Saturday, 2 April 2016

Pricey Spices and Gail the Flower


Phytophthera cinnamomi  or commonly called Dieback
If you’ve ever noticed some browning off of branches or limbs on your trees and shrubs, chances are you don’t have a pest but a fungal disease in your soil.
Phytophthera can be isolated if you notice it in one or more plants in your garden because it will affect plants individually.
Phytophthera in the landscape. photo M. Cannon

Although Phytophthera doesn't discriminate as to which plant it affects.
Let’s find out about you can do about it. I'm talking with Penny Smith, Horticultural Scientist, specialising in soils.

Dieback in Arbutus unedo photo M Cannon

The scientific name of this fungal dieback is phytophthora cinnamomi  and this fungus was probably introduced into Australia through European settlement.

It has now spread to affect hundreds of thousands of hectares of native vegetation, in just about every state in Australia.

Phytophthera also affects parklands and even Botanic Gardens.
So the big tip was if you think you have it in your garden when you’re watering your plants that have compost around it, the phytophthora fungus is less likely to spread through your garden because the organic matter is an inhibitor to that fungus.

If you have any questions about phytophthora or any other fungal disease, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Turmeric or Curcuma longa.

Turmeric photo M Cannon
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.
It ‘s native to southwest India, where it receives temperatures between 20 and 30 °C  and a quite a bit of annual rainfall.
Turmeric has been grown in cultivation since 500 BCE where it’s an important part of  Ayurvedic medicine.
Ayurveda translates to “science of life.”
In India, inhaling fumes from burning turmeric is supposed to alleviate congestion, also turmeric juice was used to help with healing of wounds and bruises, and turmeric paste was applied to all sorts of skin conditions – from smallpox and chicken pox to blemishes and shingles.
You may have seen Buddhist monks with their saffron or yellowy coloured robes.
This is where the natural colouring properties of Turmeric comes in.
Not only is it used to colour Buddhist robes, but has been used to dye clothing and thread for centuries.
The whole plant is edible; the roots are boiled, dried and ground up to produce turmeric powder, the leaves make a wrap for steamed fish, and even the flowers can be eaten as a vegetable, like lettuce.
What does it look like?
Turmeric grows to about 1 metre in height, with alternating lime green leaves about a metre long; in other words quite big as you’d expect in a rainforest setting.

The flowers are pure white and extend upwards on floral spikes, up to 20cm long. Suitable for picking too.

Turmeric rhizomes photo M. Cannon
The rhizomes have tough brown skin and deep orange flesh inners.
To get hold of some Turmeric rhizomes you need to go to an organic fruit and veg market where you can buy fresh turmeric roots where at throughout summer, you may be able to use those to sprout a plant.
Otherwise, you’ll have to find a local nursery or online store that carries them.
Note: Sometimes it’s sold as hidden Ginger online but we aware that there are different kinds of hidden ginger, but only the rhizomes of Curcuma longa, Curcuma zedoaria and Curcuma aromatica should be grown as spices.
Turmeric isn’t the most common of household plants so it may take some looking.
If you have access to a supermarket that carries it, several because they probably won’t all sprout.
To get your rhizome to sprout just place it in a paper bag in a warmish spot in the kitchen, say by a window and you should see sprouts in a few days.
Once you have a fresh rhizome or root, all you need to do is plant it.
A large root will have several fingers to it.
You can cut these apart and start more than one plant if you wish.
Another way to get it to sprout is to just bury the rhizome 5 cm deep into loose potting mix.
If there are any knobs or buds on the root, turn it so they are facing upwards.
Keep it damp but not sopping wet or the root may rot.
In a month or so, you should see sprouts come up.
If you are going to grow turmeric outside, you can transplant it out in late autumn. For indoor plants, you can do this anytime.
Why grow Turmeric?
Even if you don’t ever make your own curry paste or even cook with Turmeric, the Turmeric plant is very lush and tropical looking.
Turmeric leaves photo M Cannon
The flower is very attractive and edible.
The whole plant dies down over winter so unless your ground freezes over it may just pop up again in Spring.
For those that use Turmeric in cooking, did you know that if you make your own Turmeric powder from the rhizomes, it won’t be as bright as the processed store bought version?
Because the root can harbor mould and foodborne pathogens, turmeric is typically irradiated to kill pathogenic bacteria.
Irradiation also creates a brighter powder, but if you don’t want irradiated Turmeric, either buy organic powder or grow your own.
Where to grow it.
Unless you live in a tropical, sub-tropical or temperate zone  in Australia, the majority of people who are going to grow turmeric will have to do it indoors, and it does grow fine in pots.
In temperate region your Turmeric will die down over winter and return the following year.
Turmeric is a rhizome so like Jerusalem Artichokes, and Ginger, you plant them in the soil when the rhizomes are dormant
Turmeric shoots from a rhizome.

