Saturday, 29 December 2018

Festive Flowers, Basil and Cucumbers

What’s on the show today?

Plenty tips about growing and cooking with Basil in the Spice It Up segment with herb and spice guru Ian Hemphill,; get those cucumbers growing in Vegetable Heroes; Festive red flowers but are they in Plant of the Week and which fence for your garden in Design Elements?


Basil: Ocimum basilicum
At one stage the Greeks and Romans believed the most potent basil could only be grown if you sowed the seed while ranting and swearing.
Maybe that’s why the French say semer le baslic (sowing basil) means to rant.
Well I hope you don’t have to swear and rant to get your Basil seeds to germinate, just have your pencils at the ready if you want to know how to grow, use and store
I'm talking with Ian Hemphill from

Herbs take on a different flavour when they're dried, because they lose their top notes.
Dried herbs are best added at the beginning of cooking so that they have time to infuse the dish with their flavour.
Fresh herbs on the other hand, need to be added at the very last minute so that their flavour doesn't disappear in cooking.

If you live in arid or sub-tropical regions you can sow Basil in late august in a mini greenhouse or indoors, but otherwise you can sow right through to December which is the best time to sow Basil seeds.
The seeds are best planted at soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C
For something different when not try sowing cinnamon Basil or Lemon Basil or even Holy Basil, that is the true sacred basil that is grown in houses, home gardens and near temples all over India.…
If you have any questions about Basil either for me or Ian, why not email us or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675 


Cucumbers or Cucumis sativus..
Cucumbers just love the hot weather, so they’ll germinate and grow quickly at this time of the year.
Cucumbers are a member of the gourd or cucurbit family and have been grown for 4000 years!
Did cucumber start off in India?
No-one’s really sure.
Who Ate Cucumbers Throughout History?
Some pretty famous people have been known to be fans of cucumbers, even cucumber pickles.
  • Take, Julius Ceasar, he ate them everyday, Cleopatra, thought cucumber pickles helped her skin complexion, and other pickle lovers included George Washington and Queen Elizabeth 1.
  • Would you have thought that Cucumbers are one of the world’s favourite vegetables?
  • I would’ve said the tomato, but there you go.
  • When is the best time to grow some cucumbers?
  • Cucumber plants do best in all types of temperate and tropical areas and generally need temperatures between 15-33°C.
  • Cucumbers are happiest when the average temperatures are around 210C
  • For this reason, they are native to many regions of the world.
  • Sow the seeds of Cucumber in late Spring and early Summer for cool temperate districts, spring and summer for arid and temperate zones districts, from August until March in sub-tropical areas.
    Cucumber seedlings on the right
  • Only the cooler months for tropical areas-so April until August unless you’re inland.
And where can you grow these delicious cucumbers?
You need to pick a sunny, well-drained spot, because Cucumbers are a subtropical plant, that needs full sun.
Cucumbers also want a decent amount of growing space in your garden. If you’re short on space, try growing them up vertically on a trellis or even on some netting, perhaps a tomato trellis?
In fact, growing up a trellis would be a great way to avoid all the mildews and moulds that cucumbers are prone to in still humid weather.
There’s also a number of dwarf varieties if you’d like to grow your cucumbers in pots.
  • Try Mini White- one of the most popular. The 10 cm long fruit and is best picked when young. Gives you lots of fruit per plant and it’s burpless  
  • Or you could try Cucumber Mini Muncher as well.
  • You’ll need to go to a seed mail order place for those, or if you’re in Adelaide, go to the shop in the Botanic Gardens.
The best thing is that Cucumbers aren’t picky about soils.

However, do you find your Cucumber seeds sometimes don’t germinate?
They’re big seeds but if you’re raising them in punnets and the seed raising mix dries out, then the seed most like has dried up as well;
  • and if you keep it too wet, then the seed rots.
  • If this keeps happening, try using another type of seed raising mix, or even some good quality potting mix and try again.
  • What cucumbers like is soil that’s well-draining and has a pH of around 6.5.
  • Add in plenty of organic compost and fertilisers like chook poo or cow manure.
  • When your seeds have germinated, pick out the strongest couple and throw away the others so you don’t get overcrowding.
  • When your cucumber has gotten going, water it  regularly at the base of the plant, that way the leaves stay dry and you lessen the chances of the leaves getting the white powdery stuff growing on them, powdery mildew disease.
What is Powdery Mildew?
Advanced stages of disease.
  • Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is spread by spores carried by the wind.
  • Look for white to grey fungal deposits on the leaves and stems of your cucumbers. As the mildew spreads, the leaves become brittle then start to die off.
  • There are some types of cucumbers that resist this disease for a time anyway.
  • You can also try a natural fungicide. 1 part whole milk to 10 parts water, and spray in the cool of the day.
  • Better still apply eco Fungicide from 
Don’t forget to feed your cucumber plants every couple of weeks with a soluble plant food.
There’s so many now on the market, an some come with seaweed added into them as well.

