Saturday, 7 January 2017

Figs and Strawberries Are Just Divine


Designing a Vegetable Garden part 4: Terms Explained.
The debate is over according to the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden in South Africa.
You can pronounce Clivea-that’s rhyming with Clive or you can pronounce it Clivvea like give.
They’re both acceptable pronounciations of that plant.
But what about other gardening terms and names?
Pronouncing them is one thing but what do they all mean?
We’re going through a few terms in this next segments so let’s find out…
Vegetable Garden of Lyn Woods in Ulverston, Tasmania. photo, owner/
I;m talking with Glenice Buck, landscape designer and consulting arborist

Some of the terms that were talked about were 'crop rotation, Mandala garden, and no dig garden.
Crop rotation has a basic idea that you do not grow the same plant in the same spot every year – you have separate beds laid out with different plantings in each year.
Why do you do this?
The main reason is that you don’t want to deplete the soil of the same nutrients every year – for example cabbages will take in the same nutrients each year and then those nutrients will no longer be in the soil.  
It also means that you may reduce the impact of soil born disease getting established for example the same virus,  insect or fungus might attack the one species and if you continue to plant same species there number will increase in the soil as you are giving them what they are already attacking
Almost back to the principles of biodiversity.
What is an example of a crop rotation plan?
The aim is to not plant same species in the same spot each year – the first year you could use plants in the legumes family such as peas and beans this have nitrogen fixing bacteria within their roots – this means you can leave their roots in the ground after cropping and they can then provide nitrogen for the next group of plants such plants the brassica family …which require high levels of nitrogen such as broccoli, cabbages, kale.  Then the 3rd year you can use plants which don’t require much nitrogen such as root vegetables – like carrots or potatoes and beetrootsIf you’re new to gardening then concentrate on starting off with a small plot.
You can buy ready made gardening troughs or planter boxes that fit the bill, or you can use large Styrofoam boxes, put in some drainage holes and fill them with a good quality potting mix but not gardening soil.
You can even have a veggie garden made entirely of pots with lettuce, basil, tomatoes and perhaps some chillies.
If you have any questions about designing a veggie garden, write in to


This weeks Vegetable Hero is Today’s vegetable hero is Strawberries or Fragaria x ananasa.
Did you know that Fragaria means fragrance in Latin?

Strawberries aren’t actually berries because true berries have seeds inside them.
And as every schoolkid will tell you, strawberries have seeds on the outside, and usually about 200 of them!
So what are strawberries exactly?
Did you know that Strawberries are sometimes called an accessory fruit or false fruit because of the seeds being on the outside?
Strawberry display at Chelsea Flower Show photo M Cannon
Fragaria vesca or the Alpine strawberry is native throughout the Northern Hemisphere. 
Botanists think this was probably the ancestor of the garden strawberry of today.

Would you believe that there’s archaeological evidence suggesting that people ate strawberries as far back as during the Stone Age?

The first people to grow strawberries as a crop were the Persians in ancient Persia.
The Persian-called their strawberry plants - Toot Farangi.
By the 18th century Fragaria x ananassa had replaced the alpine strawberry because of the larger berry or fruit.
How about this? In parts of Bavaria, some people still tie small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to elves each Spring.

The Bavarians believe that because the elves love strawberries so much, they will help to produce healthy calves and lots of milk in return.
Strawberries have seeds on the outside photo M Cannon
When to grow?
It’s probably not the right time of year to grow plant out strawberries in many districts, but if you see them for sale as potted strawberries, because you surely will, you can plant them out in January.
For all sub-tropical, temperate and arid zones you can plant strawberries now, but you’ll get advice that May and June are the best planting times.
For cool mountain districts, October and November are your best planting times.
They’re frost sensitive but a 10cm layer of mulch will be enough to protect the plants.
So what are the strawberry plants’ requirements?
Strawberries are short-lived herbaceous perennials, meaning plants can produce for 2-3 years.
Did you know that commercially strawberries are grown for only one season and replanted each year to keep up the yield levels? Strawberries Growing Pattern
The pattern for most strawberries is flowering in spring, set fruit in late spring/early summer, send runners out in summer and become dormant in winter.
At this time of year you will be able to get the ever bearing varieties which give you a second crop in autumn.
If you planted your strawberry plants, in last autumn and winter, they should’ve flowered already and you’ll be telling me that you’ve been enjoying strawberries with cream already.
But why not plant some more plants for Autumn strawberries?

What do Strawberry plants love?
Not sure what they like? Well…Strawberries love at least 6 hours of sun a day and will grow in most soils but strawberries prefer a sandy loam that is deep and contains a lot of organic matter.

IMPORTANT: When planting a strawberry plant, make sure that about a third of the crown is above the soil. If you plant too deep or shallow the plant might die.
Strawberries have 70% of their roots located in the top 8cm of soil.
By mulching the soil, it helps to keep the roots from drying out and will prevent the plant from drowning in boggy soil.

This means that if growing your strawberries in the garden, you need to grow them on mounds to improve drainage and you will also need to put down a thick layer of mulch such as hay, pea straw or sugar cane to prevent the berries from touching the soil and rotting.

