Monday, 26 January 2015

Go Brazilian in the Garden with Lily.


How old are those spices in your kitchen cupboard?
Five years, ten years, or even older?
Are they any good if they’re that old?
Cumin seeds.
Well with this next spice, if it doesn’t have a strong and spicy-sweet aroma, then you’d better chuck it out.

Let’s find out what cumin can be used in besides curries. I'm talking with herb expert Ian Hemphill from

Cumin is the classic north Indian seed spice but it has a much wider used than curry.
Cumin is a key element in Mexican and Egyptian food and a key ingredient in Dukka - an Egyptian spice mix you can use to dip your bread into. This mix consists of seeds of cumin, coriander, and sesame as well as almonds or hazelnuts and sumac. There are other variations.
Other places where you may find cumin is in sweet shortbread biscuits, Dutch Leyden cheese and in pickling.
Spices and herbs will keep for a long time if you store them properly.
Whole spices can last 4 years!
Ground spices like mustard can last for 2-3 years and you can use them in lots of different recipes like making your own tasty homemade salad dressings.
Herbs last anywhere from 1-3 years, depending on the herb.

Cumin seeds and cumin powder
So if you don’t use Cumin seed that much, buy it whole rather than powdered, and grind it up yourself either using an electric grinder or by hand with a mortar and pestle.
If you have any questions about cumin or have a great recipe, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.




Today’s vegetable hero is Alternanthera sissoo or Brazilian spinach.

Brazilian spinach, is not a true spinach at all. 

Being in the Chenopodiaceae or goosefoot family, its members are pretty much weeds and grain called quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) that you might’ve heard of.

Did you know that the word ‘spinach’ is now being used as a catch phrase for a lot of different edible, tropical greens?
This green is a tropical, edible perennial, native to Brazil.
It’s also known as sambu, samba lettuce and poor man’s spinach.
Brazilian spinach is a low growing perennial leaf vegetable, which forms a neat mound to 30 cm high, rather than spreading in a mat.
Why grow Brazilian spinach when you can easily grow Silverbeet amd English spinach?
People will tell you why continually plant annual vegetables when you can grow the perennial version all year?
Brazilian spinach photo M Cannon
Of course you have to like the taste of this particular spinach
Does it taste like spinach?
Yes it does because it’s a green leafy vegetable, a bit more crunchy without the slimy or mucilaginous texture that people often dislike with Malabar or Ceylon spinach.
Brazilian spinach isn’t invasive and is a handy plant for edging paths, especially in partial shade as it’s reasonably shade-tolerant.
The leaves are mid green, round and crinkled. The flowers are very tiny and white.
Some information on the internet will tell you that Brazilian spinach is mainly suitable for subtropical and tropical areas and is supposedly not going to do well for location further south than Sydney .
Although others have said that it grows in most parts of Australia, Brazilian spinach should grow for most of the year in the warmer climates but dying down in cooler areas.
Try throwing a blanket over your spinach on the occasional frosty night.
Brazilian spinach isn’t too fussy with soils although it prefers a moderate to rich loam, it dislikes waterlogging.
Plant in full sun to medium shade anytime between September and March.
Brazilian spinach is a vigorous and spreading groundcover about 30 cm high with crinkly leaves, rooting at the nodes.
Because it doesn’t set viable seed and isn’t considered invasive you need to obtain cuttings or buy a small plant from a nursery or garden centre.
Grows easily from cuttings. Propagate during the wet season or spring in cooler areas.
What do you do with Brazilian spinach?
Brazilian spinach needs steaming or boiling when eaten in large quantities because of the presence of oxalates.
It’s eaten alone as a green or added to other dishes as a spinach substitute
Use it steamed or stir-fried rather than in salads.
The leaves can also be substituted for basil when making pesto.
Spinach alternatives and Why They Are They Good For You
If you find that it’s too hard to get and don’t like the sound of Brazilian spinach., here are some spinach alternatives and why they’re good for you.
Keep in mind that the true spinach is a cool crop and won’t grow in the Summer heat.
How many of you have planted lettuce, or spinach, in the summer time, and noticed the leaves remain stunted, or wilt, or even start growing pointed leaves?
When temperatures get warm enough, cool weather greens begin to bolt to seed.
None of the alternatives by the way are true spinach but are adapted to growing in hot climates and are steady producing greens through the hot season.
Malabar spinach
Malabar Spinach (Basella rubra): This climbing spinach from India does best in hot and humid climates.
There are two types, one is red-vined and the other green with deep, shiny leaves.
The leaves have a slight mucilaginous texture, which is becomes unnoticeable if you use a salad dressing with vinegar.
New Zealand Spinach (Tetragonia Tetrogonoides): Is an all season spinach that makes a great ground cover between other plantings!
High in vitamin C, New Zealand spinach also has a high level of oxalates and needs to be blanched first for a minute before using in a salad. Otherwise cook it as you would true spinach.
wild rocket
Rocket or Arugula has a peppery taste and is rich in vitamins A, C, and calcium. Arugula can be eaten raw in salads or added to stir-fry, soups, and pasta sauces.

