Saturday, 2 June 2018

Tight Spaces with Onions and Lilacs

What’s On The Show Today?

Preparing your plants for winter in “gardening in tight spaces” part 2 in the Backyard Biodynamic segment, something to make you cry in veggies, but why? in Vegetable Heroes, and plants that hide fences really well in Design Elements, plus best suited for a cold climate in Talking Flowers.


Gardening in Tight Spaces part 2
Keeping Your Plants Warm.
Last segment was all about how to keep the heat off your pots, but now we’re in the depths of Autumn, soon to be Winter so we want that warmth.
For every avid gardener, we want to use all the spaces we have to grow plants.
But what do we do with the cold to protect out plants especially if your space gets little sun?
Let’s find out.

I'm talking with Diane Watkin, Principle founder and member of Bioydnamics Sydney.

The same technique of keeping the sun off your pots is used to keep your plants warm.
the main difference is that you want the warmth during the day, so you are mostly reversing what you did in summer to keep the sun off.
Erect some sort of cover for your pots and put this on at night, but take it off during the day so the plant can enjoy the sun's rays.
You may have a glass cloche, but most likely you'll have to rig something up using sticks, twigs, shade-cloth, or other material.
TIP: Using diamotaceous earth, put a handful in a bucket of water, mix it up and then spray onto the soil. The silica in the diamotaceous earth will raise the temperature of the soil by 1-2 degrees, which may just make the difference.
If you have any questions either for me or Diane you can email us or write in to 2rrr, PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives.

Most of these have corms or bulbs or underground stems with long thin leaves and clusters of varying numbers of flowers. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Did you know that onions were grown as a crop and eaten since prehistoric times?
Onions are even mentioned in first dynasty of ancient Egypt, circa 3200 BCE, and have appeared in tomb paintings, inscriptions and documents from that time on. Some paintings depict onions heaped onto a banquet table.

Allium cepa are from the Alliaceae family that contains Garlic, Leeks Shallots and Chives. 

When to grow Onions? 

In sub-tropical, cool temperate, warm temperate and arid climates you can plant them from April until August.
Onions are sensitive to the day length for formation of flowers, so it’s important to select the right variety (early – mid-season – late).
These varieties have different requirements in the length of daylight hours.

Early varieties are short day length onions, mid-season varieties are medium day length onions, and late varieties are long day length onions.

If planted out of season, onions may bolt to seed prematurely.

For example in temperate climates mid-season onions are sown in winter, growing through spring and harvested in summer. These include Sweet Red and Brown Spanish Onions. 
They love sunny well drained beds, especially when the bulbs mature in summer. 

So why Grow Onions?
  • Onions are a good companion plant. 
  • Grown around the garden they repel pests. 
  • They contain sulphur which is a strong disinfectant. 
  • Did you know that onions were was used to heal gun shot wounds and during World War 1, sphagnum moss was soaked in the juice as a wound dressing. 

How to Grow Onions with Success.
  • Remember to always lime your soil well a week or two before planting onions. 
  • They love a sweet or alkaline soil. 
  • Don't forget avoid applying manures and blood and bone to the beds in which you're about to grow your onions because they prefer alkaline soil. 
  • You can use spent mushroom compost instead of cow manure. 

Sowing seeds with Success
  • Onion seeds can be sown into seed raising mix into punnets. 
  • Or if you want to sow them directly into the garden, make it easy for yourself, mix the seed with some river sand-say one packet of seed to one cup of sand and sow it that way. Bit like sowing carrots! 
  • They can be transplanted to garden beds when the seedlings are around 3 inches (8 cms) tall. 
  • According to the “Vegetable Patch” website, there is a secret to planting onion seedlings. 
  • Instead of planting them sticking straight up, lay them down in a trench and move the soil back over their roots. 
  • In about 10 days they're standing up and growing along strongly. 
Some tips to keep your onions growing strongly is
1. Hand weed around onions to avoid disturbing their roots and bulbs.
2. Keep away from nitrogen based liquid fertilisers when your onions are maturing. Otherwise their efforts will go into their leaves instead of their bulb.
3 Regularly water your onions. Lack of water can delay growth or split the bulb. 
4 Because of their strong taste pests generally leave onions alone.

When Do you Pick Your Onions?
Harvest onions (except spring onions) when the tops yellow and start drying.
This usually takes 6 months, so if you plant seedlings today, yours will be ready in December.
Add a couple of weeks if you’re using seeds.
Pull the whole plant from the ground and leave it to dry in the sun.
Turn it every few days and avoid getting them wet (eg dew or rain).
Hang them in a cool dry place for around 3 weeks to cure.
If you store them in a cool dry place they should keep for a year.
This explains why you can buy onions all year round.
Eat the bulbs without a good dry skin first .

Why do we cry when we cut onions?
Onions contain complex sulphur compounds.
When you cut into an onion, two chemical reactions take place.
First, when a knife cuts through the cells of an onion, its enzymes release a strong odour.
Second, the onion releases allicin, a volatile sulfur gas that irritates the eyes and sends one rushing for a tissue.
Keeping Onions in the fridge can help with this problem.
To avoid a bitter flavour never, never buy onions that have begun to sprout greens from their stem portion.

This means they’re more than a year old.

If you see sprouts forming in your onions stored at home, simply snip them off and use the green part like chives, put the rest in the compost.

Why Are They Good For You?
Some health studies have shown raw onions to be effective in lowering overall cholesterol while raising HDLs, the good cholesterol.
Additionally, onions kill infectious bacteria, help to control blood sugar, aid in dissolving blood clots, and may help to prevent cancer.


Plants to hide that fence
Are you the sort of gardening that doesn’t think too much about the look of the fence?
Perhaps you’ve had the fence so long that you’ve gotten used to the idea of looking at it without realizing that it’s really an eyesore.
Montanoa hibiscifolia: Mexican Tree Daisy
It’s really important to conceal the fence for a few reasons.
You may remember that last week I said, no-one is saying “ my garden looks too big.”
Plus it’s not all about climbers, climbers climbers, to hide the fence.
Let’s find out. 
That was Peter Nixon Garden Designer and Director of Paradisus Garden Design.

Hiding the fence will make the garden look bigger.
So, Peter mentioned
Viburnum odoratissimum “Dense Fence” or Viburnum odoratissimum “ Quick Fence.” if you’re wanting a free standing shrub.
Mexican Tree Daisy or Montanoa hibsicifolia
For Cool Temp districts:
Prunus lusitanica - Portugese Laurel Prunus laurocerasus - Cherry Laurel 
  If you have a question either for me or Peter, why not drop us a line to


Syringia vulgaris: Lilac
We all love the Lilac but all can't grow it.

Lilac is a deciduous medium to tall shrub. 

Highly fragrant flowers appear to cover the bush Spring.

What Lilacs Like:
Lilac Shrubs in Vienna: Photo M. Cannon

Prefers good, rich soil in cooler districts but not clay soils; prefer sandy, gravelly soils. 
Tolerant of lime, resents acid soils.
The Story Behind The Name
The story of lilac, according to Greek mythology, begins with a beautiful nymph named Syringa (lilac's botanical name). Captivated by her beauty, Pan, the god of the forests and fields, chased Syringa through the forest. Frightened by Pan's affections, Syringa escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush – the flower we now refer to as lilac.
In A Vase:
Lilac flowers can last up to a week in the vase if you singe the bottom of the stem.
Because of the sap in the stem, it's best not to mix with other flowers in the same vase.
I'm talking with florist, Mercedes Sarmini of 

This video was recorded live during the broadcast of Real World Gardener show on 23rd May 2018

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