Mulch as you should now, also prevents the soil from drying out too much.
Potting soils usually have the right mix if you’re planning on planting strawberries in a container.
In that case, add an extra inch or two of fresh compost either to the mix before filling the pot or to the surface of the potting mix.
I would also recommend adding some coco peat into the potting mix to increase water holding capacity.
The idea behind strawberry pots is good in principle but in practise I find it needs careful attention because the plants dry out too much.
And you know strawberry pots have several holes in them to cater for about5-6 plants.
Strawberry pot photo M Cannon
TIP: Attaching your pots to a dripper system and putting a saucer under the strawberry pot will save your strawberry crop this year.
Also make sure you water the plants, especially when the young plants are establishing, and during dry spells.
Strawberries prefer a moist environment.
Avoiding overhead watering will reduce fungal disease; drip irrigation or a 'leaky pipe' is best.

They're technically a perennial so live for a few years producing fruit. Plants will usually fruit best in their second year of planting and will need replanting with new runners by their 2nd to 3rd year.

After 3-4 years (or even sooner) the plants usually become diseased and die.
And don't forget nurseries do sell certified virus-free stock, and that's the safest way to grow new strawberry plants.
Feeding Strawberry Plants
To feed your strawberries, sprinkle a small handful of complete fertilizer (such as tomato food, organic pellets, fish emulsion and any stuff which is high in potash) around each plant when it first comes into flower, and water well. Liquid seaweed fertilizer once a fortnight will not go astray either.
Keep a close eye on the plants as flowering begins as the birds and possums are just as keen on strawberries as we are. You may need to net the strawberry bed. Slugs and snails can also seriously affect the crop so place snail traps in the bed.

Slugs and snails can be a problem, so lay beer traps, lay protective barriers (like lime or sawdust) or get out with a torch at night to get them.
TIP:Make sure your berries are fully red before picking them because they don't get any riper off the vine.
Cut the stem above the berry with scissors.
Summer time care of Strawberries
Over summer, strawberry plants send out runners. These modified shoots can be used to propagate new plants but if you don't need new plants, cut these runners off.
After fruiting has finished, tidy up the bushes by giving them a hard prune down to 10cm.

Stick 'em in the fridge soon after picking the strawberries and don't wash the strawberries until just before you want to eat them.

Strawberries don't last, and the extra water on them causes their cells to break down more quickly.

TIP: Wash the berries and pat them dry before removing the stems. That way you avoid excess water entering the berries from the stem end.

Use the berries within three or four days.
To really feed a family you need about 20-30 plants to provide plenty of fruit, but even a couple of plants can be fun to grow.
Strawberry Varieties
Varieties include Redlands Crimson was developed in south east Queensland so it does very well in subtropical climates sending runners everywhere.
Tioga's - is better suited to a cooler climates.

Summer strawberry varieties include Cambridge Riva for the intense flavour,
Chandler has huge berries and grows in all climates, Hokowase are wedge shaped and very sweet.
Kamu has blood strawberries from summer to autumn.
Torrey has medium sized sweet fruit and is best suited to warm climates
For Ever- bearing varieties, the autumn crop is the biggest and you can choose from Tempation which doesn't send out runners so it's great for hanging baskets and Sweetheart is very sweet to taste – an everlasting variety also have their fruit set in autumn .

Why are they good for you? Growing your own strawberries is much healthier because strawberries are ranked third out of 50 popular fruits and vegetables that retain pesticide residues.
Strawberries are low fat, low calorie; high in vitamin C, fibre, folic acid, and potassium
From only half a punnet of strawberries you'll get more than 100% of your daily needs of Vitamin C, and 5.5g fibre in if you eat the whole punnet of strawberries that's about 20% of your daily fibre needs.
Did you know that eating strawberries, which are rich in nitrate, can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by 7%?
This prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.
Strawberries are also low in kilojoules, meaning you can eat 2 cups as one of your daily fruit serves!



Edible Figs: Ficus carica

Know to Egyptians as the “tree of life,” this fruit tree is small enough to fit most gardens.Better still these trees ( figs) don’t need pollination for you to get the fruit.

Fig tree at jeremy's nursery. photo M Cannon
Let’s find out more.I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Ficus carica is an Asian species of flowering plants in the mulberry family, known as the common fig (or just the fig).
Native to the Middle East and western Asia
Fig trees develop sweet seedless fruits without fig wasps
Figs fruit should be picked when they are slightly soft to the touch and smelling sweet. Although according to some fig connoisseurs, pollination produces a more delicious fig with a superior nutty flavour due to the seeds.

Figs will NOT continue to ripen once they have been removed from the tree, so pick them when you need them and handle them with care as they can bruise easily

Care and problems
Figs really do have few problems if given a good start in life.
Expect to start harvesting your luscious, sun-ripened figs 2–3 years after planting.
Most varieties produce two crops a year when in full swing.
The first crop grows on the previous year’s wood and ripens in summer.
The second crop forms on new growth and ripens in autumn.

Most of the figs we grow don’t require a pollinator to set fruit, however you will need to fend off the birds. Netting is probably the best method but do check nets regularly to rescue any trapped birds, lizards or other animals.