Sunday, 4 January 2015

Leaping Grasshoppers and Gloxinias


Has anyone experienced grasshoppers eating the lot in their garden?
Long Horned Grasshopper in Bromeliad photo M Cannon
They are tiny little eating machines!!
Some gardeners have discovered that the best chemical-free method for getting rid of grasshoppers is to simply take off their thongs and smack the little blighters.
If you were to follow this plan of attack you’d be at it 24/7 and would end up demolishing every plant in your garden and you’d have to be fast!
Is there a way to get rid of them without nasty chemicals?
Let’s find out ….I'm talking with General Manager Steve Falcioni from

The eggs pupate in bare patches of soil, sometime for years, then hatch out when the rain and warm weather arrives.
So many grasshoppers eating tomato leaves and flowers and indeed most plants' every morning-even your orchids!
You can let your chickens into the veggie patch to try and curb the infestation, but grasshoppers can jump very high, either into or out of that same patch.
But there’s no need to go out on a killing spree because the grasshoppers will beat you every time.
Go for that neem oil.
If you have any questions about your grasshoppers or a photo, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Today’s vegetable hero is cucumber or Cucumis sativus

Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year.
Did you know that cucumbers are a member of the gourd or cucurbita family and have been grown for 4000 years?

Did cucumber start off in India? No-one’s really sure.
Some pretty famous people have been known to be fans of cucumbers, even cucumber pickles.
Take, Julius Ceasar, he ate them everyday, - and Cleopatra, thought cucumber pickles helped her skin complexion, and other pickle lovers included George Washington and Queen Elizabeth 1.

Would you have thought that Cucumbers are one of the world’s favourite vegetables?
I would’ve said the tomato, but there you go.

When is the best time to grow some cucumbers?

Cucumber plants do best in all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally need temperatures between 15-33°C. Cucumbers are happiest when the average temperatures are around 210C

For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world.
Sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring and early Summer for cool temperate districts, spring and summer for arid and temperate zones districts, from August until March in sub-tropical areas.

Only the cooler months for tropical areas-so April until August unless you’re inland.

Lunch box sized cucumbers. photo M Cannon
And where can you grow these delicious cucumbers?

You need to pick a sunny, well-drained spot, because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant, that needs full sun.

What do cucumber plants love?
Cucumber’s can be a bit fussy about position.
In cool zones, they are best in full sun.
For areas with hot summers, shade is better for your cucumbers.
TIP:Did you know that you can actually grow cucumbers in about 30% – 50 % shade in places where the air is warm?
A simple shade covering, temporary or something more permanent will protect the plants from the harsh sun as well as lessening the  risk of scarring the fruit, (it might have the added benefit of protecting your plants from pests too).

Cucumber vine photo M Cannon
Cucumbers are mostly vines that need to climb.
Pick a position that provides them with the right amount of sun and also gives them a bit of support.
Fences and trellis do fine as do wire supports.
In fact, growing up a trellis would be a great way to avoid all the mildews and moulds that cucumbers are prone to in still humid weather.
If you like to grow sweet corn then plant your cucumbers amongst them so they can climb up the corn stalks- a good way to make the most of the space in your veggie bed.
Cucumber flowers. photo M Cannon

Just like zucchinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after.

Cucumbers in Pots
There’s also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in pots.
Try Mini White- one of the most popular. Grow it for yourself and see why. The 10cm long fruit and is best picked when young. Gives you lots of fruit per plant and it’s burpless  
Or you could try Cucumber Mini Muncher as well.
You’ll need to go to , or if you’re in Adelaide, go to the shop in the Botanic Gardens.

The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils.
As long as your soil is well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
Add in plenty of organic compost and fertilisers like chook poo or cow manure.
I’ve seen an idea where you make mini mounds, wet the soil first and then drop in 4 -5 seeds into the top of each mound.
Mulch the mounds so they don’t dry out but not too much or you’ll be wondering why nothing is germinating, that’s because the seed has rotted away.