 For all other districts, Turmeric is too large for a windowsill but can grow in a sunny room.
Choose a pot that’s at least 30cm across and the same in depth to give your plants room to grow.
Water your potted turmeric regularly to keep the soil damp, and weekly feedings with mild or diluted fertilizer won’t go astray either.
If you’re growing it in the ground, only put it in full sun if the ground is constantly wet, otherwise shade in the middle of the day is best.
Turmeric will cope with drought and even boggy soils, probably because where it naturally grows, the average rainfall is between 1000 and 2000mm a year
If the plant is stressed by drought or too much sun, the leaves will hang limp and develop burnt tips.
Most books will tell you to plant your rhizome in Spring, but the first lot that I bought withered and shrivelled and it wasn’t until late December that I purchased another lot.
This time the rhizomes were fresher looking and sprouted in a couple of days using the paper bag method.
These were then potted up and placed in a shady spot where all the young plants get put in my garden.
The plant had reached about 30 cm in height by the end of January.
When to dig it up?
You’ll have to wait at least 8 - 10 months before you can dig it up.
When the leaves turn yellow and start to dry out that’s when your turmeric is ready to dig up.
You’ll have to dig up the whole plant and cut the rhizome away from the stem.
You might be lucky and manage to dig up only a small part because storing it in the ground will keep it fresh the longest.
If you’re growing it in a pot, it’s pretty simple to turn the rhizome out, take what you want, and then put it all back.
So how else can you use Turmeric?
 To store your Turmeric just keep the unpeeled roots in an air-tight container in a cool dark place and the rhizomes should last for up to 6 months.
To use fresh Turmeric in cooking, just slice them thinly or mince instead of using powder.
If you are used to cooking with dry and ground turmeric from the store, take care when using fresh. It’s much stronger in taste and you will only need a small amount to really add its peppery zest to a meal.
You don’t have to make the powder but instead use it as you would fresh ginger.
How about a fruit and veg Turmeric smoothie, or Turmeric pickle?
For sore throats, add 1 teaspoon of Turmeric to your favourite milk, and heat. Add some honey to sweeten.
Drink this before retiring for bed.
If you had 1 ounce of 28 grams of Turmeric you would have 26% of your daily needs in manganese and 16% in iron.
It's also an excellent source of fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, and healthy amounts of vitamin C and magnesium.
But you don’t need to eat that much.
Even a small dose has health benefits such as an improved ability to digest fats, reducing gas and bloating, decreased congestion, and improved skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Believe it or not.



Shade for Outdoor dining.
This garden series with Garden Designer Peter Nixon, is all about garden challenges thrown at us mostly by nature but also due to a situation in your garden that you might need to fix.
So far we’ve been covering hail damage, but will also cover sun scorch, garden loopers, and today’s garden challenge is about you and your friend or family are sitting around the outdoor dining table and then everyone runs indoors because there’s no shade.
Or you might have a fabulous perennial garden with a seating area, but where's the shade?
Shade for Outdoor Dining Needed photo M Cannon
So what can you do? Let’s find out. I'm talking with Peter Nixon, garden designer.

You could go for the pergola with the ubiquitous Wisteria growing over it.
Or you could make yourself a shade hut or a dining canopy.
What you could make yourself is a shade hut or a dining canopy.
For example Peter suggests that you could have 4 galvanised steel posts, 3 1/2 metres apart and over the top of that you could put a canopy such as Nature Reed.
Or if you want a pergola, grow a deciduous climber on it that will drop it’s leaves in winter so that you can enjoy some winter sun.


Gaillardia x grandiflora are commonly called Blanket flowers.

Gaillardia "Fanfare."
Would you like to grow dazzling daisy like flowers that get their common name from the bright colours of blankets?
Gaillardia are a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family, Asteraceae, native to North and South America.
Apparently North American Indians wove really bright blankets and the fields were these grow look like they’re covered in these blankets.
These are easy to grow plants that have some frost tolerance and definitely can cope with neglect.
Let’s find out more.I'm talking with
Karen Smith editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley,

The shades are red, yellow and orange and now some with pink in them. 
Look for Gaillardia Sunset Cutie and Gaillardia "Fanfare" that has tubular petals.
Gaillardia Sunset Cutie

Regarded as a mushrooming plant, meaning that it goes upwards then outwards to give it a mushroom habit. Perhaps a low mounding habit might be a better way to describe their growth.
To grow Gaillardia you need a full sun position and very well-drained soil.
They prefer loose, sandy soil that isn't overly fertile. Sounds like poor soils are good for them.

Established plants are quite drought tolerant.
The petals of some are frilled, while others have a unique, tubular shape.  Why not try some of these varieties -Gaillardia 'Tokajer' With marmalade-orange flowers that shade subtly to peach at the tips, this 60cm variety may need staking.
Gaillardia 'Burgundy' As its name suggests, this variety bears large, 3 inch wide wine-red blossoms on a 60 – 75 cm tall plant.
Gaillardia 'Oranges and Lemons' has softer colours than other blanket flowers, with peach-colored, yellow-tipped blossoms with gold central cones on a 60cm tall plant. Hardy.

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