Saturday, 6 October 2018

Tickle Your Taste Buds and Value Cut Flowers

What’s on the show today?

How to stop your veggie garden from drying out in the Good Earth segment, sunflowers not for show but for seeds in Vegetable Heroes. Five senses-today’s it’s all about taste in Design Elements and more value for money cut flowers in the Talking Flowers segment with Mercedes.


All About Wicking Garden Beds
Wicking pots, or wicking beds are nothing new, ask any African Violet society member.
They’ve been using wicks in their self -watering pots very successfully for years.

Just imagine though, if you had a veggie or other garden bed that uses this self watering idea.
That would mean your vegetable garden would get watering from below.
Let’s find out .
You can build a wicking bed yourself easily enough with recyclable materials.
Here's how Margaret put hers together.
Photo: Margaret Mossakowska
Use wooden crates from a fruit market and scoria if you can’t get vermiculite. 
Margaret sources vermiculite in bulk from pharmaceutical companies that use it as packing material.
Start with a frame, then line it with something like pond liner or even black plastic.
Lay in some aggregate and ag-pipes.
You need to build a 10 – 15 cm layer of this base on top of which you place a coil of ag-pipe connected to an upright pipe which is where you’ll fill with water.
Credit: Leaf Ninjas

On top of this, place a layer of geo textile fabric,a 10 cm layer of vermiculite then your best garden soil.
The soil shouldn’t be more than 30 cm high otherwise the wicking system won’t work. 
For veggies the soil should be 20 - 30 cm to give them room to grow.
Tip: Don’t forget to put in an overflow valve about half-way up the sides.
One more thing, it takes a week for the wicking system to start working properly after you first fill the reservoir, so don’t forget to water your vegetables everyday until then.
If you have any questions about beds either for me or for Margaret why not email or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Growing Sunflowers for Seeds.
You may have grown sunflowers in the past but did you grow them for just the flowers or just the seeds?
That seeds for eating that is.
Had you thought that all sunflower seeds are alike even?
Did you know that there’s a big difference between growing sunflowers, and growing edible sunflower seeds.
So that means if you’re interested in the edible seeds, you need to select your sunflower variety carefully.
Not just any old sunflower seed.
Certainly not the doubles, or pollenless sunflowers.
Sunflower Helianthus Annuus is in the Asteraceae family and started off as a wild sunflower growing in North America.
This sunflower was first cultivated around 3000 BC and some say it could’ve have even pre-dated corn as an Indian crop.
It wasn’t until the 1500’s when the Spanish took the seed to Europe to show off as an ornamental plant that the rest of the world knew about them.
By the 18th century, sunflowers were produced on a commercial scale for crushing, particularly in Russia where Peter the Great was a fan.
Russia was the world leader in production and breeding for many years so it should come as no surprise that there are some varieties with Russian in their name.
From the 1970's that, seed companies began to produce hybrid seeds which produce higher yields, oil content and resistance to disease.
Botanical Bite
Did you know though that the seeds in the sunflower head follow a remarkable spiral pattern.
This allows them to be packed into the head in the most efficient way.
The seeds sit against each other at the "golden angle" 137.5 degrees and head off in left and right spirals the number of which are Fibonacci numbers.

What’s Fibonacci-that’s another story.
What Does It Look Like?
I’m sure most people know what sunflowers look like but here’s a short description.
Sunflowers are annuals that have hairy, rough to touch central stems that grows to around 2-4m tall.
The leaves are dark green and egg shaped or perhaps more triangular.
The edges of the leaves are serrated.
The flower for seed production is bright yellow with a dark centre nodding on a long stalk.
The diameter of flowers varies from 10cm – 30 cm wide.
Sunflowers only seem to follow the sun when the plant is quite young and the stems more pliable.
Which Variety To Grow For Edible Seeds.
Mammoth Russian-grows 2-4m tall with thin-shelled seeds.
Sunflower Sunbird-an old heirloom variety that grows to 2m, can be used as a trellis for smaller climbing plants.
SunflowerYellow Empress-has flowers up to 25cm across, and grows to around 2m
Mammoth Grey Stripe-2-4m the seeds have lower oil and content so it’s good for birds such as caged parrots.
The only drawback is that it has a lower germination rate than those sold by bigger seed companies.
As a general rule, heirloom types of sunflowers will produce good quality edible seeds..
How To Grow

