Friday, 23 October 2015

Let's Go Go Gardening


Turmeric: Curcuma longa
 In yet another example of what’s in the supermarket spice shelf is not what it’s cracked up to be, you’ll find out that there’s two types of this (Turmeric) spice.
One is best for pickling or making pickles with, the other is the better one for flavouring your cooking.
When commercially harvesting or 'lifting' Turmeric, the rhizome is boiled to stop it from sprouting; to even out the colour, because naturally, the colour is concentrated in the centre and a lot paler towards the edges; and to gelatinise the starches within it.

Even more interesting is that you can actually grow this spice yourself.

Let’s find out. Talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

Turmeric is a tropical rhizome but can grow in cooler climates as long is you give it protection from frost.
Sometimes referred to as Indian Saffron, but there's no real similarity with the flavour.

Madras Turmeric and Allepeppy turmeric were the two different types that Ian mentioned.
Madras is for colouring food such as when making pickles and Allepeppy is the more aromatic turmeric that you use in cooking dishes such as Dahl, or curries or wherever the recipe calls for Turmeric.
If you manage to get some rhizomes of Turmeric, spring is the time to plant them in the ground about 7 – 10 cm deep.
Use the Turmeric root fresh by grating it into your dishes that call for Turmeric.
If you have any questions about Turmeric or have some information you’d like to share, why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Olives Olea europaea
Well, it’s not a vegetable, perhaps more a fruit, and that is Olives.
The olive tree is a symbol of joy, peace and happiness.
Did you know that the Mediterranean diet which includes plenty of olives and olive oil has long been known as one of the healthiest?

Another interesting fact is that residents of Crete in the Mediterranean have the highest consumption of olive oil per person in the world but Australia is second; the Cretians though have the lowest rate of death from heart related diseases in the world which we can’t say about our diet yet.
Would you have guessed that growing olives dates back 5,000 years and that olive trees can live up to 2,000 years?
Olive trees can look good in any garden with their silver grey-green leaves.
Some people have mistakenly bought ornamental olive trees thinking that they will also fruit, but that’s not the case.
These ornamental olives have darker green leaves and only produce pea sized fruit which isn’t much good.

The good news is that true olives can grow right from Queensland through to Tasmania and across to South Australia.
Not only that, olives can grow with neglect and start producing fruit again with a bit of care plus they make excellent wind breaks and great for gardeners with black thumbs.

 What Do Olive Trees Really Like?
We have to remember that the olive originated in the Mediterranean region and will grow well in areas of Australia with a similar climate—cool/cold winters and hot summers.
Even though olives are evergreen trees, the traditional olive varieties need a cool winter so they can rest to prepare for their main shooting.
Many mature olive trees will survive and crop well even in the very cold areas of Australia.
Some varieties will also fruit well in 'no frost' areas as long as the winters are cool enough;
Winter chilling is needed; winter temperatures fluctuating between
1.5°C and 18°C and summers long and warm enough to ripen the fruit.

Having said that, the olive industry in Australia has been doing research into what olives do well in warm winters and wet summers.
Some of these are warm winter varieties include: Arbequina, Arecuzzo, Barnea, Del Morocco, Koroneiki, Manzanillo and Picual.

Tip: If you already have an olive tree and experienced very few olives; hot, dry winds or rain at pollination time in late spring can reduce fruit set..
Olives will grow in most soil types as long as they are well-drained and have a subsoil pH range of 6.5–8.5.

The olive three’s worst enemy is too much water.

 If your soil holds too much water when there’s been a lot of rain, then you need to improve the drainage or raise the bed that your olive tree is growing in.

 When it comes to fertilising, olive trees have similar needs to Australian eucalypts except for the fact that they’re not phosphorous sensitive.
Traditionally all you need to use to fertilise your olive trees are well rotted manures and mulches; anything else and you risk over fertilising your trees.

 Problems with Olive trees.
Lots of rain at harvest-time, can reduce oil content due to the higher water content in the fruit.
The most common pest is black scale, which also affects citrus.
Olive lace bug (not to be confused with beneficial lace wings) can also be a problem.
All of these pests can be controlled, but they should be positively identified . If you’re not sure what’s attacking your tree, take a piece of the affected branch to your local garden centre.
Don’t go off spraying willy nilly with one of those broadspectrum insecticides that kill beneficial insects as well..
The main fungal problem is peacock spot, which results in leaf fall and poor fruit set:
It’s more common in humid areas.
You need to prune to allow enough air flow through the leaves to help keep it under control.
Copper sprays can be used for (any both of these) fungal diseases.
Olives are also harmed by some soil-borne pathogens such as phytophthora, verticillium and nematodes common to other fruit trees.
If that still doesn’t put you off growing them, here’s part of what you have to do to preserve olives.

