tank below ground.


 with Hort Journal magazine editor, Karen Smith


Many gardeners have  thought that these next plans- dipladenias and mandevillas and are the same plant.Sure they’re pretty much alike  but dipladenia foliage is bit smaller and the plant is more shrub-like.
However, both plants are very similar gorgeous tropical looking plants that have sky rocketed in popularity because they have so many uses. Let’s find out more about them

If you still don’t know the difference between a mandevilla and a dipladenia try this.
The leaves, of each plant will let you know which plant you are growing. Mandevilla leaves are longer and narrower than dipladenia leaves, which are wider and heart-shaped. Dipladenia leaves have a thicker, leathery, smooth feel, while mandevilla leaves feel rough and textured.
Dipladenias can be used pots, hanging baskets, or on their own in the garden.
Mandevillas will need some sort of trellis to support their growth.
They are easy to grow and should flower their heads off all season long.
At the end of winter give Mandevillas a hard prune to give them some shape and encourage more flowers.
Tip prune Dipladenias at this time and feed with an organic fertiliser.
sometimes Dipladenias and Mandevillas have aphids swarming on the new growth.
Often the aphids are a yellow or black colour-quite different to the aphids that you see on roses.
Nothing to really worry about because they don't affect the growth that much.
Aphids can be controlled with eco Oil.


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