Sunflower seeds need to be sown directly into the garden.
The soil temperature needs to be a minimum of 130 C to germinate.
Hint: soil temperature is a few degrees less than air temperature as a rule of thumb.
For those districts that have late frosts, you still can sow the seeds two weeks before you’re expecting any frost.
But if there’s a snap when your seedlings emerge, sunflower seedlings can handle it.
For those of you wanting to start them in punnets or trays, you’ll have to be extra careful when you transplant them because all sunflowers grow a taproot.
Because of this taproot, if you have shallow soils, grow your sunflowers in raised beds so that the taproot can reach down to at least 60cm.
Sunflowers need plenty of room so space them out at least 30cm.
Sunflowers grow in open fields in Europe where they receive all day sun.
For the home gardener, the minimum of daylight hours is 6-8 hours.
As your sunflowers grow feed them regularly with any liquid feed, although they won’t mind a bout of hot weather.
There’s two things that sunflowers detest and that’s water logged soil and windy locations.
Can I Grow Them In A Pot?
Yes, there are dwarf sunflower varieties that you can grow in a pot. Check the label on the back of the packet.
When to Pick the seeds?
Cut sunflower heads when some of the seeds inside the edges appear ripe and fall away when rubbed, or when birds start harvesting them for you.
The seeds are usually ready 30-45 days after the flower opens.
Here’s a tip: Sunflower seeds are ripe when the flower head turns from green to yellow and the seed head begins to brown.
You can also give one a taste test though.
Store the seeds in a warm, dry place.
If the birds are going crazy for the sunflower seeds you can protect the heads with some old stocking, or muslin, even cheesecloth.

How to Eat sunflower seeds.
You can eat them raw or in a pasta or pizza dish.
Why not try making Sunflower seed pesto?
Crush them up and make a sandwich spread or in a dressing for salads or vegetables.
Sunflower seed Pesto
3 cups basil leaves;
2 cloves garlic;
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt and pepper to taste;
3/4 cup olive oil
Option – try adding 3/4 cup parmesan cheese at Step 2 for a different flavour.
Using a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle, finely chop/crush basil leaves and garlic.
Add sunflower seeds, lemon juice, salt and pepper and combine until seeds are finely chopped.
Add olive oil and combine.
Why are they good for you?
Most seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fibre, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc while being naturally low in sodium.
Just a handful of sunflower seeds contains significant amounts of magnesium, selenium, and vitamin E — a vitamin that protects the cells against free radicals and inflammation.
They are also contain vitamins B1,B2, B3 and some are rich in vitamin E.
The fibrous coat of seeds may prevent complete digestion so crushing seeds using a mortar and pestle prior to adding them to snacks and meals may help.
Try throwing some in your next pesto recipe!


Gardening for the 5 Senses: Taste
Probably one of the easiest senses to stimulate when it comes to gardening because it’s all about food and eating.
The sense of taste of course so how else can you stimulate the sense other than putting in a veggie garden.
Let’s find out.
Coffee bean tree.
I'm talking with Chris Poulton, Sydney Convenor for the Australian Institute of Horticulture and an experienced horticultural lecturer and consultant.

Our suggestion is to grow as many herbs as you can.
Don’t be limited by the fact you’ve only got a windowsill, or balcony garden because all you need is 4-5 hours of sunlight a day to grow these things.
Increase your taste range in the garden with some native bush tucker such as finger limes or those bromeliads which have fruits on them.
You could also try growing a coffee bean tree, Coffea arabica, pictured above.
Not only do you get the red berries but the flowers that appear all along each branch, are heavenly scented
If you have any questions about five senses gardening or have a suggestion either for me or for Chris why not write in or email me at


Value For Money Cut Flowers

Cut-flowers are a luxury product and consumers demand a certain standard of quality and value for money.
How much would you like to spend on your cut flowers?
$35? $45? Or much more?
If you’re bit on the Scottish side, and moths fly out of your wallet when you open it you might want to consider those flowers that might cost a bit more but will last for up to two weeks in the vase?
Hang on, I think we all want that really don’t we?

But let’s first delve in to what happens between the grower and you the consumer.
Sure there’s roadside stalls where Jo the flower seller can you give you “quality flowers at a cut rate price.”
But how often is Jo there, and he’s growing them in his backyard.
What about the real grower?
This is how the chain goes, grower, then wholesalers, exporters, auctioneers, florists or supermarket buyers and the local shop.
So don’t whinge about the price of cut flowers, got it?
Alstromerias and Carnations
Here are some suggestions for long lasting flowers in the vase.
  • Carnations -2-3 weeks
  • Chrysanthemums-3-4 weeks ( bargain)
  • Astromeria-2 weeks
  • Delphiniums-2 weeks
  • Gladiolus-10 days.
I'm talking with Mercedes Sarmini from 
Recording live during broadcast of Real World Gardener on 2rrr 88.5 fm Sydney

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