Friday, 31 October 2014

Spring Into Action and Eat Guava


Springs nearly over and you’ve probably pruned, weeded and mulched your garden but are some of your plants still looking overgrown and in need of attention?
photo M Cannon
There are still some jobs that need doing so
Let’s find out what they are….I'm talking with Permaculture North President, Margaret Mossakowska
PLAY: Spring Garden_29th _October_2014
Hydrophobic soil can be treated organically by incorporating coco peat, compost or growing green manures.
Green manures for the warmer months include millet, buckwheat, Lucerne and alfalfa.
You can use any seeds that have past their use by date and throw them into the ground.
Just chop them off as they grow and let them decompose on top of the soil.
For those areas where rain has been below average, don’t fertilise your trees and shrubs, just keep up the watering.
photo M Cannon
When you’re watering it’s a good idea to add seaweed solution-better still use it in a hose on and it’ll take much less time and effort.
Trees that are drought stressed will be prone to dropping limbs or even dropping dead, so a good watering with seaweed solution will help with the recovery.
When it comes to mulching-trees are need woody mulches that break down with fungi.
 Soft mulches, such as sugar cane, tea tree and pea straw are needed for veggie beds because they feed the soil as they break down.
For a natural soil wetter, try Agar Agar which comes in a powder form. Mix it in with the soil then wet it down.
If you have any questions what needs doing in the spring garden, drop us a line to


Valerian,or Valeriana Officinalis
 You’ll find this growing wild in marshy ground, along water courses and in fields of Europe, through northern Asia to China.
Valerian or garden Heliotrope, is sometimes  called 'garden valerian,' 'garden heliotrope' and 'all-heal.'
Valerian has been around for thousands of years ad was used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome.
Valerian is a perennial that fits in both the ornamental and medicinal herb garden.
Some say the whole plant, except for the flower, has an unpleasant smelly sock odour. 
But then why were Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the sixteenth century?
Did you know that, the smell was considered bad enough for the early Greeks to have named it Phu (Phew!).
Then again Valerian roots were used as a moth repellent in stored clothing during the Middle Ages.
Personally I don’t find it that unpleasant and think that the root or rhizome of the plant is what’s got that smelly odour.
If you’ve got a feline companion that likes the smell of the Catnip plant, then they’ll also like the smell of Valerian.
So if you are the crafty type and want to please your feline, make an herbal pillow out of Valerian, and your cat will provide you with hours of entertainment! 
What Does it Look Like?
Valeriana officinalis, is a tall perennial that grows to about 1.5 metres and ,  has clusters of (usually) white flowers that attract butterflies and bees.
If you know that plant Cherry Pie, then you know what the flowers of Valerian look like-flattened heads that appear in Summer.
The leaves are serrated or toothed and mid-green on stems of about 30cm.
The root or rhizome is the part used in herbal medicine and that’s what has that strong smell and a fairly unpleasant taste.
You might already use Valerian to help you sleep at night so know that it has properties.
Valerian is an easy to grow plant Grow valerian in any moist, semi-shaded location. 
Valerian is a heavy nitrogen-feeder, so apply a liquid fertiliser every fortnight and add organic material to the soil.
Plants can be raised from seed planted in spring or by root division in Autumn.
If you’re growing Valerian as a medicinal herb, cut the flower stalks as soon as they appear to direct more energy to the root.
You dig up the roots in autumn for drying.

By taking off the flowers as soon as they appear will give you a larger mass of roots to use.
If you’re growing valerian as an ornamental, let the plant flower, as the flowers have a sweet, cherry pie fragrance, a trademark of the Heliotrope family.
If you’re growing Valerian by seed, I should point out that the

germination rate is poor.
It has to be fresh seed and only press the seed onto the surface because they’re so fine.
Valerian can be grown anywhere in Australia and the seedlings are frost but not drought hardy.
You can also grow Valerian in a largish pot but keep up the watering because it grows quite tall.
I’ve never had Valerian self seeding in my garden-but mines growing in a pot and probably needs to be planted out.
Using Valerian.
 When taken in the proper dosage, Valerian can induce restful sleep without grogginess the next morning, unlike prescription drugs.
Valerian root is the part of the plant that is used for medicinal purposes.  After you’ve dug up your Valerian roots- wash, them quickly dry at 1200C degrees in the oven until brittle.
Keep an eye on this so you don't burn the roots. 
If you store the Valerian roots in an airtight container, the roots will keep indefinitely.
Valerian root has traditionally been used as a sedative and it is an ingredient in many medicines used for this purpose.
Fresh or dried valerian root can be used to make a calming tea, though most people find that it is necessary to add honey or other herbs to off-set the taste. The tea may be useful to treat insomnia, cramps and stress, but do not use for extended periods without a break, or if you are taking other sleep-inducing medications.
Ground valerian root can also be used to make a soothing bath.
The mineral rich leaves are a good additive to your compost and a spray made from the root is which is then sprayed onto the ground is supposed to attract earthworms.
Valerian is often used as a companion plant, especially in the vegetable garden.
Why is it good for you?
Valerian is a central nervous system relaxer, and has been used as a calming sleep aid for over 1,000 years. 
Commercially the root can be distilled into oils and ointments, or dried and used in teas or capsules.


with landscape designer Brent Reid
photo M Cannon
My next guest has worked in the landscaping industry for 16 years, learning the ropes at Semken Landscaping whilst studying Horticulture at Burnley College and Holmesglen College.
After working with some of Melbourne (and Australia’s) best landscape designers at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Brent’s passion for landscape design was born, which led to designing gardens for TV shows.
This next garden called Connect-was designed with the family in mind.

Let’s find out what this is all about.

The garden has been designed to be a family garden. There is a central structure which connects the family where they can eat, relax and come together to enjoy quality time. There are two distinct area wither side of the central structure. The first side is a parent’s retreat with detailed plantings, a touch of lawn and some canopy trees sheltering a beautiful birdbath by Willie Wildlife. The second side to the garden is the kid’s area with secret hiding spots and a dedicated fruit, vegetable and herb garden joined by an open lawn for playing. The garden is partly enclosed by walls and hedging plants.


with Hort Journal Karen smith

Feijoa, Pineapple Guava
Acca Sellowiana syn Feijoa sellowiana
If you were told that the fruit of this tree the fruit has the taste and perfume of strawberry, pineapple, lemon, passionfruit and guava, would you buy it?
What if you were also told that he spectacular purple, pink and white flowers with a mass of red stamens have sweet delicious petals that make a superb ingredient in sweets and drinks., would you change your mind and want to grow it?

With those sort of credentials -let’s find out about this plant.

The feijoa is a slow-growing evergreen shrub that can reach 5m. high and 5metres wide.
The feijoa can tolerate partial shade and slight exposure to salt spray. They also make an excellent foundation planting, either singly or as a formal or informal hedge.
The fruits are about 2 to 8cm long and vary in shape from round to elongated pear shaped.
The waxy skin is dull blue-green to blue or grayish green and the skin texture varies from smooth to rough and pebbly and is 1.5cm thick. The fruit emits a strong long-lasting perfume, even before it is fully ripe.
Scoop out the flesh out put some on a fruit salad or in a smoothie.
The tiny edible seeds are embedded in a jellylike centre and you can make sweet drinks with the flowers.

Best of all the trees are very attractive and can be planted to form beautiful flowering and fruiting hedges, screens or windbreaks. They espalier well and can be trained as a small standard tree or a multi-trunked specimen.  They’re well suited to pot culture and even seedling trees will produce flowers and fruits after as little as three years.

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