Chicory has a slightly bitter flavour and is rich in vitamins K, C, and calcium. Chicory is best eaten with other greens in salad or when added to soups and pasta sauces.
Collard Greens have a spinach-like flavour and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best if you boil them briefly and then add to a soup or stir-fry. You can also eat collard greens as a side dish. Just add your favourite seasoning and enjoy!
Dandelion Greens are for the adventurous and you may even see  them for sale in some greengrocers.
Dandelion Greens have a bitter, tangy flavour and are rich in vitamin A and calcium. They are best when steamed or eaten raw in salad.
Kale has a slightly bitter, cabbage-like flavour and is rich in vitamin A, C, calcium, folic acid, and potassium. Kale is tasty when added to soups, stir-fries, and sauces.
Mustard Greens have a hot, spicy flavour and are rich in vitamin A, C and calcium. They are delicious eaten raw in salads or in stir-fries and soups.
Spinach-generally speaking, has a sweet flavour and is rich in vitamin A, C, iron and calcium. Spinach tastes great eaten raw in salads or steamed.


with Lesley Simpson, garden designer.
Japanese themed garden
Is your garden planted out to a theme or did you just fill it up with plants that you like without thinking too much about it?
Why should you bother with a theme, it looks pretty good doesn’t it?
That’s a lot of hard work isn’t it?
Let’s find out if that’s true
Garden themes don't have to be complicated.
Baroque garden-photo M Cannon
Your theme can be very general like a vegetable garden or a flower garden. You can show how creative you are with a theme garden, and theme gardens show something about the owner of the garden.
Actually, a patch of lawn with just a hills hoist does that as well, but you’re not one of those are you?
If you have any questions about how to create a theme garden why not write in?


with Karen Smith, editor of
Liriope muscari  Lily Turf
Does your garden lack design in some spots and just like a mish mash of plants?
 That’s OK if you like a mixture but if you want to connect some of your garden beds, you can do that with this next plant.
-let’s find out about this plant.

Did you know that  Liriope muscari or lily turf is an understory plant in China, Japan, and Korea where it grows in shady forests?
Liriope is a tough rhizomatous perennial that goes best in part sun and dry shady spots.
So not a full sun plant, but for morning sun or shady parts of your garden where you need to cover the ground with something that will last well and not as tall as Cliveas, then give this plant a try.
Some varieties of Liriope.
Liriope muscari 'Samantha' has pink flowers.
'Evergreen Giant' grows to 80cm or more and is an excellent foliage plant in shade, not quite as tall as an an ornamental grass but makes good foliage contrast to broad-leaved plants such as Clivia, Alocasia, Begonia and bromeliads.
When the leaves look a bit shabby from overcrowding or over  winter, especially in colder regions, you can shear of the tops or even mow over them  in late August and the plants will recover after Spring rains.
Liriope is easy to propagate - just divide the clumps and spread them around the garden.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sap Suckers and Succulents in the Garden

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
Real World Gardener is funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF)


with Steve Falcioni, general manager
One of the most easily recognised pests in the garden and one of the most prolific, especially when the really warm weather hits and that's aphids.

Aphids also one of the pests that most likely has the most amount of chemicals you can buy to kill it.

Did you know though, it’s one of the pests that also has the most amount of beneficial insects that attack it?

There’s at least four so before you go out into the garden armed with garden gloves and sprayers, you need to know what you’re really squashing or squirting, because it may just be one of the good guys.

Let’s find out in part 1 what these good guys look like.

Learning to recognise the difference between pests and good bugs might sound a bit challenging, but there are books on predatory bugs that you can either buy or borrow from your library.
You can also research them on the internet.

We mentioned, lacewings, hoverflies, ladybirds, and parasitic wasps,-in particular their larval stage which does the eating of the pests in your garden.
These four would be a good start to get to know.
Not only will you be saving your good or predatory bugs but you’ll be saving money from not having to buy so many insect sprays.
Mummified aphids
If you have any questions about your good bugs or aphids or a photo, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Today’s vegetable hero is Moringa oleifera known as the drumstick tree, tree of life or even horseradish tree.