Who out there hasn’t tried a cucumber that’s tasted bitter?

  • I’m sure some time in your life, that’s happened hasn’t it?
  • There’s seems to be a few theories for bitterness in cucumbers
  • One theory is that the bitterness is caused early in the plant’s development by terpenoid compounds that give a bitter flavour to the entire plant.
  • Usually the bitterness accumulates at the stem and below the surface of the skin of the cucumber.
    Cucumber Biet Alpha
  • According to this theory it’s a genetic problem.
  • Newer cucumber hybrids seem to have fewer problems with bitterness.
  • I’ve always thought it to be the result of Cucurbitacin.
  • Found in most cucumber plants, Cucurbitacin causes fruit to taste bitter.
  • Cucurbitacin levels increase when a plant is under stress, and can make the fruit taste really bitter.
  • The concentration of these compounds varies from plant to plant, fruit to fruit, and even within the individual fruit itself.
  • Did you know that the ability to taste detect bitterness or cucurbitacins also varies from person to person.
  • Even insects have varying preferences for cucurbitacins- the compounds attract cucumber beetles but repel other insects, such as aphids and spider mites.
  • Anyway, it proves that you shouldn’t stress out your cucumbers!
  • By the way, if you do get a bitter cucumber, peel it and cut of the ends by about 2.5cm, that’s where the bitterness concentrated.
Cucumber Flowers
Just like zucchinis, cucumbers have separate male and female flowers. 
Cucumber flowers
Male flowers come out at first, but don’t worry too much because the female flowers will arrive soon after. 
Cucumbers should be ready at about 50-60 days and picking fruit often stimulates more to start growing. 
When to Pick?
Some of you probably have realised that if you pick your cucumbers when they’re quite small, this is when they’re at their sweetest.
Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.
They keep for 7-10 days in the fridge then the start to look like something that came from outer space…green and slimy
Why are they good for you?
Cucumbers have lots of Vitamins C but why you should eat them is because the silica in cucumber is an essential component of healthy connective tissue, you know, like muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
Cucumbers have some dietary fibre and Cucumber juice is often recommended as a source of silica to improve the complexion and health of the skin, plus cucumber's high water content makes it naturally hydrating—a must for glowing skin.


Poinsettia: Euphorbia pulcherrima
Poinsettia plant’s leaves were used by the Aztecs to make red dye and the plants’ milky white sap was also used to treat fevers.
Great for festive decorations and considered a must have at certain times of the year.
The bloke that this plant was named after also founded the Smithsonian Institute in America.
Let’s find out..

I'm talking with the plant panel :Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner.

Unless you've purchased a "Princettia" Poinsettia which is a genuine dwarf cultivar, the others will grow much taller if planted out.
The species Poinsettia, will grow to over 3 metres tall in the garden.
Those that are sold at Christmas time have been sprayed with a dwarfing compound.
Princettia Poinsettia
Did you know that also that the American Congress honoured Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day which commemorates the date of his death in 1851.
Poinsettias can be grown south of Brisbane right down to Coff's Harbour, and north of Brisbane they will grow as far as the land extends, although they can be difficult to grow in frost prone areas west of the coast.
They can also be grown in warm parts of South Australia and in Western Australia's coastal regions, particularly in the north.
If you have any questions about growing Poinsettias, why not write in to


Which Fence Style For Your Home?
What type of fence have you got and does it need replacing?
Paling fences seem to be de rigour, but there’s no need to settle for that because you’ll be looking at it for a long time.
What are the things you should consider though before deciding on a fence?
Let’s find out.
I'm talking with Lesley Simpson garden designer.

Just goes to show that you don’t have to be limited with the type of fence that you can have for your garden?
If you’re stuck with a grey looking paling fence, you can always zhoosh it up with some bamboo screening.

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