Saturday, 4 June 2016

Best Camellias and Better Parsnips


Have you noticed some plants in your garden that look like they’re wilting even though you’re watering them?

Tree health reflects what is below ground. photo M Cannon
Then the whole thing dies and you plant another one in the same spot.
Guess what the same thing happens.
Something’s going on with your soil surely?
Let’s find out what it is now.
I'm talking with Penny Smith, a horticultural scientist who specializes in soil science.

Your soil needs lots of animals or mini beasts and micro-organisms to be healthy.
Commercial compost although sterilised, does have some of these things because it's compost after all and does break down.

Tree rot photo M Cannon

Root disease can occur when you've disturbed the roots.
Dieback here are there on the plant is one of the symptoms as is wilting and not recovering after watering.
The plant above the soil reflects what happens below the soil, so that if there's damage to certain roots from either disease or cultivation, then that will show up above the soil.
This might mean death of some branches.
Fungal diseases that grow in your soil are only growing bigger every time you water that wilting plant.
Before you replace it with another, take out soil from that failed location and put in a heap of compost.
Hopefully the micro organisms will overtake that fungus and so killing off that fungal infection and let your plant survive.
If you have any questions about disease in your soil or have some information to share, drop us a line to or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Recently I saw a comedienne ask her audience what the name of the vegetable she was holding.
A couple of them said Swede which was close, others didn’t have a clue.
Iit was actually a Parsnip.
Did you know that the Romans ate Parsnips?
In the Middle Ages, especially during Lent, Europeans ate parsnips because of its flavour, and satisfied their hunger through meatless fasting periods
Interestingly, before sugar was widely available, parsnips were used to sweeten dishes such as cakes and jams, and they were also commonly used for making beer and wine.

Parsnips have been grown by the Germans for more than 200 years, along the banks of the Rhine which is a well known wine making region.
I wonder if there’s a connection?
But as the weather cools down, are you starting to think of slow cooked meals that need flavouring type vegetables like carrots and parsnip?
Not Swedes, but those pointy cream coloured thing. No, not Daikon or white radish either, that’s much larger.
What is Parsnip? Pastinaca sativa, a member of the Apiaceae family-same as carrots, Parsley and Celeriac.
These vegetables may look like white carrots but, although related, they have a totally different flavour and are much closer to parsley or celery.
For arid zones, April to October, April to September in sub-tropical climates, July through to March in temperate zones and August to February for cool temperate districts,
Parsnips are best planted at soil temperatures between 6°C and 21°C.
If you can grow carrots, you can grow parsnips.
You need the same type of soil, friable, not sandy and not clayey. A pH of 6.5-7. Yes, do go out and buy that pH testing kit.
If high school geography students can measure pH, so can you.
As with carrots, soil with stones or compacted soil will give you deformed and stunted turnips that not only look funny, but taste a bit that way as well.
After planting keep the seeds moist  perhaps by covering them  with a wooden plank or mulch until seeds germinate.
Parsnips are difficult to grow in summer as the seed dries out fast and won't germinate
How to Sow Parsnips
Parsnips need to be started from seed. Because they resent being transplanted even more than Coriander.
They just won’t grow.
I haven’t seen Parsnip for sale in a punnet anyway.
Sow Parsnip seed in directly into the garden.
Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed.
Now I read this information on the back of the Parsnip seed packet, and wonder, are there gardeners out there with their micrometers measuring the width of the tiny seeds? 
Parsnip seeds are quite small, so I just give the soil a light covering of seed raising mix and hope for the best.
Germination rates of parsnip seed are not great so sow about 3 seeds per couple of centimetres.
Germination may take up to 20 days.
Fresh seed is a major requirement because the viability of Parsnip is about 12 months.
If you have left over seed from the previous year, you may as well forget it.
Tip: Soak the seeds overnight in a shallow saucer.
I always say: There’s no need to drown them.
Thin seedlings down so they are about 8cm apart.
If you are planting in rows then space the rows about 50cm apart.
So are we out there with our rulers measuring judiciously? 8 cm here, 50 cm there.
No matter which book you consult, you never get practical advice.
For me, four fingers across measures 7 cm, and that’s plenty good enough because with gardening gloves, I’ll get my 8cm spacing.
Did I mention that parsnip is a flavouring vegetable?
Parsnip flowers
Keep your parsnip seedlings growing strongly with regular watering and applications of liquid seaweed, liquid manure or compost tea.
Harvest in 17-20 weeks, that’s 4-5 months.
If you plants seeds in March, expect results in July sometime.
Parsnips have the best flavour if harvested after a frost or very cold weather.
.The cold results in the starch in the roots being converted into sugars which give the parsnip its sweet taste. Use a spade to dig the parsnip out of the ground.
Why is it good for you?
Well, parsnips don’t keep that long so if they’ve been in the greengrocer or supermarket shelf for more than a few days, than they’re probably tasteless, rubbery, and probably what put you off parsnip in the first place.
Nutritionally the parsnip is superior to the potato containing Vitamins C, E, K and B6.
They also contain Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, along with high quantities of potassium, which is an energy booster and good for the immune system


Now that you know what your soil pH is in most of your garden, or you’re going to find out soon, what’s the ideal pH for plants to grow in?
What can you do if you don’t have that ideal pH and how do you actually use that pH kit?
Let’s find out in this segment about soil pH. I'm talking with Glenice Buck, Consulting Arborist and Landscape Designer.

Alkaline soil pH

Acid soil pH
Just a reminder that soil pH is important because it influences how easily plants can take up nutrients from the soil.

If you’re soil’s too acidic or too alkaline, it will take quite a few months to change the pH, but that doesn’t mean you should give up now.

Measuring pH is easy even with the most basic kit.
All you need to do is dig up some soil samples from several parts of your garden, and spritz them with some water, but don't make the soil sample soggy. Next add a few drops of dye indicator fluid followed by a few shakes of the powder (Barium sulphate.)
Wait a couple of minutes and the powder should colour up.
You can then compare the colour of the powder with the soil pH chart.


CAMELLIA SPECIES: Which are your favourite?
There are many gardening books written and societies that you can join dedicated to the many flowerways of this next plant.

Camellia reticulata Red Crystal photo M Cannon

Camellia Grape Soda

Flowerways is my invention for the many flower type variations and colours that you can choose from.
There are even plant nurseries dedicated to growing this one genus with an endless selection that you can buy.
Surely there’s something that you could find to love for your garden.
Let’s find out what it is. I'm talking with the plant panel who were Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal  and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Camellia Easter Morn
Camellias Australia say that the camellia growing areas are in a coastal band on most of the eastern coast of Australia and the southern coast (and Tasmania) with occasional penetration of the interior such as Canberra, the national capital, Albury and Narrandera, and some regions with higher altitude such as the Central Tablelands of NSW and Mount Tamborine in Queensland.
So pretty much everywhere.
If you have any questions about growing Camellias, why not write in to


No comments:

Post a Comment