Moringa oleifera is believed to be native to sub-Himalayan tracts of northern India but is now found worldwide in the tropics and sub-tropics.
Just a note for Queensland listeners, according to DAFF (Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.) website, this species is regarded as potentially invasive or moderately invasive in tropical regions of the world.
It's escaped from gardens in northern Australia, and is currently naturalised in north Queensland and northern Western Australia.
Moringa is currently considered a minor weed in northern Australia.

So what is a horse radish tree exactly?
Not having grown the tree myself I researched some great information that might get you interested in getting a tree for yourself.
Moringa leaves

Moringa oleifera tree is an extremely fast growing deciduous tree with corky bark that can get to 10 metres.
The leaves look ferny and rounded, and the flowers are a pale yellow and fragrant. The green seed pods are hard and can be as long as 30cm and are called drumsticks in some countries.
Each  pod can contain up to 10 dark brown seeds that are large and circular-shaped.
The leaves, flowers seedpods and roots are all edible.

Did you know there’s websites in Australia that are dedicated to this tree?
Not only do they sell the seeds of Moringa, but they also supply Moringa oil, Moringa powders, Moringa multi-vitamin capsules, Moringa tea and Moringa soap.

Moringa seed pods
Any leaves that you’re not going to eat  make a fantastic fertiliser not just for your Moringa tree but for other plants as well.
Horse-radish tree has a deep tap root that not only searches out nutrients but makes it resistant to drought.  
Moringa oleifera trees grow well in warm to hot climates, because they’re a tropical to sub-tropical plant.
Planted in these zones Moringa will produce leaf or pods year round.
Moringa doesn’t like to grow much in cold climates and goes dormant below 18 0 C .
In temperate zones it’s completely deciduous.
Having said that, people tell me that Moringa can handle a light frost when the branches have hardened and become woody.
It grows best between temperatures of between 25 to 350C however, in semi-arid areas, you can grow Moringa or horse-radish tree because once it’s established, it can handle temperatures up to 480 C as long as it gets watered every few days.
If the leaves look a little dehydrated and dry, it's time for some water.

When is the best time to grow Moringa?
Spring, Summer and Autumn are the best times to plant our your Horse radish tree.

I know some gardeners use horse radish for various health benefits, and if you live in a cold climate, you may just well try to grow it in a deep  pot on your verandah. Or just try and grow it in a sheltered spot in your garden.
They can be grown inside for a short period of time to shelter them from cold weather.
You can buy Moringa as a seedling or as seeds in Australia.
Moringa seeds

These seeds only stay viable for about a year, after that germination rate is hit and miss.
The seeds come in seed pods, crack the shells before planting and soak the seeds in water overnight.
Plant your seeds about 1 cm deep.

What do Moringa plants love?
Moringa likes a well-drained soil but can cope with temporary inundation.
Moringa can also grow in just about any soil-dry, sandy or poor soils are no problem.
Moringa can grow without fertiliser, but regular feeding with a good organic fertiliser will make the tree power grow strongly and produce lots of nutrient rich leaves.
During the first year, your Moringa tree can get to as much as 5 metres.
Don’t worry, if you don’t want a tall tree, pruning to keep it as a shrub is no problem.
When your seedling gets to about 60cm tall, start pinching out the top grow by about 10 cm.
Do this about four times in the first couple of months.
In fact, in countries where they harvest the trees for leaves and seed pods, they cut their Moringa trees down to 1 metre from the ground each year.
But for all you hard pruners, you can cut it to the ground-called coppicing.
That way you can get a shrub instead of a tree.

IMPORTANT TIP: The timber is soft so in the early stages this tree will need support as it will bend over in windy conditions.
What do you do with Moringa plant?
You’re now probably wondering what parts of the plant you can eat?
You can steam and eat the leaves like you would spinach.
Moringa flowers
When your tree’s about two years old, you’ll start seeing flowers and pods.. If you pick off the pods when they are young, tender, and green, you can eat them as green beans.
Older pods apparently get fibrous and develop a tough shell, but their pulp and immature seeds remain edible for a while before they start to ripen.
You can use the immature seeds like you would green peas.
As for the flowers, use them fresh or dried flowers to make teas.
You can also eat the fresh flowers-said to taste like mushrooms.
Why not try sautéed flowers with onions and a pinch of tumeric, or added to your omelette.
The peeled roots have been used as a substitute for horseradish.
Why are they good for you?
The benefits of Moringa read like it’s a super food.
Moringa has 90 nutrients , 46 antioxidants and much more.
Moringa has 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas and 4 times more vitamin A than a carrot and 25 times more iron than Spinach.