Harvesting Olives
In about February - March, some of the fruit begins to turn from plain green to purplish black.
so from then on it will be fairly safe to pick the green olives for pickling
If you have ever tried to eat an olive straight from the tree, you will know what I mean - it's VERY bitter and VERY hard.

If you use the method I’m going to talk about, you’ll end up with wonderful sweet olives and you can add all sorts of herb combinations to create your own special marinated olives. 

•Make a slit in each olive or crack each one open carefully with a wooden mallet. THAT’S RIGHT, EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE!

This bruising, pricking or cutting will allow the water and salt to penetrate the fruit, drawing out the bitterness and also preserving it
•Put the olives in a large bowl or bucket and cover with water with ½ cup of coarse salt for every 10 cups of water. Place a plate over the top to keep the olives submerged.
 •Change the water daily for about 10 -12 days to extract the bitterness and make the olives "sweet".
Test an olive to see if all the bitterness is gone. Ugghhh, yes you have to.
 •After 14 days, drain the olives and place in a solution of cooled down brine; 1 cup of salt for every 10 cups of water that has been boiled together first.
Then all that’s left is bottling the olives in brine topped up with 1 cm of olive oil.
There are other recipes involving wood ash.
By the way, olives will keep for years in the freezer.
Why are they good for you?
Olives are nutritious and rich in mineral content as sodium, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and iodine.
Olives provide essential vitamins and amino acids.
Olives contain oleic acid, which has beneficial properties to protect the heart.
And just in case these benefits weren’t enough, they are also a great aphrodisiac.


Continuing with the series on best fit gardening.
Today we’re looking at lawn solutions when you can't have a lawn like this one.

Do you have a bare patch of lawn where no matter how many times you replace it with turf, it just refuses to grow?
Perhaps it gets too much shade in winter for the grass to survive or there’s root competition from the lovely shade giving tree?
Wouldn’t you like a grass alternative that Bambi would love to lie on to have a sleep?
Sounds too good to be true but there are solutions to the problem.
Let’s find out. I'm talking with garden designer Peter Nixon of

Zoysia tenuifolia

Peter mentioned these  lawn alternatives:
Mini mondo (Ophiopogon japonicas nana), Dichondra, ( Zoysia tenuifolia) or Korean Temple grass.
Just a little note about Zoysia tenuifolia: Zoysia tenuifolia is very different from all other Zoysia grasses.
Often referred to by different names including No-Mow Grass, Min Mow and Petting Grass, Zoysia tenuifolia is more of an ornamental style of grass and not suitable for use as a general lawn.
Instead it has a very fine bright green leaf, and if left to grow without lawn mowing I’ll develop a clumping characteristic where it will naturally raise higher in areas, but will never grow high like other grasses can.


Covering more than 900 species, Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family (Laminaceae.)
You don’t need to know much to grow these next plants because they’re pretty simple and easy to grow.
Not only that, they’re hardy and frost tolerant, plus they flower for months and months.
If a bit snaps off, you can stick it into the ground and grow a whole new plant, it’s that easy.

Let’s find out about them. I'm talking with the plant panel: Karen Smith editor of and Jeremy Critchley owner of

  Large or small, grown as annuals or perennials, it creates an impact.
And there is a salvia for every climate in Australia.

This is what the breeder said about Salvia Go Go.
GoGos bring according to Kientzler a multitude of bright flower spikes all summer long, and quickly develop into quite impressive specimens – up to 120 cm in height and width, emanating an aura of luminescence and all-season splendour.
“Spectacular in large, decorative containers, either in full sun or partial shade.”

Salvias vary in height from about 30cm high,  to large shrubs that are up to 3m tall and wide.
Flowers are arranged in spires and come in hues of blue, purple, cerise, red, pink, white, yellow and orange. Most are at their best from spring to early winter, but there are salvias that flower almost year-round if you want that sort of thing not to mention the ones with scented leaves like pineapple sage, fruit salad sage, or just plain culinary sage.
Team up your Salvias with some silver leaved plants, some Diascias (dutchman’s britches) or Angelonia, all of which have been featured in this segment.

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