Saturday, 2 December 2017

Water Jars, Water Chestnuts and Olive Trees

What’s On The Show Today?

Grow the relative of rice but easier in The Good Earth. Lower your cholesterol with this Vegetable Heroes, used in hedge laying in Plant of the week, and which flower means an apology in Japan, and rejection in Europe in Talking Flowers?

water chestnuts photo Margaret Mossakowska


Growing water chestnuts in the home garden

Do you remember biting into something crunchy when you tried some Chinese food for the very first time, probably when you were very young.
Did you ever wonder what that crunchy sensation actually was?
If you were clever enough to find out that they were water chestnuts you might have also discovered that you could only get the canned variety.
But now we can grow them ourselves.
Let’s find out how
I'm talking with Margaret Mossakowska, Director of Moss house

Water chestnut plants look very similar to reed rush.
You can grow water chestnuts in a waterproof pot, old laundry sink or bathtub in the home garden.
Allow for a depth of at least 20cm.
Like rice, water chestnuts need to be grown in a watery medium.
Margaret recommends flushing the pot with water every couple of weeks to get rid of mosquito wrigglers.
You can buy the corms from Diggers Seeds or Greenharvest
Harvest your chestnuts  by digging them up in June/;July Water chestnuts are just like the chestnuts that grow on trees in that they have shells which need to be peeled.

The good news is that you can grow them in cold climates if you have a nice warm or sheltered verandah.
Water chestnuts and turmeric plant. photo M. Moxxakowska
If you have any questions about water chestnuts either for me or Margaret, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675


Olive Trees
Well, it’s not a vegetable, perhaps more a fruit, and that is Olives or Olea europeae.

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.
Olive Tree
Olive trees can look good in any garden with their silver grey-green leaves. 
Would you have guessed that growing olives dates back 5,000 years and that olive trees can live up to 2,000 years?

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, they still 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..

How To Grow

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.

Fertilising: 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.

Use an organic spray so that you won't 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.
Anthracnose, or fruit rot, can also affect olives.
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.
When some of the olives begin to change towards black, 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.
•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.

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. THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY

Hawthorn tree

From a story on ABC’s landline "Growing hedges actually was the latest agricultural innovation in England and it naturally came to Australia, they tried looking at local things like the prickly mimosa which grows on some of the hills around Victoria.
Hawthorn Tree in Young. photo Glenice Buck
"They found they weren't suitable and instead chose(the hawthorn tree)what was the ideal thorn shrub to grow, they found it did particularly well in Australia and particularly well in Tasmania."
This large shrub also has pretty flowers.

Let’s find out

I'm talking with Jeremy Critchley and Karen Smith of

There were tens of thousands of kilometres of hedges around Tasmania in the early days of white settlement, records indicate there are 3,000 kilometres of historic hawthorn hedges left.
When wire fencing developed, new highways were built and small five acre lots were developed, many were pulled out, others died or went into ruin

If you want to know more or if you have any questions about the Hawthorn tree, why not write in to

Hydrangea is in the Hydrangeaceae family
The name comes from the Greek words for water, hydros and jar, angos.
Native to southern and eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Himalayas, and Indonesia)
The most popular types or the "mophead" hydrangea and the 'lacecap" hydrangea.
Mopheads are sometimes called "grandma's showercap."
Mophead Hydrangea
Hydrangea shrubs can grow 1-3 metres.
Flowers-early Spring to late Autumn. 
The colour of pink or blue hydrangeas depends on your soil pH. Blue hydrangeas grow in more acidic soils and pink hydrangeas grow in more alkaline soils.
The time to change the colour of your hydrangeas is in winter when the plant is dormant.

White hydrangeas should not change colour.
Some are repeat flowerers, eg Endless Summer.
Did you know that in Japan, they are said to be a sign of apology or gratitude because an emperor gave them as apologies to his maidens.

I'm talking with floral therapist Mercedes Sarmini from

Recording live during Real World Gardener broadcast.

No comments:

Post a Comment