Create a Succulent Garden
photo M Cannon

Do hot dry summers leave you despairing with all or parts of your garden?
Maybe it’s time to choose some plants that can withstand dry hot weather a bit better.
Succulents can provide a point of interest all year because of the different shapes, colours and textures of their leaves and their colourful flowers.
In the garden, they can be used for contrast, repetition, and texture.
Let’s find out about how create one of these gardens.
PLAY:Create a succulent garden _14th January 2015
Instead of just planting them straight into the ground there are other ways to incorporate succulents into the landscape to provide year round interest.
Some wonderful effects can be achieved by planting succulents in pots, troughs or other objects and placed in strategic places around the garden.


It’s time to get Frangipani fever again. If you can't get enough of Frangipani flowers, and need to learn how to propagate more.
 I've got just the right information for you
Frangipani rubra photo M Cannon

Join me and Anthony Grassi from the Frangipani Society of Australia for an in depth look at ways to propagate the Frangi successfully.
Let's find out some great information about Frangipani propagation.

photo M Cannon

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Basilisk and The Chicken

 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 Margaret Mossakowska from
Summer is not only just warm for us, but for our beloved creatures as well.
Keep pets cool over the summer break by making sure all of your pets have cool and shady areas.
Cats and dogs are able to move around and seek shade, but small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and birds can’t move from their cages or runs if you have chickens..
Let’s find out about keeping chickens cool.

Check and make sure that your caged animals are not in direct sunlight and that their cages are protected from the sun as the shade moves.
Here’s some tips from the RSPCA.

If your animal seems to be in discomfort, try wetting its feet and misting water onto its face.

This is an option for dogs, cats, ferrets, poultry and caged birds as many animals control their inner temperature through their feet.

It’s important not to saturate a bird's feathers as this can cause them to go into shock.

If you have any questions about your chickens or a photo, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Not a vegetable but Basil
Basil which is the common name for the herb Ocimum basilicum.
Would you believe basil is in the mint family?
If you check the stems of Basil plants, they’re square, like other members of the mint family.
Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia and has been in used for the medicinal properties of its leaves and seeds.
Did you know that Basil was known in Greece in ancient times.
tTe Greeks came up with a legend about a dragon-like creature known as a basilisk.
This creature was supposed to have the head of a rooster, the body of a serpent, and the wings of a bat.
Basil was said to be the only cure for its bite as well as its withering breath, which could kill plants and animals.
Legend also had it that anyone who looked the basilisk in the eyes would instantly die.
Curiously, the Romans thought that basil would only have medicinal properties if it were planted while the sower was cursing.
Did you know there’s a French term for planting basil- semer le baslic that means to "rant and rave."

There are many varieties of Basil
Thai Basil photo M Cannon
The type used in Italian cooking and the one you see most in the supermarket or for sale in garden centres is called sweet basil.
On the other hand Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. X citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), mainly used in Asian cooking.
Although I must say, lemon basil is pretty fine in just about anything and I’ve made pesto from Thai basil and not felt it was too pungent.
Have you ever wonder why is each variety of basil so different in flavour from each other?
The reason is because of the different essential oils that come together in different proportions in each variety.
The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, the same chemical as actual cloves.
The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil  has a higher portion of citral, which is also prominent in lemon mint, and, which gives actual lemon peel its scent.
Licorice basil contains anethole, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called "anise basil."
If you grow your own, you can choose from the many different basils that you'll never find in the supermarket. Not just purple leafed basil, or giant lettuce leafed basil, lemon scented basil, aniseed basil, cinnamon basil, intensely fragrant small leafed basil, mild perennial Sacred basil that goes so well in Thai, Vietnamese, or perennial Greek basil.
My perennial or bush basil has been growing in the same bed since 2006!
Most of us are familiar with what basil looks like, but just to be sure basils oval shaped, opposite leaves, brown or black seeds (also called nutlets) and flower spikes, but flower colour and the size, shape, and texture of the leaves vary by species.
Leaf textures range from smooth and shiny to curled and hairy, and flowers are white to lavender/purple. Leaf colour can also vary, from green to blue/purple, and plants can grow to from 30cm to 1 ½ metres in height, depending on the species.
When is the best time to grow some basil?
For temperate and cool districts-September through to January, for sub-tropical and Arid zones, August to January, and for Tropical climates-all year round-you win the jackpot.
What do basil plants love?
Have you ever bought Basil from the supermarket and wondered why the leaves go black after about a week in the fridge?
That’s because Basil is very sensitive to cold and even in the garden, towards the end of summer if you get a cool spell, your Basil will drop it’s leaves and start to yellow.
Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs more or less water, or less or more fertilizer.
That’s also why gardeners in tropical zones can grow Basil all year, with best growth in hot, dry conditions.
Basil behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost.
You can sow Basil straight into the ground but I always find it’s much easier and more reliable to start off in punnets.
Also, never throw out your out of date packets of Basil seed, because they’ll come up with a pretty good success rate.
This is what I’ve found when starting them off in punnets.
Basil seed is tiny and can take several weeks to germinate, so if you grow your basil from seeds, the weeds may grow before the basil does in this weather unless you grow it in a pot of course…for all you savvy balcony gardeners.
When you’re ready to plant out your Basil, find a well-drained spot or grow it in a pot.
In the height of summer, four hours of sunlight is all that’s needed for Basil to grow.
Some shade from the midday sun will stop the sun scorching the leaves.
Give your basil frequent doses of liquid manure throughout the growing season to keep up leaf production because the more you feed the plant the bigger the leaves become,  in fact underfed basil is less fragrant.