When your seeds have germinated, pick out the strongest couple and throw away the others so you don’t get overcrowding.
Water regularly at the base of each plant – keeping leaves dry or you risk powdery mildew disease – and feed every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.


Cucumbers, like many vines, are prone to fungal infections.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
Look for white to grey fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves become brittle then start to die off.
There are some types of cucumbers that resist this disease for a time anyway.
You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole milk to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.

Prevention is much better than cure so; use a clean soft mulch like sugar-cane or straw, drip irrigation instead of overhead watering preferably early in the morning, not crowding plants to get good air movement, and a trellis or support.

TIP: When picking your cucumbers don’t pull them off the vine.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip or cut the cucumbers off with a scissors or secateurs, making sure you leave a bit of stem attached to the fruit.

 Bitter Cucumbers?
Who out there hasn’t tried a cucumber that’s tasted bitter?
I’m sure some time in your life, that’s happened hasn’t it?
There’s seems to be a few theories for bitterness in cucumbers
One theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
Usually the bitterness accumulates at the stem and below the surface of the skin of the cucumber.
According to this theory it’s a genetic problem.

I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin.
Found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress, and can make the fruit taste really bitter.

Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!
By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.

Cucumbers should be ready at about 2 to 2 1/2 months and picking fruit sometimes encourages more to start growing.
They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy

Why are they good for you?
Cucumbers have lots of Vitamins C but why you should eat them is because the silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, you know, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.

Cucumbers have some dietary fibre and Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin.
So eat them quick in sandwiches  salads or juice them for healthy glowing skin!



 with garden designer Lesley Simpson
Create a Potager Garden
photo M Cannon

The French term potager refers to a home kitchen garden that grows a mixture of annual and perennial fruit, vegetables and culinary herbs.

Potager gardens are meant to supply a household with food.

Let’s find out about create one of these gardens.

PLAY: Create a potager garden_31st  December _2014
Organic gardeners tend to replace ordered rows (still seen in many European kitchen gardens) with more informal plantings.
English potager garden photo M. Cannon
By underplanting, interplanting and companion planting not only adds interest to the garden but that this mix improves growing conditions by offering plants shade and protection from hot sun or strong wind.
It also may just discourage or confuse attacking insects while encouraging beneficial insects into the garden.


Gloxinia speciosa or Gloxinia
This next plant is the type you buy after seeing it in a florists display because it looks so exotic with it’s rich velvety petals.
You think to yourself, “ I’ll get that” as a reward for something you’ve done like finishing a horticulture, gardening or floristry course or a difficult task. Perhaps even after losing some weight.
If you find the right location, they last for years and years.

The plants commonly known as Gloxinias, or perhaps florist Gloxinias, are mostly varieties of one species, Sinningia speciosa, which come from Brazil.
Gloxinia photo M Cannon

The name Gloxinia was given in honour of Benjamin Peter Gloxin, a French botanical writer working at the end of the eighteenth century.

Wilhelm Sinning, head gardener at the University of Bonn in the mid-nineteenth century was associated with the hybridization and selection work which has given us the flower we know today.

These modern hybrids have brilliantly coloured trumpet-shaped velvety flowers and very beautiful, large, flat, velvety mid-green leaves. 
The flowers vary in colour from rich crimson, deep red, violet and white to various combinations of  colours.

The biggest difference between growing Gloxinia and growing African violets or Streptocarpus is that Gloxinia require a period of dormancy or “winter rest” in order to flower again.
Your plant will start to wind down, usually around April or May with flowers fading more quickly and fewer or no new buds being formed.
When that happens, your plant is telling you it’s time to rest.
Reduce watering to about half the usual amount and remove dead flower stems.

The really great news is that once you have a mature gloxinia plant, it can live for years. There’s the belief that if you can successfully grow African violets, you can probably grow gloxinias. They both are members of the Gesneriaceae family. The care of the two species is similar, other than the gloxinia's required periods of dormancy.
Funnily enough I can grow my Gloxinia outdoors under a peach tree in a pot, but can’t do that with my African violets.

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