TIP: If you’re having trouble getting Basil seed to germinate, you know Basil strikes easily from soft tip  cuttings,
Basil can also be propagated very reliably from cuttings with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop. Just take a tip cutting off any plant at any time of the year. Cut off all the leaves except for the tiny ones that are emerging at the top and stick the thing in a pot. Keep it in partial shade and keep it moist. Basil cuttings root very quickly. Once the little basil plant is actively growing again you can plant it out.
This is a good way of getting some of the more fancy varieties going, BECAUSE they seed they produce won’t be true to type.

TIP: Once a stem produces flowers, leaf production stops on that stem, and the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production also declines.
To stop this from happening pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature

Why are they good for you?
Why are we eating the herb Basil exactly?
Apart from the fact the Basil and tomatoes may perfect partners in cooking, Sweet basil is low in calories, has almost no fat, and is a good source of vitamin A and is very rich source of many essential nutrients minerals and vitamins AN D another thing--
Basil seeds, in particular, are high in dietary fibre .
Basil also includes flavonoids and antioxidants.


with Lesley Simpson garden designer.

There’s a recent study which shows the Australia’s Noisy Miner bird is more responsible for the decline of our little native birds than previously thought.
People have always thought that Indian Mynahs were to blame, but the Noisy Miner is more aggressive.
So how do we make it unattractive to those aggressive birds and attractive to the smaller birds?
Let’s find out about how create one of these gardens.

Lorikeets photo M Cannon
Of course just because you planted all those small spiky shrubs in your garden doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get those small birds.
These birds only fly short distances, and your neighbours need to plant the bird attracting plants as well.
If you have any questions about how to create a bird attracting garden why not write in?


with Karen Smith, editor of

Duranta repens

Brazilian sky flower, Brazilian skyflower, duranta, forget me not bush, forget me not tree, golden dew drop, golden dewdrop, golden dewdrop duranta, golden dewdrops, golden tears, pigeon berry, pigeon-berry, pigeonberry
Native to southern USA (i.e. Texas and southern Florida), Mexico, Central America.
A garden and hedge plant used a lot in the wetter and sub-humid areas of Australia.

Duranta grows upright into a shrub or small tree usually growing 4-6 m tall, but occasionally reaching up to 7 m in height.

Several newer cultivars, which are thought to be less invasive, are still very popular in cultivation (e.g. Duranta erecta 'Sheena's Gold', Duranta erecta 'Geisha Girl', Duranta erecta 'Alba' and Duranta erecta 'Variegata').

Would you like to grow a bushy evergreen shrub with weeping branches, pale green leaves and deep blue perfumed flowers with white centres that are at the ends of the weeping branches?
Sometimes called golden dewdrop, skyflower and pigeon berry. Sound alright doesn’t it?
let’s find out about this plant.

Did you know that Duranta was named after Castor Durantes - a Roman physician and botanist?
Durant repens the species is a large, fast-growing, shrub that makes a great screen or background plant, but is too vigorous and tall to use against the foundations of a house or in small areas. Go for the smaller growing cultivars like Geisha Girl.
The clusters of fragrant, pale blue flowers attract butterflies in summer and are followed by bunches of golden-orange berries that’s popular with birds.
If you have any questions about growing pigeon berry or Duranta, why not write in to

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.